“Ehi Gino, what have you found this morning? Nothing, the ground was poor”. This may be the typical conversation you can hear in the bar of one of the small villages in the Tuscan Romagna, a very huge bordering area that includes the National Park of Foreste Casentinesi and Monte Falterona.
Ask a truffle hunter and he will never say he got something. And also, try to ask him to take you for a hunting truffle session and he will invent the most fantastic excuses just to put you aside.
So when I had the chance to stay at Portico di Romagna for RomagnaDiffusa blog tour with Catherine Sweeney, her husband and Teresa Keane, I found out that Matteo had a surprise for us. He is one of the six lucky people who have their own reserve (a very wide area near Portico di Romagna) where truffles (black ones) can be found.
Hunting with Otto and Rex
My idea of truffle hunting was a man into the wood with a dog! Well, it is actually more than that. Dogs are the leaders, they know how to do it, they remember the places and they smell what a normal standing human being cannot do! Let’s go.
It’s early in the morning, well not so early as you can imagine, but the dogs are thrilled, they take it as a game, sometime free in the country with the only task to find something. Yuppi! And we are thrilled, too. Not sure about the all thing will go, but sure enough it will be an adventure.
Otto and Rex are Lagotto dogs, a special kind of dogs used for people rescue and also for truffle hunting! The lagotto romagnolo is a typical local dog, also very useful in people rescue, because of its special and strong nose.
While we follow Matteo’s car to reach the place, we are wondering what this trip can bring us. Will we find truffles? How can we lead the dogs? Will it be dangerous to be into the wood?
The truffles reserve is an area where only who’s paying a fee can enter. And this is the area where six lucky hunters (Matteo is one of those) can go.
Matteo explains us that the training of a good truffles hunter dog is very long and begins when they are puppies, in a very slow way so that they understand what they must search for and especially that they must not eat what they find. Matteo, as every other truffles hunter, has a special relationship with the two dogs and it was a real joy to see him playing with them. Until this stays, the dogs will keep on “working” for him. It’s a question of give and take.
The truffles of the day!
Otto and Rex are free, their nose on the ground, God know what they are smelling, but it takes just 1 minute and suddenly they started to get excited. They have found something. Matteo rushes with his special stick and here we go. The miracle has happened; he has one big black truffle in his hand. So quick that we didn’t even caught the moment.
These dogs are our heroes, also because the final result of their job was this!
Tips and Info
Portico di Romagna is a small village in the area of the National Park of Foreste Casentinesi and Monte Falterona. To arrive there, take the Highway A14 and exit at Forlì. Then take the ss67 along the Montone Valley, you have to follow the direction Castrocaro and then go straight until you reach the village.
The heart of Portico di Romagna is the Albergo Diffuso Vecchio Convento, one of the first in Italy and absolutely the first in Romagna. Ask for the Cameli family and everyone will address you here. The restaurant of the Hotel is the best in the area, thanks to Gianni, Massimiliano and Matteo: three chefs (father and two sons) that storytell Romagna with their delicious dishes, each one made with passion and love. Also thanks to Marisa, the “real deal”, for her unconditionate passion, patience and love and for her contagious smile
Portico di Romagna can be a very good base to visit this part of Romagna: trekking, nature, good food, history. And it really was for us: we arrived as bloggers, we left as locals, part of the Cameli family.
Disclosure: this post was part of the Romagna Diffusa Blog tour, in partnership with the National Association of Alberghi Diffusi, Vecchio Convento and Le Case Antiche. I want to thank Giancarlo Dallara, Massimiliano Cameli and all his family and Silvia Santolini for helping me in realizing this project and all the people who volunteered and offered their support in this trip.