What unites Emilia-Romagna is that it’s a region of industrious farmers, carefully cultivating their fertile soil, but there’s one local food speciality that’s all the more exceptional because it can’t readily be reared by human hands. All anyone does here is let nature carry out its work. October heralds the start of truffle season in Sant’Agata Feltria, a community near EmiliaRomagna’s southeast border. The villagers have all been waiting for this moment, among them pizzeria owner Sauro Po d’Esta, who heads into the forest with his six-year-old spaniel, Chicco. ‘The secret behind truffle hunting,’ he says, ‘is to love your dog.’ Chicco scampers over a long grass meadow bejewelled with shimmering dewdrops. Moisture in the air heightens every woodland smell, but Chicco knows what he’s after and is soon digging furiously beside an oak. He reveals what looks like a burnt, knobbly cedar cone. Sauro recognises it as a black truffle and rewards Chicco with a sausage. ‘I used to bring them home for myself. Nowadays, a black truffle goes for £300 a kilo, a white one for £1,300,’ he says. ‘In a village of 2,000, 500 people now have truffle licences. The hairdresser, the butcher – everyone tries to find them.’ The collective haul is sold during the fair that takes over every square and alleyway in Sant’Agata each Sunday in October. Truffle oils, truffle cream, truffle pastas, salami laced with truffles, truffleflavoured cheeses and baskets bulging with actual truffles are all to be found here. It’s clear what’s the star of the show. Their rich, bosky scent fills the entire village and crowds file in from all over Emilia-Romagna – for, unlike other regional delicacies that improve with age, this is one best sampled fresh from the ground.