Truffles are a very highly prized culinary treat that is a rare type of mushroom found in parts of the Mediterranean – from France, Italy to Croatia. Though not so famous as a destination to find truffles, Croatia is actually a really great place for foodies that love truffles.
The famous Motovun forest, located in Istria, along the Mirna River, is thought to be the center of truffle hunting. This part of Istria has an old tradition of truffle hunting, but the turning point came in 1999 when a truffle hunter from Istria named Giancarlo Zigante, along with his dog Diana, found a 1,310-gram white truffle in the Motovun forest. Soon after it was included in the Guinness Book of Records as the biggest white truffle in the world at the time.
This discovery was a breaking point for Croatia and especially Istria, adding Istria to an exclusive list of places where white truffles can be found.
The Istrian peninsula soon became a true gourmet paradise waiting to be discovered by food lovers from all around the world.
Because of truffles Istria has been well known and branded as a true gastronomic place known for the black and white truffles that can be a proper match for the famous Italian or French ones.
The Istrian soil and Mediterranean climate provide the perfect environment in which this culinary gem prospers. The climate is particularly good near the Mirna River and Motovun forest, making inland Istria a place for truffle lovers.
However, truffles are not that easy to find – they are a mysterious secret only the lucky ones can discover. Truffles grow underground in a symbiotic relationship with the roots of different trees - no sign of them is visible above the ground, making it almost impossible for humans to spot.
For decades, truffle hunters use specially trained dogs, and more traditionally pigs, to find the precious mushroom. Over time, dogs proved to be much easier to train than pigs and were also less likely to try to eat the truffle once they found it, and these days dogs are a much more common option for truffle hunting activities.
Besides that, it is said that each truffle hunter has its own secret places in the forest where they go hunting.
When is the right time for truffle hunting? The right period for truffle hunting is from September through November, when the experienced truffle hunters search the Motovun forests, following the lead of their dog companions who can detect the strong smell of the morsel underneath the ground. Pointing their owners to the prize, the dogs are rewarded with a treat each time they successfully locate pure Istrian gold.
After finding the truffles, they are then weighted and sold mostly in local taverns where they are preparing the most incredible meals with homemade pasta and truffle sauce or are exported to the international market for sale.
If the truffle hunting sounds exciting and you would like to experience a walk in the Motovun forest with a professional truffle hunter, see how the truffle dogs find them, learn about the secret of their training and maybe even find some truffles on your own – you should visit Istria and go on a truffle hunt!
This unique local experience is offered by some local restaurants in Istria but there are even some specialized tours and truffle producers in Istria that offer specialized tours that last for a full day. More information about their truffle hunting offers you can find here: Karlić tartufi, Prodan tartufi, Miro tartufi.
Whether you are interested in behind the scenes look at how this prestigious mushroom is harvested, or you are a passionate foodie, a nature enthusiast, or just want to enjoy a fun day out in Istria – this is a special adventure you should definitely not miss out.
While in Istria don’t miss out on local food specialties – from fuži with truffle sauce, scampi with truffles, or even truffle ice-cream – Istria is the go-to destination for a flawless gourmet experience.