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The Quest

Truffle-hunters "flush out" their precious quarry using specially-trained dogs which possess a very fine sense of smell. They must have a licence and pay an annual fee, and are only allowed to go out looking for truffles during the hunting season, which varies depending on the region and the species of Tuber. 

When the dog sniffs out a truffle in the woods, the hunter uses a special tool (called zappino - or little hoe - in the North, and vanghetto - or small spade - in Central Italy) to extract it with the greatest care. The soil is then replaced exactly as it was so that new rootlets can grow to form mycorrhizae, and finally a new fruiting body. 

The truffle-hunter represents an almost legendary figure: called trifolao in the local Piedmontese dialect, and cavatore (digger) or ricercatore (searcher) in Central Italy, he is a mysterious character who roams around the woods at night - often till dawn - wrapped in a dark cloak and finding his way by the dim light of a lantern (or more recently a torch). 

He knows every wood like the back of his hand, and jealously guards his knowledge (maps of the best locations are often buried with their owners). Legend apart, though, the qualities that really make for a great truffle-hunter are secrecy and a perfect understanding between man and dog.