Earth's Treasures

The sleepy town of Savigno, set in Emilia Romagna, attracts hundreds of food lovers every October for its precious truffle festival, but the truffles in the Apennines grow all year…

The Hills of Savigno
As the days shorten and nights chill, we turn the page to autumn and say goodbye to summer. The signs of September and October remind us that winter will soon be here.

Autumn in Italy translates to the woodsy scent of grape harvests, picking porcini under misty Sunday mornings and the crackling music of chestnuts roasting on open fires. The seasons are often like children you love each one for its own beauty, and autumn is no exception.

Through the fields and vineyards, pumpkins are roasting with a touch sea salt and nutmeg; creamy risotto and white truffles celebrate the tartufi season, and farmers from the Appennine mountains to the southern tip of Calabria's shores raise their wine glasses and salute the harvest.

Although everyone is not able to travel to Italy at the moment, let's travel together and meet an enchanting truffle hunter named Signor Luigi and his pointer dog, Macchia.

Buon Appetito!
Signor Luigi & Appennino Food
A Day In The Life Of A Truffle Hunter

In Savigno, mornings begin with creamy cappuccini and warm cornetti, meaning little horns, a variation of the French croissant. This quaint town, 25 kilometres or 16 miles southwest of Bologna, is home to only a few hundred inhabitants. There is one pharmacy, one trattoria, one butcher shop, one church and one piazza. Upon arriving, it feels like you’re stepping into a
still life painting by Giorgio Morandi, the Bolognese painter known for his muted strokes of ochre, olive green and chestnut brown.
The drive from Bologna to Savigno is easy and my husband Rino and I know it by heart. One country road winds through rolling hills and endless pastures where Mother Nature is at her best. The vast landscape, peppered with farmhouses and orchards, is a tapestry of colors ranging from emerald green to misty blue. Along the route, wine harvests and wine making are in full swing, porcini mushrooms lay for sale at roadside farm stands and artisan cheese makers are ageing the cheese wheels in vigorous form. And in Savigno during late October, you need only to breathe the air to know that truffles are everywhere.
Signor Luigi Dittilo

Today begins at Café 12 Degrees, the one coffee shop in the village, where we will meet Signor Luigi Dittilo. He is a master truffle hunter and the brainchild of Appennio Food Group. The caffè door swings open ushering in a brisk autumn air and Signor Luigi. 

He joins us for prima colazione, breakfast, and tells us about his love for truffles.  “Obviously, when I first started hunting truffles, I did not sell them. I kept the truffles for my family – my parents and brother.  Back then, it was a hobby. 
I met Signor Luigi over fifteen years ago during a press trip to Emilia Romagna. Every time we visit, we go truffle hunting with him. Today is no exception.  

His story begins. “I began this passion – I call it a passion because I cannot call it work – at 17 years old.  It was an idea meant for fun, not work.  I wanted to live with nature and be with the animals. I have always loved animals since I was a young boy.  My story started in 1985 when I bought a dog, not just any dog, but a truffle-trained dog, a pointer,” he says while holding up a white truffle. 

Left to Right
ROBERTO FATTORE | Truffles Area Manager -ANGELO DATTILO | Production Manager -
LUIGI DATTILO | Managing Director
“In 1987, I took an office because my hobby was becoming a business. Thanks to my communicative personality, I began to make friends with the other men who were hunting for truffles in the nearby forest. At the time, I had my truffles and bought their truffles. I had so many truffles that I didn’t know where to put them. That’s when I started to sell them to chefs. The chefs were very satisfied with my product and service, and by word of mouth my business became known.” 
White Truffles

He points to a photo sitting on the corner of his desk.  “This is my brother Angelo. In 1994, I took a bigger space and he joined the company. We moved the operation to our new space and the business grew again.  Our objective was to service the restaurant industry with high quality truffles and truffle products. We also expanded the product line to include both fresh and frozen mushrooms and other truffle food products – truffle oil, truffle cream, truffle salt and truffle butter – exclusively for chefs.

“From that point, it’s always been a growing business.  As the business expanded, we needed to rely on more people to help us carry the increased workload.  Today, Appennino Food Group employees fifty workers – and we are very happy. 

