How to Make the Most of Europe's Winter Truffle Season

Travel + Leisure


January 4, 2017

Michaela Trimble

In the winter months, truffle season beckons in Europe. The mountains are cloaked in showers, soaking the grounds and nourishing grasses, trees, and truffles alike.

Jonathan Harris, truffle expert and cofounder of La Tienda, looks forward to southern Europe’s winter, when trees and truffles are well watered and healthy. During this time, the fungus is at its most fruitful, making it ripe for producing the finest quality truffles.

“Southern Europe has a very special ecology that supports intensely aromatic and flavorful truffles,” said Harris. “Winter truffles, both white and black, are unique to Europe and are the most prized in the world. There are other species of truffles in parts of North America and Asia, but none compare to the quality produced here.”

There’s a reason truffles harbor a nutty, often woody taste: “Truffles are a symbiotic fungus,” said Harris. “They depend on trees like oak and hazelnut to provide them with sugars, and, in turn, they provide essential nutrients to the trees.”

This is why truffles are the perfect complement to olive oil, cheese, and even honey. For a winter holiday, consider making the most of southern Europe’s winter truffle season with not-to-miss experiences spanning Italy, France, Switzerland, and Spain.

Northern Italy

Situated in the heart of culture-rich Milan, Baglioni Hotel Carlton’s luxurious suites offer private terrace views overlooking the fashionable Villa della Spiga. With access to unrivaled shopping, cultural attractions, and opera at the famed Teatro alla Scala, it may be hard to leave the city, but the hotel presents an alluring respite from Milan during an exclusive trip to the Glass House in the Piedmont countryside, set near Alba, the Italian truffle mecca, home to a yearly white truffle festival.

The Glass House comes complete with secluded, floor-to-ceiling views of the forest and green hills of the Monferatto Valley, a fertile region where white truffles grow in abundance and Barolo and Barbaresco produce Nebbiolo wines, one of the most famous Italian varietals.

During a visit to this UNESCO World Heritage Site in the winter months, guests experience the best of the region's culinary delights during a truffle tasting class and a starry Dom Pérignon dinner at La Ciau del Tornavento, where decadent courses include dishes of veal coated in burrata and hazelnut-infused truffle oil.

Southern Italy

With Southern Visions, guests gain intimate access to Southern Italy’s truffle trade on a journey into the Umbrian countryside where the truffle was born. Hosted by renowned chef Giancarlo Polito, the thrill of the hunt ensues just as morning dawns.

As truffle dogs sniff and source the finest treasures, travelers harvest the truffles straight from the earth, plucking the fungus fresh from its soil casing. The unmistakable, pungent scent is immediately released, and the sensory experiences culminates in a gastronomical study at boutique hotel Locanda del Capitano, located in the hilltop town of Montone.

In an area where authentic culinary arts are still widely in practice, the hotel offers a veranda peering directly into picturesque alleyways of the village—a perfect setting to enjoy the food and wine for which Italy is famous. Chef Giancarlo Polito makes his selection of truffles and presents cooking techniques, transforming the bounty into dishes like his signature cheese fondue, quail egg, and truffle cappuccino.

Western Switzerland

Set on the banks of Lake Geneva in Switzerland, Le Richemond is a confluence of luxury and the outdoors, with its halls draped in opulent décor set against an idyllic alpine landscape.

A hotspot for artists and international dignitaries, Le Richemond is the perfect choice for a weekend winter trip to explore Swiss black truffles in one of Europe’s most captivating cities. During winter, the hotel offers a truffle-based menu at Le Jardin, the property’s premiere restaurant nestled between picturesque Brunswick Gardens and Lake Geneva. Each Friday, guests dining at the restaurant mingle with resident trifolao and local supplier Mr. Clément Jacquemier and his dapper truffle-hunting dog Pistache. During the meal, Jacquemier shares his truffle-sourcing expertise while Chef Philippe Bourrel matches each varietal with complementing courses featuring the best seasonal, local ingredients of Geneva in dishes like seabass ceviche and white chocolate mousse and black truffle.

Southern France

Perched at the Dordogne river amidst a UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve, Château de la Treyne in the Dordogne basin is the perfect home to experience an abundant, French truffle harvest. The property is home to a French-style-garden, offering nearly 400 acres of species and cedar rich forest.

Setting out in the garden’s maze of hiking trails and alleyways, explore an expanse home to oak trees, truffle oaks, hornbeams, and box trees of the Causses du Quercy Natural Regional Park, the birthplace of the illustrious black diamond truffle. After sourcing your own, visit the winter truffle market in Lalbenque to sample truffle-based delicacies produced in the region. As a Relais & Châteaux property, the châteaux serves the finest French cuisine on the terrace of its restaurant Grand Louis XIII Salon, overlooking the flowing waters of the Dordogne. Chef Stéphane Andrieux enlists dishes as his medium to depict the regions storied culinary heritage, infusing truffles with meats, asparagus, and foie gras.

Northeastern Spain

Located in Teruel in the northeastern province of Aragón, Spain, La Trufa Negra is an idyllic plot of land nestled within the Sierra de Gúdar mountain range. Here, truffles prove common, and guests can explore the countryside during a visit to La Trufa Negra’s El Olmo country house, set on nearly 125 acres of oak-tree-dotted land and home to the property’s very own truffle farm. During a guided hike to source winter truffles, experts reveal the secret to the truffle trade.

Not only are the truffles in Teruel regarded as some of the best in the world, the region is also thought to produce the largest quantity of black truffles, and after dogs trained to sniff the regions black truffles source the bounty, guests return to a feast at La Trufa Negra’s Melanosporum Restaurant. Here, the chef presents dishes like raviolis stuffed with Aragón lamb and mushrooms with truffle cream and a truffle-infused hamburger with cheddar cheese and boletus sauce.

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