Being a wedding photographer in Italy has a few perks. One of them is that I get to visit my own region of Umbria and discover fantastic new places all the time. We are always on the hunt for new locations for destination weddings and Umbria is a treasure chest of hidden marvels. But wedding locations are just part of the equation. Clients that come from the other side of the ocean also want suggestions for side trips that are not the usual touristic site seeing. They want to experience an off-the-beaten-path area, in an authentic way, that is sometimes reserved to the more adventurous. So when our friends from the USA, Jen and Darren, came to visit Perugia we wanted for them to have just that kind of adventure. Let’s just say it didn’t require much convincing. Or did it? Anyway, we get in the car and after a short drive we start getting into serious mountains. It was quite a climb, over 3500ft in elevation, and what scenery it was! You can tell by the big smiling faces.
Let’s start the hunt
So, there are a couple of tricks you have to know to be a successful truffle hunter. Number one, you need a great truffle hunting dog (right?) and then you need to be in love with your life. And by that I mean love for the land you live on, love for the animals, love for the cold wind that swipes through the valleys, and love for the few people you get to interact with in such a remote area on the Appennino mountains of Umbria. It’s a hard life sometimes but you get to call your office one of the prettiest areas I have ever visited. We are now at an elevation where the oaks get rarer and leave room to hornbeam and beechwood trees. But the oaks are what we need to keep an eye on, because in their root system is where we find the truffles. Or, better yet, the dogs should keep their noses on them. So let’s cut the chatter and get to the hunt.
Tasting time – A picnic with truffles from the Umbria mountains
I love taking pictures that tell a story. This is about the bond between the hunter, his dogs and the land. It is a tradition that is kept secret and requires dedication and commitment. The funny part is that the dogs do pretty much all the work. They scavenge the grounds, find the truffles, dig them up and deliver them to the hunter. It’s a game for them and they get a treat each time. The hunter’s job is to train the dogs and to decipher the ever changing patterns of nature, the messages brought by the alternating seasons and a good portion of good or bad luck.
Truth is, after a couple hours of walking though these amazing sceneries, you start to develop a little appetite. So we found this cute spot, which apparently is very popular amongst sheeps and rams, and we set up camp. Prosecco, pecorino cheese and scrambled eggs with the truffles we just hunted. It doesn’t get any better than this and beats the hell out of pumpkin spiced latte any day of the week. Jen and Darren seem to agree.
Home made tagliatelle, truffles, fire grilled sausages, lonza and some real funky cheeses.
Back to the homestead, time for the main meal. A quick visit to the cheese room revealed some amazing aged ricotta and pecorino cheese waiting to mature. The hosts were treating us with all sorts of tasty bites of local salami, bruschetta with olive oil from Umbria, local wine and cheese while some sausages were sizzling on the grill. But this was just a distraction while egg noodles were made from scratch before our eyes. Last time I saw this was when my grandma used to make fresh pasta on Sunday mornings.
It is now time for us to move on to the dining table. But before that, I want to leave you with a last consideration. Experiences like this taste better than any food you can try, and this food tasted pretty damn good.