Katie Linsky Shaw

Photojournalist
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Truffle Hunting in Italy: Community-based Tourism in Tuscany
Location: Asheville, North Carolina
Biography: Katie Linsky Shaw has worked as a photographer since college. Following graduation, she worked full-time as a reporter and photographer for newspapers and freelanced for a large, daily newspaper in Memphis, TN. After a move to Arkansas, Katie... MORE
Public Story
Truffle Hunting in Italy: Community-based Tourism in Tuscany
Copyright Katie Linsky Shaw 2024
Updated Sep 2023
Topics Culture, Editorial, Family Travel, Feature, Journalism, Photography, Travel, Vacation
Summary
Community-based tourism like truffle hunting in the Tuscany region of Italy, is a great way to learn about a culture away from the crowds and tourist traps.
Truffle hunting in Italy is a centuries-old practice that combines knowledge of the terrain, a well-trained dog, and a bit of luck to find the treasured fungus. And visitors to the Tuscan countryside in Italy can join in on the hunt through several tours offered in the area.

We found Francesco online the day before our tour during a two-week vacation to Italy this past summer. We were staying in Barberino Val d'Elsa and decided last-minute to truffle hunt. Luckily, Francesco had space the next day.

We met Francesco and his dog Sally, a Lagotto Romagnolo breed known for being great truffle hunters, about 20 minutes from the first hunting area. We climbed in his car and traveled the winding roads through Tuscany. Our first stop was a wooded area just off the road.

Francesco let Sally out of her carrier in the backseat, strapped on his truffle hunting bag, grabbed his truffle hunting spade, and they were off. Sally started sniffing and running with Francesco close behind. The rest of us did our best to keep up. Finally, Sally stopped, sniffed aggressively at the dirt and started pawing with her feet. Francesco quickly jumped in right before Sally bit into the aromatic fungus. She'd found a truffle! Francesco showed us, rewarded Sally with a pinch of it to keep her interested, and we were off again.

Truffles are so valuable due to their popular flavor and aroma, and because they're difficult to find. Farmers can't easily plant and harvest truffles which prefer growing near certain types of trees. The truffles must also be carefully removed from the ground to avoid damage. That's where a well-trained dog like Sally works best.

That day, Sally did well finding a pile of black truffles which are hunted in the summer. Francesco drove us to his family home where he cooled off Sally with a bucket of water and inspected her finds. He spread the large harvest across a table and counted while accepting a call from his truffle broker. The truffles Sally found that day were headed to local restaurants.

We didn't leave with any truffles but were happy just to experience a typical day for Francesco and Sally. This type of local, community-based tourism was so much more meaningful than waiting in line to tour yet another museum. It gave us a glimpse of "real life" away from the crowds.
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Truffle Hunting in Italy: Community-based Tourism in Tuscany by Katie Linsky Shaw
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