“We expanded to the USA and now have an ambassador in Florida and Singapore. Our goal is to develop a stronger presence in the United States.  We want to win over more markets, bring our product to more chefs and expand our food education program.  Most of all, we want to communicate the true meaning of the tartufo, truffle, and educate the food industry on what the truffle is and how to use it correctly in the kitchen.  This is an important goal for us.  

For this reason, we have developed an application called E Truffles.  This application welcomes chefs from all over the world to enter into our refrigerators, and with a click, select their truffles according to the season, variety, color and size.  Once they have made their selection, we ship the truffles directly to their destination in a special package that keeps them fresh.  

Thanks to our philosophy for high quality products, we have succeeded. In 2019, we weighted in 32 tons of truffles.

Appennino Truffle Lab

We reminisce about the first time we met. It all started when the Emilia Romagna tourism board invited me on a press trip to meet food artisans and promote the region.  

It was an extraordinary experience for a food and travel writer, publicist and culinary tour owner.  The tourism board also asked if I knew of an important American chef that they could invite to visit and film the region.  

I immediately called my friend and colleague Executive Chef, Todd English, and invited him to Italy. Chef Todd, who was filming his own food show series on WGBH TV, accepted. Soon he and his entire television crew were on a plane from Boston to Bologna. 
We filmed in Bologna, Modena, Parma, and then in Savigno with Signor Luigi. It was more than a week of food and wine of Emilia Romagna. We even visited the Ferrari museum in Maranello. There was a great creative chemistry between all of us and everyone became friends. We filmed and photographed local artisans making Parmigiano-Reggiano, balsamic DOP in Modena, Prosciutto di Parma DOP, mortadella, Lambrusco and tortellini. We also organized a Michelin Star cooking experience with Chef Alberto.

“The region offered us a bright red Ferrari to drive around in while filming. Once day, Todd even drove his mom along the one small street in Savigno while the locals cheered him on. Time has passed quickly since that first meeting.” I remember.

Appennino Food

“Since then, your company has expanded with great success, and I am very happy for you. You started off with one pointer, and now you’ve built a truffle empire. Just a few days ago, I made the Appennino truffle tagliatelle with your truffle oil and truffle salt.  The pasta was exquisite. Not to mention how delicious your truffle salt tasted on grilled asparagus!

"I am a big fan of Appennino Food Group’s high-end products and support the local artisans who carry on their tradition in this region.”   

Luigi explains, “Our Appennino Food line includes – fresh truffles, truffle tagliatelle, truffle butter, truffle oil, truffle cream and truffle salt.  When we started to produce our food line, a world of interest opened up before us.  

We didn’t target clients based on price points, we focused on authentic high-quality products accompanied with our high-end technology.  All of our products are produced under low temperature – 60 degrees – and some are pasteurized.  We have a very high system of quality control using cutting-edge technology for all our products. Preserving truffles is an art in its own right. 

The most important secret lies in the careful selection of fresh truffles matched with the use of advanced technology, which allow full-fledged preservation without damage. We are always attentive because our goal is to always have a final product that satisfies the chef.   

“Com’è Macchia?  How is Macchia,” I ask.  Macchia is Luigi’s truffle-trained, pointer dog. I met her a long time ago and she’s still very affectionate. (Macchia means spot in Italian).

“Macchia sta bene.  Macchia is good!  She’s expecting another litter.  It’s the last time that’ll she’ll be bringing puppies into the world, because at eight years old she won’t have that possibility again.  There’s also, Pupa, Macchia’s mamma.  She’s well and always with me. The bond between the truffle hunter and their dog is indescribable,” he says.

In addition to Macchia and Pupa, he has a collaboration of over one thousand truffle hunters each with their own truffle-trained pointer dog. 

“Tell me about the perfect growing conditions for truffles in Savigno?”

“Our region is comprised of a very vast forest area consisting of fifty square kilometres and that’s important for growing truffles. The ambiance, atmosphere and temperature are also important elements for growing perfect truffles. 

The truffle is ipogeo fungo, meaning a mushroom that grows underground. Its form is tuberosa, tuberous, but only for its form.  For these reasons, the land, temperature and climate are all very important elements for growing healthy truffles. Lastly, the truffles need a mineral rich soil in order to grow.

“The truffle season is all year long – we have truffles twelve months per year.  The tartufo bianco, white truffle, is the most famous, and its season starts at the end of October.  We have five varieties of truffles: white, bianchetto, black winter, black uncinatum and black summer. In fact, there are about 250,000 truffle varieties in the world,” he explains.      

