Susan Croce Kelly, author and former editor and publisher of Ozarks Magazine, writes about her amazing traveling experiences in northern Italy.
Travelling with her husband and several cousins on a Sentieri tour to Italy’s Piedmont region, Susan is on a journey to reconnect with her family roots and to taste traditional Piedmontese cuisine. Upon arrival, she is welcomed with an “aperitivo” by Giovanna Ceccherini, a manager at Hotel Candiani, located in the beautiful town of Casale Monferrato. As part of the tour’s itinerary, Susan is soon off to find as what she calls “a bona fide buried treasure.” Finding buried treasure in Piedmont only means one thing — hunting for truffles.
Susan reaches back two centuries to quote French epicure and gastronome Jean Brillat-Savarin who wrote that “truffles were such a rare and valuable delicacy that they were only to be found on the tables of rich men and kept women.” To this day, truffles are a delicacy – black truffles can cost anywhere from $150 to $200 per pound while white truffles can cost to about $2,000 to $3,500 per pound.
The truffle hunt begins at a stone farmhouse just miles away from Casale where owner Giorgio and his truffle hunting dog greet their visitors. They follow Giorgio into the wilderness where they successfully found some black truffles. Afterwards, Giorgio leads the group down by a creek where he very carefully dug up a white truffle, which are harder to find. When the hunting was over, they return to the farm house where Giorgio’s wife had prepared an appetizer of buttered toast topped with some black truffle all with a glass of Piedmontese red wine.
Everyday was a new adventure for the eyes and the palate with visits to new sites, and many of Casale’s wonderful restaurants where Susan also learned to cook traditional local dishes. Some of her favorite places to which she went include a rice plantation as well as a Grappa factory.
What made the trip personal was when Susan was, with her family, able to arrange a visit to her Piedmontese cousins in a small town near Casale. It was certainly a trip worth writing about.