Truffle hunting and extraction in Italy was inscribed onto UNESCO’s List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity on December 16, 2021. Described by UNESCO as “a set of knowledge and practices that has been transmitted orally for centuries,” truffle hunting joins Sicilian puppetry (2008), Tenor singing (2000), the Med diet (2010), Cremonese violin making (2012), processional shoulder-borne machines (2013) and Neapolitan pizza makers (2017) in the list that features a practice, expression, or skill considered by UNESCO to be part of a place's cultural heritage.
Unesco explains that there are two steps involved in the process of truffle hunting: the hunting itself and the extraction.
The first phase "entails the identification of areas where the truffle plant grows” with the help of a trained dog. In this phase, the skills and knowledge of the tartufai (truffle hunters) related to climate, the environment, vegetation, and the relationship with the dog, are essential.
The second step is the extraction of the truffle using a special spade; this must be carried out very carefully in order not to disturb the soil conditions.
These knowledge and practices have been passed on orally for centuries, and, according to UNESCO, today truffle hunting “still characterizes the rural life of entire communities in the Italian peninsula.”
What are Italy’s most popular places for truffle hunting?
- Probably the most famous of all is Piedmont’s Langhe; the town of Alba, home to a prized variety of white truffle, hosts the annual International Alba White Truffle Fair and is home to the National Center for Truffle Studies.
- Perhaps not as known, the Ligurian Langhe and the Alta Val Bormida, in the Savona area, are home to all species of black truffle and to the Precious White Truffle (Tartufo Bianco Pregiato). Millesimo, listed among Italy’s most beautiful villages, annually hosts the renowned Truffle Fair.
- In the province of Padua, the Euganean Hills produce, besides wines, black truffles, in particular the ‘prized black’ (nero pregiato) and the ‘scorzone.’ There are many trattorias where you can try them.
- Home to the white truffle of Tuscany is San Miniato, inland from Pisa, an area also famous for its wine and olive oil production. There are numerous events dedicated to truffle, including the National Exhibition of the White Truffle of the San Miniato hills.
- Norcia in Umbria is renowned for three varieties of black truffles: the Precious Black Truffle of Norcia, the Winter Black Truffle and the Summer Black Truffle; this in addition to its fine cured meats and cheeses.