One of the many excursions we looked forward to on our recent trip to Italy was truffle hunting. The morning of the planned hunt, we started out with a cooking class (more on that in a future blog) incorporating truffles into the recipe. Once our meal was made, we headed off toward a copse of trees to begin the hunt.
We met Moreno, the owner of dogs specially trained to hunt these delicious mushrooms. He walked us to a small outdoor classroom where he briefly explained the difference in the many kinds of truffles and the technique he uses to train his dogs. Then he introduced us to Viola and Billa and Billa’s eight-month-old puppy (who is still in training).
Moreno offered the dogs treats and with a flick of his hand, he simply directed the dogs, “Vai.” The Italian word for “go” is the command the two well-trained dogs needed to race off among the trees and begin to root for a buried truffle when they detected the appropriate smell.
Moreno would order the dog to stop digging. He would take over and uncover the truffle by digging down through the dirt and turning it with a special tool. He demonstrated the technique, then gave each of us a chance to give it a try.
SUCCESS! We dug up the truffles the dogs had sniffed out. Each member of our group of six got a turn. When it was my turn, it looked like there was no truffle at the sniffed out spot. But … low and behold, a tiny truffle! Moreno laughed and described it as an acorn!
By the end of the hunt we’d dug up ten truffles! Moreno declared it a good day of hunting and headed back to his car with his dogs while we made our way back to the winery to enjoy the lunch we’d made in the morning’s class.
It was a fun way to watch the truffle hunting dogs in action and take part in the hunt.
There’s a whole world out there just waiting to be explored. Try doing something like a local on your next adventure.
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