On the Truffle Trail

Last Friday we met a group of 12 guests at Stansted and took off to our beloved Le Marche on Italy’s Adriatic coast. Having run our hugely popular Italian cooking weeks at Villa il Boschetto for the past three years, we have built up a wonderful local network and in-depth knowledge of this little known region.

Having landed in Ancona we headed up to the Montefeltro mountain area for lunch at the breathtakingly beautiful restaurant Il Gerone dei Golosi with stunning views over the hills and the autumn colours set against the back-drop of a deep blue sky. We were treated to an array of delicious specialties of the house, before setting off on a short, scenic route to Collesi Brewery. Collesi have become a cult micro brewery whose artisan beers and Grappas win Gold Medals all over Europe and whose Champagne style bottles are stocked by top restaurants all over the globe. We tasted a lot of their beers, with the Red beer and their Stout causing most of the highly positive comments from our guests.

Thus replenished, we carried on to our hotel for the night, pink washed coaching in Antico Furlo, where the thick walls and wooden shutters encase wonderful rooms and an award winning dinning room. We started dinner with dribis in the Grotto and then set down to a 7-course truffle tasting menu served by la Signora Roberta herself.

Convinced that we would not be able to eat another morsel for days, we never the less managed to do justice to an array of home baked breads and cakes at breakfast the following morning and set off for our Truffle hunt with Paolo and his two charming dogs. The hills were bathed in glorius sunshine, and the aromatic scent of mint and other wild herbs under foot filled the air – as did the waft of the huge truffles Paolo and his trusted dogs soon started to find. Watching the dogs, nose to the ground and tails wagging, rush through the undergrowth, digging up and carefully delivering to Paolo’s hands beautiful truffles was a wonderful experience. We then drove into Acqualagna village where the 50th Truffle Festival was under way with truffle stalls lined up in the sunshine on the square, fresh pasta with truffle being served outdoors and families, children and dogs mingled in the warm weather. We headed to the Food Theatre – Salotto del Gusto – for a cookery show with a local pasta chef which included a tasting of his food and a fantastic wine tasting session to go with it. At 5pm Tine and Liz took to the stage as the only foreign chefs running a demonstration for a full house and being interviewed by local TV – a fun time was had by all!

We headed out of Acqualagna as darkness fell and followed the winding road to Urbino. This is a stunning walled, hilltop  university town and a UNESCO World Heritage site with amazing Renaissance architecure and art. We checked in for 2 nights at magnificent Albergo San Domenica opposite the Ducal Palace and, true to form, headed straight out to our favourite Enoteca for more truffle dishes and delicious local wines, including the local version of Prosecco, the light and fruity Passerina – named after the little birds who love settle on the vines to try to beat the humans to the grapes.

The following day was dedicated to strolling around stunning Urbino – “more beautiful than Florence and without the crowds” as one of our guests commented. A guided tour of the magnificent Palazzo Ducale and Rafaello’s house were among the highlights. Our final dinner together was also the most exquisite in the competent hands of Giovanna and her husband at Antico Osteria dalla Stella.

Heading back down to the coast and leaving the stunning Montefeltro mountain region behind us, every single traveller promised to return to what they declared to be one of the most beautiful parts of Italy.