Those who have a similar devotion to truffles as the great Rossini, whose confession: “I have wept three times in my life. Once, when my first opera failed; once again, the first time I heard Paganini play the violin, and once, when a truffled turkey fell overboard at a boating picnic,” has gone down in history, might like to book a few days to enjoy the chase as much as the prize. For while little can beat the aroma of the treasured truffle – black or white, as it falls in paper-thin slices over pasta/potato/scrambled egg, or is seared onto foie gras – the excitement of whether the dogs turn up a treasured tuber on a hunt will surely add to the experience.
If just thinking about it inspires immediate action, fly to Provenҁe, where Hotel Crillon le Brave is holding English- and French-speaking truffle and wine weekends (£974 for two for three nights) during March and November. The highly acclaimed, 36-room hotel in the Provenҁal hills has teamed up with the Jaumard family (second picture), whose farm at the foot of Mont Ventoux has been producing truffles for three generations. Mornings are spent hunting before a truffle-rich, rustic lunch is prepared at the farm. A wine tasting at one of Châteauneuf-du-Pape’s finest estates and a truffle cooking demonstration by the hotel’s head chef are also on the agenda.
Crillon le Brave, +3304-9065 6161; Athens, specialises in luxurious, off-the-beaten-track holidays and can arrange truffle hunts (from €2,150 per person for five nights) across sacred Mount Olympus in the footsteps of Zeus, Hermes et al, visiting small, under-the-radar quality wineries as well as visiting the city of Thessaloniki.
Fly Me To The Moon Travel, +30210-6828 926; www.flymetothemoontravel.com.
And then there is Italy, and the exquisite tartufi bianchi or white truffle (“the Mozart of truffles”, Rossini called them), considered an autumn delicacy. To combine art off the plate as well as on, head to Florence, Tuscany, and Belmond Villa San Michele (doubles from €623), from whose terrace the Duomo can be admired in all its Renaissance glory. Here, during October and November, the hotel can organise a half day trifulao (£60) – where one man and his dog will lead truffle lovers into the San Miniato hills, an hour away, in search of the white diamond. Discovery or no, all hunters will be rewarded for their efforts with a truffle tasting menu upon return to the villa.
Belmond Villa San Michele, +39055-5678 200; www.belmond.com/villa-san-michele-florence.
Lastly, Bellini travel, the go-to Italian experts for the cognoscenti, can arrange a two-night stay (£1,285 for two) in Piedmont (third picture) during autumn’s white truffle peak season. Guests are based at the former 17th-century monastery of Relais San Maurizio (with its two-Michelin-starred restaurant), and forays are organised to hunt for truffles with Giorgio, whose family has been trifulao for five generations. With the help of their Italian Pointers, Diana and Brio, the morning is spent on the hunt, before Natale demonstrates how to prepare a decadent dish of eggs with white truffle. Lunch is at the three-Michelin-starred Piazza Duomo in Alba, at chef Enrico Crippa’s table. Private wine tastings of Barolo, Barbaresco or Barbera at a nearby winery completes the day.
Bellini Travel, 020-7602 7602; www.bellinitravel.com.