Review: Truffle Hunting in Pettino, Italy

Truffle hunting in the hills of Pettino, Italy

I am thrilled to write about our recent truffle hunting experience with Alessandro and Massimo in the sweeping hills of Pettino, Italy. We found Alessandro & Massimo after making an initial inquiry about truffle hunting with Francesca at Wild Foods Italy (see: All of the truffle hunting tours at Wild Foods Italy were booked so Francesca was kind enough to offer our group of nine an alternative truffle hunting option in Pettino with her cousin Alessandro (see: Pettino Hunting Outfitters  and Albergo Fontanelle We didn't know what to expect but came out of this experience feeling that all of our expectations were not only met but exceeded.

We arrived a bit late having not anticipated the winding roads to meet Alessandro at his family's restaurant Albergo Fontanelle. Alessandro was waiting in the driveway and greeted us with a very warm smile. After apologizing profusely for our tardiness, Alessandro warmly replied "When you are on vacation there is no such thing as being late." We knew we were in for a special experience.

Instead of heading straight out to the forest and fields for the hunt Alessandro brought us inside his family restaurant for a light breakfast of coffees and home made breakfast pastries. What a pleasant surprise! 

With our bellies full we headed up into the hills of Pettino in two cars - a pickup truck with 5 truffle hunting dogs in the back and a Fiat 500L. Alessandro told us that he had several areas from which to choose from for the hunt but given that we were a group with children and city folk he chose a more leveled area to start with. I personally appreciated that he sized us up and was able to make a decision on where to take us based on our group makeup. 

After a 15 minute drive we arrived to a place that looked liked a combination of the hills in the sound of music and a Michelangelo marble quarry.

The beautiful hills of Pettino, Italy
Alessandro and Massimo brought five dogs with them for the hunt. One of the dogs was the veteran truffle hunter and the others were still in the training stages. Pigs were no longer used to truffle hunt because they tend to eat the truffles when found.

When we reached our initial destination we were given a brief but informative overview of truffle history, varieties (black & white) and hunting (pigs vs dogs). Alessandro told us that in order to be a truffle hunter one must apply for and be granted a license for a specific area. This was purposefully done by the government in order to avoid excessive truffle hunting and to preserve jobs for the locals.  All of the information Alessandro provided was interesting. Alessandro was very warm and pleasant and it was a pleasure to see someone who seemed to genuinely love his trade/craft and not just going through "the motions". 

After a brief overview, Alessandro released the dogs from the metal cage in the back of his truck and you could see the dogs' exuberance. The dogs would run up and down the road sniffing everything while taking an occasional bathroom break. 

Alessandro spoke to the dogs words of encouragement (and command) "dai lei la" and "dai la lei". This loosely translated to: "bring it to me", "go get it", "find it". The dogs all immediately understood the command and they would scatter off the road sniffing the earth nearby. The hunting had begun!

There is something magical about seeing just a wagging tail of a dog in the air because that sight got all of our attention and adrenalin rushing! When one of the dogs found a truffle they would dig with both their paws and their mouths until they retrieved the truffle. Once retrieved, the dogs would run to Alessandro and he would say "bidi bidi" (bring it) and then dig inside their mouth to find an uneaten truffle. Alessandro would then hold up the truffle high above his head to show off his truffle prize for everyone to see. The successful hunting dog would then receive a biscuit/cracker as their reward.

The truffles we found would vary in both size and coloration. Some were rather small like acorns while others were the size of a large walnut. All misshaped and none perfectly round. Some were dark black while others earthy brown. The smell was instantly recognizable but not overly pungent.  Alessandro told us that white truffles were the most sought after (and expensive) and could be found only during a couple months of the year (October thru December).

We followed up the road for a little while before following Alessandro and Massimo down a rather steep hill that provided us with a spectacular view of the hills of Pettino. The hill lead us to and through a small forested area where we continued truffle hunting. 

After the thrilling experience of truffle hunting with Alessandro, Massimo and their dogs we were taken to one of the small towns of Pettino where we enjoyed finely shaved truffles over scrambled eggs and homemade Pecorino cheese. So delicious! 

Preparing fresh eggs with truffles

Perfect truffles!

Homemade Pecorino cheese with truffle shavings!

Fresh scramble eggs with truffles - a delicious staple meal!

After this light snack and an incredible authentic truffle hunting experience we were taken back to Albergo Fontanelle where we were treated to local wine, antipasta, a pasta making demonstration by Alessandro's mother and a full lunch with truffle pasta and meats. So much goodness!  As if all of this wasn't enough we were treated afterwards with desert and limoncello by the swimming pool. WOW!

Pasta making demonstration

Look at that fresh pasta!

Fresh truffles with fresh homemade pasta!

Our truffle hunting experience with Alessandro, Massimo and their family at Albergo Fontanelle exceeded all of our expectations. Many thanks to Alessandro, Massimo and the entire Albergo Fontanelle family for providing us with such wonderful experiences and memories. A big thank you to Francesca for recommending Alessandro to us.

We received an authentic, informative and rewarding truffle hunting experience and would recommend this experience with Pettino Hunting Outfitters to anyone wanting to go on an authentic truffle hunting experience!

