Tuscan treasure hunt

Truffles

A bit like Marmite (only much more expensive and much more difficult to find), tartufo (or truffle) is the kind of thing you either love or hate.

Incredibly pungent tubers, truffles pop up, as if by magic, in only the most hidden corners of the Italian countryside, from mid September until late November. Now’s the  time of year that you’ll find white, black and brown truffles served in all the best Italian restaurants: sprinkled on top of pasta and meat, stirred into sauces, toppings and pastes, added to olive oils and even grappa.

For truffle hunters, Tuscany is one of the country’s biggest treasure chests, and the ideal place to fill their basket with the highly-prized ectomycorrhizal fungi (although the people of Umbria and Piedmont will no doubt fiercely dispute this!).

The tiny Tuscan town of San Giovanni d’Asso, in Crete Senese, is particularly famous for its truffles and even has a museum dedicated to the delicacy. And, of course, it has a truffle festival which, this year, will be held on November 8th to 11th and November 15th to 18th.

 

Want to join in the fun, hunting for and eating truffles? We’ve scouted out five great hotels in and around San Giovanni d’Asso where you can do just that.

 

La Locanda del Castello – San Giovanni d’Asso

Locanda del Castello

A beautiful boutique hotel, La Locanda del Castello occupies a finely restored 15th century country Inn, right in the heart of the historic center of San Giovanni d’Asso.

La Locanda del Castello’s 2 night “Truffle Discovery Lifetime Experience” includes a morning’s truffle hunting  with a local “tartufaio” and his dog and a visit to the town’s truffle museum. Oh, and if you find any of San Giovanni d’Asso’s priceless white truffles, the hotel’s chef will transform them into an unforgettable dinner for you too!

 

Borgo Lucignanello Art Hotel – Lucignano d’Asso

Borgo Lucignanello

Occupying much of the  tiny medieval hamlet of Lucignano d’Asso, within minutes of San Giovanni d’Asso, Borgo Lucignanello is a unique period residence comprised of  five beautifully restored “houses” and a panoramic pool.

Book Borgo Lucignanello’s 3 night “Truffle Experience in the Tuscan Hills” this autumn and you get to go truffle hunting with a hunter and his dog, enjoy a truffle themed lunch at a local farmhouse and learn how to prepare truffle-based dishes from your very own personal chef!

 

Pieve a Pava – San Giovanni d’Asso

Pieve a Pava

An old church, a priest’s cottage and a farmhouse: together they make up Pieve a Pava, a wonderfully romantic rural retreat just outside San Giovanni d’Asso.

To coincide with the weekends when San Giovanni d’Asso’s White Truffle Festival will be held, the hotel has created a special 3 night offer comprised of welcome drink and dinner (Friday), truffle hunting (Saturday) and a trip to the truffle festival followed by a truffle themed dinner (Sunday).

 

Podere Finerri – Asciano

Podere Finerri

In the hills surrounding Asciano, this farmhouse turned designer hideaway is one of the chicest country retreats in the whole of Tuscany.

During truffle season, you can join Luciano, Podere Finerri’s truffle expert and his dog, Ugo, hunting for white truffles in nearby San Giovanni d’Asso and perhaps ask Malcom, Podere Finerri’s owner and resident chef, to help you prepare a meal with your lovely loot in the farmhouse kitchen on your return.

 

Relais Villa Armena – Buonconvento

Italy - Tuscany

If you’re looking for luxury in the Crete Senesi, then there can be no better place to find it than Buonconvento and the Relais Villa Armena: a meticulously restored 16th century villa, designed by none other than the great renaissance architect Baldassare Peruzzi.

Stay at this country hotel and spa this autumn and you’ll have the chance to join the “Truffle and Olive Oil” tour, which includes a visit to the nearby Abbey of Monte Oliveto Maggiore, famous for its 16th century frescoes by Signorelli and Sodoma, a tour of the Romita farm and olive press and a truffly lunch at a local trattoria.

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