A few weeks ago, a friend and I went to Italy for the Festival of White truffle of San Miniato. An obsessive truffle lover with dreams of becoming a truffle hunter, she was the perfect guide and trip companion. San Miniato is a beautiful town, in the province of Pisa, set on three hills in the middle of the valley near the Arno river, with gorgeous views stretching all across the Italian peninsula.
We departed early Saturday morning from London Stansted and flew into Pisa Airport. Our driver and guide, Elvis picked us up and whisked us off to our beautiful residence, “Podere Il Giardino” a family owned farm with gorgeous vistas, an outdoor pool and fir tree lined paths. The location was perfect as was the villa style apartment complete with shuttered doors opening out onto patios all around.
Once we had settled in, Elvis took us back to his house where his mom had prepared some delicious Italian bruschetta. I cannot explain the freshness of the tomatoes and the fruity zing of the just pressed olive oil. That bruschetta was one of the highlights of the entire weekend.
The area of San Miniato is renowned for its white truffle production and this fair takes place the last three weekends of November. You can learn about the ancient art of truffle hunting, plus taste and buy fresh truffles found by the truffle hunters (tartufaio) from the area. During these weekends, San Miniato is buzzing with people flocking from all over the world, and local handicrafts, indigenous produce, and street food is dotted around the festival.
We took a shuttle up the hill to begin our truffle journey. The weather was nippy, the sky was pink and purple, the mountain looked over gorgeous Italian landscapes, there were sounds of Italian stall owners calling out to us, and there was a heady brilliance to the afternoon. We walked around trying out different cheeses, pate, chillies, oils and meats. After our taste buds had been zinging for a while, we sat down and had rich yummy gelato and then went back to tasting. The Italians were all very friendly and jovial. Though they all understood English, we were glad to have Elvis with us to translate and explain the finer intricacies of the festival.
Possibly my favourite two things at the festival other than the truffles of course were the freshly pressed aromatic olive oil and the creamy burrata. We bought litres of olive oil to take back with us, which has transformed my pasta and salad. Since San Miniato is not too far from Florence, it seemed a shame not to squeeze Firenze into our calendar. A half an hour train had us at Firenze Santa Novella Station efficiently. Though we hadn’t been able to purchase tickets due to a system failure, the train conductor was kind enough to let us travel without a penalty given we were visitors.
What’s Firenze without feasting your eyes at the Duomo? A short walk brought us to Piazza del Duomo and the beautiful cafes, shops and stalls sprinkled around it. The Duomo is an architectural masterpiece and should be seen during the day and at night to get the full impact. We rushed around trying to absorb as much of the Florence vibe as we could and then all too soon it was time to take our train back to San Miniato. For dinner we went to a trattoria for dinner and had some of the classic dishes like Spaghetti Aglio Olio, Ravioli, Bolognese, and of course Tiramisu.
The next day we explored Bologna and all too soon it was time to head back to Bologna airport to take our Easyjet flight to London Gatwick. Italy has a spirit unlike any other European city and every time I go there I think I fall in love with it a little more. There is no doubt Italians definitely do it better. Viva Italia!
Veni, Vidi, Amavi.