The treasure of Umbria hidden underground
Everybody knows: the treasure lies underground: remains of classical civilization, treasure chests full of gold coins buried by fleeing pirates, gold and diamonds that are stuck in the bare rock.
Umbria jealously preserves another kind of treasure under its wooded and hilly surface. A treasure for our pockets, and most of all, for our palate: truffles.
What is a truffle? Origins and varieties
Scientific name: tuber. A truffle is nothing more than a subterranean fungus, so it grows and develops underground and it is considered one of the most expensive and delicious foods in the world. There are many varieties of truffles and Umbria, thanks to its geography, is very rich of them. Just think, for example, that one of the most prized truffle varieties, the black truffle (Tuber melanosporum), is commonly called Norcia and Spoleto truffle, because it is very widespread in the southern Umbria areas, where those cities are located. Besides the black truffle, in Umbria you can also find the precious white truffle (Tuber bagnatum), the less precious "bianchetto" (Tuber borchii), the winter black truffle (Tuber brumale) and the summer truffle (Tuber aestivum), also called "scorzone”.
Where do truffles grow and how to find truffles?
Since there are no treasure maps that can help us in the enterprise, truffle hunters resort to our trusted four-legged friends, who with their incredible nose (in Italy, they call the nose of dogs “tartufo”, that means truffle!) find the booty even 80 cm underground. Until recently, pigs were used for their even better smell, although they were less inclined to training and very greedy for truffles. Dogs soon took their place because they were easier to train and less greedy. In short, if you hunts truffles with pigs, you can find a bunch of them, but you risk not bringing home even one!
What's the best truffle recipe to try?
Who comes to Umbria must taste this delicious food and all the dishes that the local culinary tradition based on it. A truffle has a very intense flavor and smell and you need just a small amount to give a touch of class to every recipe. Often you can find truffles in a delicious mushroom and olive oil-based sauce, which you can spread on bread, you can put on pasta or meat. But the best way to taste a fresh good truffle is to grate it directly on the dish, raw, without any other kind of seasoning, just a drizzle of oil and a pinch of salt.
So where to eat truffles? In the area of the Martani Mountains
One of the most famous areas for hunting black truffles is the Martani Mountains, which are located in the south of the region. Right in Monte Martano, a charming medieval hamlet in the municipality of Spoleto, you will be able to eat some of the most typical dishes of the Umbrian culinary tradition. A few steps from the Castle of Monte Martano, the Belvedere restaurant offers you all these delicacies, based of course on truffles and Porcini mushrooms. A unique experience in a unique setting, with the treasure of Umbria in your mouth and in your eyes an endless panorama on the Martani valley and on the city of Spoleto, also that, in a certain way, a real treasure.
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