Two months of studying abroad in Italy turned me into a truffle addict. And ,luckily during the scorching Tuscan summer, black truffles pop up on every menu. Whether shaved on stuffed maiale (pork), swimming in a cream sauce or snuggled into buttery ricotta inside of ravioli, each bite seemed to be more delicious than the last. So, inspired by these delicious truffle dishes, I decided to take a stab at truffle hunting:

To celebrate the end of finals, I arranged for my family, visiting me at the end of my stay, to go truffle hunting. We joined a Sienese truffle hunter on his quest for seasonal black truffles, and, with that, we were off.


We drove out of the city and into the rolling countryside en route to Montaperti, a small town outside of Siena that claimed its fame in 1260 as the location where the Sienese defeated the Florentine army.

This battle and victory prompted the rise of Sienese style of art and Sienese pride. The people of Siena still celebrate this battle, but don’t ask a Florentine about it. They choose to celebrate the Medici capture of Siena in 1555.

Our guide, Marco, arrived with his teenage daughter, mother and three Italian variations of Spanish Water Dogs. Two were experienced in hunting truffles, Bibo and Maia, but Camilla was a rambunctious pup just learning the ropes.

Learning From the Pros...

With Bibo’s leash in hand, I ventured into the forest area on the property of Le Pietre Vive. Once we reached the outskirts of the hunt site, Marco explained how he starts the hunting process using scent.

The dogs smell the truffles, and then are given a biscuit. Marco, who has been hunting since he was two, cleverly took off their leashes before this scent process. He knew what was coming: the second the dogs finished their biscuits, they bolted into the woods. Marco and his family chased after the dogs, and my family and I chased after them. Within 5 minutes, the dogs had found at least eight truffles.

The dogs have different ways of signaling a find. Bibo scratched at the ground. Maia sat down. Camilla dug furiously. All of them tried to eat the truffles, and successfully ate about 50% of the loot.

After we lost the first lost truffle in a  slobbery crunch, my family were surprised by Marco’s response: he shouted their names as a reprimand, but then snuggled them closely before treating each with a biscuit.

pasture, grass, mushroom
Lucy Krasker

We were touched to see how deeply Marco and his family loved these dogs. It demonstrates a key characteristic about local truffle hunting and Italian culture in general: business is family-oriented. And family means love, respect, and commitment.

A Truffle's Patria

We continued to wind around the woods. Marco lead us, his new pack members, to two “historic” locations for truffle hunting in the forrest area. He explained to us that spores of truffles are mostly found in the same place for hundreds of years. The roots of old oak trees provide the perfect condition for growth, especially when sloped on the outskirts of the wooded area.

The first oak gave a view of the grain field surrounding the wooded patch. Now well into the golden hour, it was stunning to see the pink brick hues of Le Pietre Vive’s farmhouse, restaurant and cooking school cut the horizon. The dogs scurried around the branches and found the biggest truffles of the hunt.

The other oak was in a very humid spot. The ground was noticeably more wet as my sneakers squeaked in muddy puddles tucked between the webs of roots. Here, Marco warned us to stay attentive. In this spot, he can find one truffle every minute. And he beat that prediction: we found a dozen truffles in seven minutes, although the dogs devoured five.

After this hotspot, we could still see the thrill in the dogs eyes, but it was clear that they were starting to become overheated. Their sprints turned to runs, and their drools turned to pants.

In Marco’s hunting vest, his pocket of biscuits was nearly empty, but his pocket of truffles was busting out. We decided to head back: it had been a successful hunt.

Mission Complete

Back at the car, after giving the dogs nearly two liters of water, we counted our treasure. The silver bowl clanged as dark brown rock-looking lumps fell from Marco’s pockets. I was surprised that they didn’t have the characteristic truffle smell, but Marco explained that the aroma is only released if truffles are broken in half or heated up.

vegetable, mushroom, candy, tuber, chocolate, sweet, truffle
Lucy Krasker

Determinations of quality and price were dependent on the outside texture and the amount of water within the truffle. Still, black truffles were more of a hobby compared to the potential profit from finding white truffles. Marco invited us to come back and hunt with him in November.

Thanksgiving in Tuscany?

If interested in arranging a hunt, contact your hotel's concierge or Le Pietre Vive.