“In Italy, we use the pointer dogs exclusively when we hunt for truffles, unlike in France where they use pigs.  The law is strict in Italy and prohibits anyone from using a pig to find truffles – it is illegal.  Pigs are not used because they’re aggressive and when they dig for the truffle with their nose, they ruin the area where the truffle grows. It is also illegal to truffle hunt in the dark. The truffle hunters can only go truffle hunting in day light.  This practice respects and protects the forest.

“Each year, the truffle production is based on the season’s rain – whether it is a dry summer or not.  This factor adds to the growth and dimension of the truffle.  A dry summer means the soil is compact and the truffle’s dimensions will be smaller.  If there’s been more rain, the soil is loose, not compacting the truffle, and the size will be bigger.  

Truffles Over Tagliatelle

When I ask Luigi what his favorite truffle recipe is, he responds, “Truffle with egg.  Egg is the principal ingredient that goes well with the tartufo – especially if it’s a tartufo bianco, white truffle.  No matter how you make an egg with truffle, the most important thing is to keep the yolk liquid.  Pasta also goes well with truffles.  I love tagliatelle made by hand with lots of butter and white truffles. However, I don’t like risotto with truffles.” 

He points to a basket of truffles, calling them, “Earth’s treasures.” 

“I agree – they are truly precious. A day in the forest, the scent of the soil, and keeping up with Macchia – it works up an appetite.”  

And, I hold up a white truffle. “Thank Macchia!”

We spend the afternoon foraging through the beautiful forests of Savigno with Signor Luigi. Macchia leads the way. In the evening, everyone prepares dinner together, and we enjoy tagliatelle made by hand with lots of butter and white truffles.
Truffle Notes 
White Truffles Tuber Magnatum Pico
The most sought-after truffle of all, truly the king of the woods. It matures in the woodland in autumn. Its intense and unmistakeable flavor is shaved into wafer-thin slices to make even the simplest dishes truly luxurious.

Bianchetto Truffles Tuber albidum Pico
A lesser variety of white truffle, available in late winter and at the beginning of spring. It has a strong and distinctive personality, with an intense flavor.

Black Winter Truffles Tuber Melanosporum
The black truffle par excellence is native to the Apennines, where it grows abundantly throughout the winter. It is a more versatile ingredient and lends itself to any dish, minced or shaved wafer-thin.

Black Uncinatum Tuber Uncinatum
This truffle is distinguished by its large size and warm hazelnut aroma. It grows in autumn throughout the Apennines, and it is best savoured in wafer-thin shavings or else minced to enrich sauces and condiments.

Black Summer Truffles Tuber Aestivum Vitt
The summer truffle is the most common woodland treasure and abounds in the Apennines in summer months. It is widely used to enhance traditional recipes with its fresh, delicate aroma.
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for Hands-On Cooking

Cooking Vacations' Tours

Truffle Hunting
in Bologna Countryside

Bologna ~ Tortellini,
Parmigiano & Balsamico™

Recipes From Appennino Food
Potato and Celery Pie with
Black Summer Truffle
Slices in Oil and Crispy
Jerusalem Artichokes

Preparation 15 minutes
Serves 4
600 g or 1 lb and 1/3 potatoes
300 g celeriac (celery root)
2-3 Jerusalem artichokes
100 or 1/2 cup ml milk
40 g or 3 tablespoons of unsalted butter
Extra virgin olive oil
Vegetable oil for frying
Watercress sprouts
50 g or ¼ cup Appenino Black Summer Truffle Slices in Olive Oil 

Peel potatoes, cut them into large chunks and boil them in salted water. Heat the milk, remove it from the stove, add the butter and a grating of nutmeg.

Drain potatoes and allow them to cool, mash them directly into the hot milk and mix with a spatula to blend in ingredients. Season with salt and flavor with a few drops of the truffle oil from the truffle slices jar.
Peel and dice celery root. Brown 3-4 minutes long in a pan with a tbsp of EVO oil, add a glass of water, salt, cover and cook until soft. Heat vegetable oil to 180°C. Wash and scrub Jerusalem artichokes, cut them finely with a mandoline or a truffle slicer, and pat dry. Sauté the slices, a few at a time, until crispy and golden. Drain and dry them on paper towels.

