The Italian Almanac

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Italian News - October 10

A mix of balmy and wet weather is set to keep truffle hunters busier this year and fans of the tasty tuber happier than ever. "The evening downpours accompanying this Indian summer should produce a bumper harvest and give the truffles extra flavour," said Mario Aprile, president of the prestigious Association Trifolaux in Piedmont, Italy's premier truffle region.

To aficionados, the truffle is in fact nicknamed 'son of lightning' - meaning that drizzle and cold sap its flavour while heat followed by thunderstorms produce the really tasty stuff. Alberto Mandozzi, head of the truffle hunters in the central Sibillini wildlife park, agreed that "it could be a great season" after years of diminishing returns.

The first hauls and prices of the prized white truffle will be unveiled at the eagerly awaited Alba White Truffle Fair starting in the southern Piedmont town next weekend. Prices for the less prestigious blacks - found as far down the peninsula as Calabria - should be set a bit later in the month.

New truffle hunters are taking to the woods each year despite threats such as shrinking forests and poachers who sell their finds on the black market. Interest in truffle dogs is booming too, with some controversy over the designation of the Romagna water retriever - the 'lagotto romagnolo' - as Italy's official truffle hound.