Sant’Agata Fel­tria

Lonely Planet (UK) - - Taste Tour Italia -

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.

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