Spoon the hot purée into a ring mould, cover with a tbsp of celeriac, and finish off with the Jerusalem artichoke chips and truffle slices. Garnish with watercress sprouts to taste.

Red Radicchio and Ricotta-Cheese
Tortelli with White Truffle Sauce

Preparation 10 minutes
Serves 4


For the pasta:
200 g or 2 cups all-purpose flour
2 eggs

For the filling and sauce:
200 g ½ cup red radicchio
200 g ¾ cup ricotta cheese
30 g or 3 heaping tablespoons freshly-grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese
Extra virgin olive oil
2 tbsp Appenino hite Truffle Sauce 


Place flour in a large bowl, make a well in the center, break the eggs and place them into the well. Start blending in flour with eggs with a fork, then knead it until it becomes a smooth, well-blended dough. Cover with plastic film and let it to rest in a cool place for 30 minutes.

Clean red radicchio and cut it into narrow strips (julienne). Sauté it gently in a pan with a little EVO oil and a pinch of salt. Allow it to cool and chop it coarsely. In a small bowl, mix red radicchio with ricotta-cheese and grated parmesan. Season with salt and nutmeg to taste, then spoon the mixture into a pastry bag. Roll out the dough into a thin sheet using the pasta-sheeting
ma­chine. Place small amounts of filling at regular intervals along the strip of dough. Fold the dough strip onto itself so as to cover the filling. Seal the dough well around the filling.

Use a wheel cutter to cut the tortelli-shapes. Arrange them onto a tray sprinkled with flour, making sure they do not overlap. In a pan, gently heat white truffle sauce.

Cook the red-radicchio tor­telli in boiling salted water for 3-4 minutes. Quickly drain them with a perforated ladle / colander (chinois) and place them in the sauce. Gently sauté them for a few seconds and serve with fresh red-radicchio.

Scallops with Truffle Butter
on Fennel
and Beetroot Purée

Preparation 10 minutes
Cooking 20 minutes
Serves 4


12 shelled scallops
200 g or 1 cups fennel
80 g peeled or 1/2 cup potatoes
30 g cooked 1/4 cup beetroot
Extra virgin olive oil
Salt and rose pepper
20 g 1 ½ Appennio Clarified Truffle Butter

Clean fennel and cut it into pieces, dice potatoes and cook vegetables in salted water until soft. Drain and blend with beetroot and 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil. Add salt to taste and keep warm.

Wash shelled scallops in cold, running water, drain and pat dry with a paper towel.

Heat a non-stick pan, add the clarified truffle butter and sauté scallops until golden, 1 minute per side.
Salt and serve on the fennel and beetroot purée, garnish with beet sprouts and a dusting of rose pepper.
Wine Pick

Papesse Wine
A Sangiovese Superiore
from Emilia Romagna

The gorgeous Villa Papiano is set between Romagna and Tuscany in a small town called Modigliana, 50 kilometres southeast of Bologna. This family of four (two brothers and two sisters) are the driving force behind Villa Papiano and their wine production. Francesco manages the winemaking, its style and production. Maria Rosa is in charge of commercial relations, while Giampaolo heads management and Enrica manages the administration. Together they produce an organic brand of wine made in limited quantities under strict quality control.

Francesco explains, "Being artisan winegrowers at Villa Papiano means we observe and pay attention to every detail. We also have learned from experience living in symbiosis with the environment and absorbing what has been handed down from those who preceded us. We are aware that every growing year is different but our goal always is growing, harvesting, bottling and producing an excellent line of wine.

Papesse, dedicated to the forest. DOC Romagna Sangiovese Superiore is 95% Sangiovese, and 5% Balsamina and Negretto.

Francesco explains, "The first vines were planed in1980, and the production started in 2002. Once the grapes are harvested and pressed, a careful bottling and ageing process takes its course-creating this Sangiovese superiore - bright and with floral notes, making it perfect with autumn stews, truffles with pasta and, truffles with egg, and red meat."

I hope you enjoyed this trip to Savigno. I hope you are able to try the recipes too. We look forward to welcoming you to Italy when the time is right again.

Prayers for a healthy and prosperous harvest to farmers and artisans everywhere.

Bon Appetito!