Sunday, November 23, 2008

White Gold

I had been looking forward to today for a while – a trip to the truffle market in San Miniato, a hill town 40 minutes by train from Florence. Fall is a great season for culinary treats in Tuscany, from the porcini mushrooms to the new harvests of wine and oil all the way to truffles. Now, to be honest, I still don’t quite understand what all the fuss is about – I mean, they taste good, and they’re rare, but I wouldn’t pay exorbitant sums for a tuber (and couldn’t afford to, anyway). Nevertheless, a taste of luxury isn’t bad, and so we ended up in San Miniato, which has a truffle fair and market for three weekends in November, along with a crowd of tourists trying to get on a small bus from the train station up to the town. The weather was perfect – one of the coldest days so far (highs around 10 degrees), but sunny and a visibility for miles and miles. Once in town, we first did some sightseeing, after all San Miniato also has some sights, such as a 13th century castle built by Holy Roman Emperor Frederick II. On the way we passed many stands selling all kinds of sausages, cheese, specialties from around Italy, and wine, but only when we got to the Piazza del Duomo did we find the real treasure – white (and some black) truffles for sale.
They seemed to start at around 15 Euros for a small cherry-sized specimen, so we passed on that and got some new olive oil instead. We were not to go without truffles altogether, though, since outside the tent with the truffle salesmen were several food stands, where we indulged in frittata al tartufo (truffle frittata) and tagliolini al tartufo (egg noodles with truffle). After lunch, we made our way through the rest of the town, which was in full truffle festival mode, with many opportunities to eat and buy truffles, other food and drink, and crafts and plants. Finally, we took the bus back to the train station, where we had to wait for almost an hour before the train took us back to Florence.

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