The Italian Almanac

what a truffle!

Italian News - November 12

Two Italian truffle auctions this weekend are set to spark a feeding frenzy for the famed tuber. On Saturday night, at a Medici residence in Tuscany which once hosted Michelangelo, prized white truffles will be offered to bidders from all over the world. Satellite hook-ups will connect the country house at Cafaggilo with auction rooms in England and Germany. On Sunday it will be the turn of the queen of truffles, the famed white from Alba in Piedmont.

White truffles are rarer, more pungent and more expensive than black ones. They have a shorter growing season, in the three months around Christmas. Blacks are more common in the centre and south, whites in the north. The seventh edition of the Alba Truffle Auction, staged at the magnificent Grinzane Cavour castle near Turin, will be beamed to bidders as far afield as London, New York and Hong Kong.

The auctions in Tuscany and Alba have added to truffle mania since the late 1990s. Proceeds go to a charitable foundation run by the late Gianni Agnelli's sister Susanna and an Italian cancer research institute. As well as providing uplinks for the charity auctions, the web is also feeding the worldwide truffle market.

Nestling in the roots of about 50 trees - mostly oaks but also hazels, poplars, mulberries and willows - truffles are rooted out by specially trained dogs.