If you’re headed to Tuscany this autumn, go ahead and pat yourself in the back. In addition to less crowds, cooler weather and fun seasonal events – visiting during this time of year means you have access to something Italians (and well anyone really) cherish more than anything. Truffles and Porcini mushrooms, the ‘gold standard’ of local cuisine during this period, together with Alba in Piedmont, Tuscany is also quite famous for excellent truffles.
One of our favorite areas to discover them both is San Miniato in Tuscany, a strategic point since the Middle Ages – located between Florence and Pisa. This oozing with charm hill-top town is also well-known for hosting a famous ‘white truffle’ fair every November (the last three weeks) in the town center. City streets are quaint and filled with tiny local shops, the layout has been largely remained intact since the Medieval period. Famous emperors that made their way here include Henry IV and Frederick II.
When it comes to truffles, the star of the show called Tuber magnatum pico (the valuable white variety). In addition to truffles and mushrooms, they also produce an excellent dessert wine, vin santo, using the white San Colombano grape variety.
For tips on navigating the open market to buy truffles, read this article, and this helpful read by Swide on interesting wine and truffle pairings once you’ve bought your tuber. Our thoughts are that of course buying them yourself is a great experience, but you want to make sure to do so with a little knowledge under your belt first.
This weekend, in the tiny town of Balconevisi near San Miniato, there is a truffle and Porcini mushroom food festival October 17-18th, open for dinner and lunch that Sunday, more details can be found here.
Truffle-hunting is quite popular in this area, but it is heavily regulated and done with care. Local hunters can take interested tourists to the areas where they typically hunt, and it is one of the most unique experiences that one can do in Italy. They must be authorized by the local government beforehand and in order to dig out the truffle that the specially trained dogs find, they use a small shovel called a “vanghetto”.
Regarding accommodation, why not stay in Contessa Marianna within walking distance to the charming town of San Miniato. It’s the perfect way to experience life here as a local, in your own private space close to the fun but inside your own oasis. This villa was once owned by the family of Napoleon Bonaparte, one of the additional joys of renting the villa is the friendly owner’s family who live at the other side of the estate and are eager to help you enjoy all the magnificence of the area.