GRADE:  A+   (far exceeded our initial expectations)

Review: Private Day Tours

This past summer we booked two full-day tours in Italy through Private Day Tours. (See Both full-day tour excursions exceeded our expectations thanks in part to the excellent service and guidance we received from Gianluca Savarese prior to the trips. Gianluca was very patient and quick in responding to our questions. The staff that accompanied us on our trips were knowledgeable, polite and informative. We would highly recommend Private Day Tours to anyone considering doing a tour of the Amalfi Coast. 

Full day tour: Pompeii, Cantina del Vesuvio, Positano
We were picked up at our hotel in Sorrento by Gaetano and Lello (we were a party of 9) at around 9am and driven to see the ruins of Pompeii. The vans were very nice Mercedes and were very comfortable. The drivers were both very knowledgeable and pleasant to speak to. 

We were greeted at the entrance of Pompeii by a private tour guide (only those who have a pompeii tour license can conduct the tour) who seemed genuinely interested in giving us an informative yet manageable tour of the ruins. Making the tour manageable and interesting was especially important to us since we were traveling with four children.

After the tour of Pompeii, Gaetano and Lello met us directly at the exit of the ruins and whisked us away to Cantina del Vesuvio to do an wine tasting and lunch. (see: The Lacryma Christi wines at the vinyard ranged from good to very good with the Reserva being the best. Interestingly, because of the richness of the Vesuvian soil (the vinyard is located on the slopes of Mt. Vesuvius) it is not necessary to water the vinyard. We also should mention that the vinegar was exquisite. Lunch was pasta marinara. The owner was also very nice and personally helped us order and ship a box of wine back home to the United States. Overall, a very worthwhile experience.

After the trip to Cantina del Vesuvio, Gaetano and Lello drove us to Positano where we were taken to a small limoncello-making shop. It was interesting to see the limoncello-making process. We were left by our drivers as close to the the bottom of Positano as possible and enjoyed walking around and having a nice dinner at Le Tre Sorrelle. (See By the end of the day we were pleasantly exhausted. Definitely a successful day!

A short slideshow of our full-day tour

Full day tour: Capri by boat
We were picked up at around 10am from our hotel in Sorrento by taxi and taken down to the docks where we greeted by Captain Arturo, Elena and his 32 foot boat. The boat itself was beautiful, clean and a perfect size for a party of nine. Both Captain Arturo and Elena had a pleasant demeanor and were very professional. 

Our first stop would be the Blue Grotto as we wanted to avoid the long wait that often happens later in the day. When we arrived at the Blue Grotto we noticed that there were three lines: public boats (large groups), people entering from land and private boats (us). We were told the wait could be up to 3 hours. While waiting in line, Arturo masterfully used the boats motors and side thrusters to avoid hitting other boats. Thankfully, we waited only 1 hour. When it was our time to go we were greeted by a smaller row boat that could fit 4 people (max). The boat would take us to the entrance of the cave where the captain would have to time the entry perfectly to avoid getting our heads chopped off! The captain would wait for the water level to go to the top of the cave entrance and then he would pull the metal chain just as the water level subsided and whoosh we entered the cave. The color of the blue is breathtaking. It is possible to swim in the Grotto (we did!) but it is important to note that there are many boats inside the Grotto at the same time (watch out!) and it is customary to give a "special gift" to your captain after. We would highly recommend taking a quick swim!

After visiting the Blue Grotto we took the opportunity to take a quick swim off the boat which was a welcomed relief from the heat. We then headed to several other lesser-known grottos (heart grotto, white grotto, red grotto). 

Then it was time for lunch. We ate at Le Serene which is located just off the dock at Piccola Marina. (See There are two small beaches and places to swim and rocks to jump off of. The water was dazzlingly blue. The lunch at Le Serene was a mixed bag. On the one hand the view and location were excellent. On the other hand, however, the food was just okay and the service was subpar. It is important to note that we charged for drinks that we did not order and after reading other reviews of the restaurant this is not an isolated incident. A pity because the lunch experience could have been much better. 

After eating at Le Serene we took open air taxis (expensive) to Capri's main town and were immediately struck by how beautiful and clean it was. The shops were high end luxury - Gucci, etc. The views from the top were amazing. We had about 30 minutes to explore before having to go back to the boat. 

On our way back to the Sorrento docks Captain Arturo and Elena took their time to let us take in the views of the mainland and to enjoy the last moments of our adventure. We went through the Faraglioni rocks - an archway where lovers can get good luck if they kiss underneath it. (See Once at the Sorrento dock we were picked up by taxi and taken back to our hotel. Such an amazing fun-filled experience. 

We highly recommend using Private Day Tours for any excursions in the Amalfi Coast!

A short slideshow of our full-day tour

A special moment in Tuscumbria

A special moment in Tuscumbria at Altabella Properties as our youngest 
son dashes inside the house for dinner.

Italy Trip 2017

PART 1 : Naples & Sorrento

PART 2: Sorrento, Pompeii, Cantina del Vesuvio, Positano

PART 3: Sorrento (Staying Local)

PART 4: Capri, Quanto Basta Ristorante

PART 5: Ravello, Villa Cimbrone, Amalfi, Atrani

PART 6: Family time at Altabella Properties

PART 7: Time with Vicky & John

Italy Trip 2017: Food Adventures

This is a short slideshow of some of the delicious places we ate at in the Amalfi Coast and Tuscumbria (Tuscany/Umbria).

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