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)

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