The dawn of the white truffle

Deep in the forests of Piedmont, Italy, Ezio and his son Filippo Costa go for a night-time hunt of the rare and expensive Alba white truffle, which has so far resisted all the efforts of modern science for its cultivation.

The night is illuminated by the last plenilunio of October. Ezio Costa, born in 1947, is one of the 4,000 truffle hunters of Piedmont. He has been repeating the ritual of the search since he was 14 years old. His son Filippo, born in 1976, during the day is an architect with a studio in Alba: "I've been accompanying my father since I was a child. He passed on his passion to me". Besides Ezio and his son Filippo, there are Dora and Lola, two crossbreed dogs from German Bracco breed and English Pointer breed. It’s thanks to them if the search is successful.

The truffle is a hypogeous fungus: even when it is ripe, it remains underground, at a depth of up to thirty or forty centimeters. It is the dogs that smell the truffle, that call the hunter back and start digging. Ezio says: "We go out in the moonlight. Without noise, the dog is quieter and its nose is only directed towards the search".

The White Truffle of Alba is considered the most precious truffle in the world. This variety only grows in Piedmont and is only harvested in the Langhe, Roero and Monferrato areas from 21 September to 31 January.

This reportage was published in the RFood insert of Repubblica, issue n°46 of 8 November 2018.