Sharing Customs

A Taste of Tuscany: Truffles, wine and pasta.

By Raquel Baldelomar

Travellers who want an experience that embodies the Tuscan way of life should head to the Tenuta Torciano Winery in the medieval village of San Gimignano near Siena. Here guests can participate in a traditional truffle hunt and cooking class that immerses visitors in the tastes, sounds, smell and beauty of the Tuscan countryside.

The winery was established in 1720 and has been a family-run operation for 15 generations. Pierluigi Giachi, the current owner, loves everything about Tuscany from handpicking the grapes for his wines to hiking the countryside to touring its historic architecture and art. He also loves to share Tuscan customs like the truffle hunt with visitors from all over the world.

Giachi says it was his father who planted a grove of acorn and oak trees on the estate more than 50 years ago in an effort to increase truffle production. Truffles are extremely rare, wild mushrooms that grow underground often near the base of an oak tree. The truffle hunt is a time-honored tradition in Tuscany.

Historically, truffle hunters used pigs to sniff out the tiny treasures. Unfortunately, pigs loved to eat the truffles and trying to wrestle a truffle away from a 200-pound pig was not an easy task, which is why hunting dogs are used to find the truffles today.

Time-Honored Tradition

Truffle season in Tuscany is year-round, so you can add this adventure to your itinerary anytime. Photography by AJ WalkerThere are four main types of truffles that flourish in the region. The most prized are the rare winter black and white varieties. The winter white truffle is in peak season from October to November, and the winter black truffle is in season from November through March. The summer varieties are in peak season around July, but are available from spring through late summer.

The tour starts with a lesson about the difference between white and black truffles and how to find them. Next, the participants venture out into the surrounding woods with a guide and hunting dog to search for the elusive mushroom. It is the perfect way to experience Tuscany. You are breathing in the fresh air, hiking through the countryside and searching for a culinary treasure. The adventure is exhilarating, informative and a great way to spend the afternoon with friends or family.

Once the truffle hunt is complete, you bring your bounty back to the winery where you can join in a cooking class to learn how to properly clean, prepare and cook with the truffles. The key to Tuscan cuisine is cooking with simple and fresh ingredients. You will learn how to make homemade pasta and a mirepoix, which is a base sauce made from a mixture of diced onions, carrots and celery. The dish is topped off with shaved slices of the truffles foraged that day and paired with the perfect wine made from the locally grown Sangiovese grape.

Whether you are a foodie or novice in the kitchen, the truffle hunt and cooking class are an ideal way to have an authentic Tuscan experience.

Tenuta Torciano Winery:

Address: Via Crocetta 18 - Loc. Ulignano 53037 San Gimignano (Siena)

Telephone: +39 0577 950055

Website: www.torciano.com/en/visit/truffle/truffle-fullday-hunting/

 

New Adventures Raquel headshotRaquel Baldelomar has a finance degree from the MBA-modeled Business Honors Program at the University of Texas at Austin and began her career as a financial analyst for JP Morgan Private Bank.  In 2003, Raquel launched Quaintise, a national marketing and branding agency for the health and wellness industry, and has produced award-winning multi-media content for clients. In 2015, Raquel decided to devote more time to one of her passions —changing the conversation of healthcare from sick care management to disease prevention. She cowrote the book Sugar Crush: How to Reduce Inflammation, Reverse Nerve Damage and Reclaim Good Health. She is a Forbes columnist where she reports on corporate wellness, executive health, and the creative process. Raquel is also a journalist for CNN and Robb Report focusing on how health, wellness, and travel stimulate the creative process. Her goal is to produce entertaining and engaging content that educate people on how pausing leads to a different kind of productivity, creativity, and wellness.

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