Friday, November 15, 2013

Tuscan Truffles for a Cause, 2013

What is Princess Giorgiana Corsini of Florence sniffing?  It is a white truffle, one of 30 recently auctioned for charity.  The event, called "Tartufile," held at the beautiful estate Fattoria Dianelli close to Vinci, in the countryside where Leonardo da Vinci grew up.
It marked the inauguration of the annual Tuscan Truffle Fair at San Miniato.

As white truffles leave no presence above ground, special dogs employed by tartufai (truffle hunters) use their nose to find the treasure beneath their feet.

These truffles, found by dogs in the area around San Miniato and ranging from 40 - 203 grams were ceremoniously weighed, labeled and placed on view before the auction.

These rare specimens of Tuber magnatum were donated by the organizers of the Mostra Mercato del Tartufo Bianco (Truffle Fair), held the last three weekends in November.

The label next to each bears the acronym "F.I.L.E., the beneficiary of the fundraiser:  a Florentine foundation dedicated to the home care of the terminally ill as well as hospice care. (I always give special attention to this nonprofit organization as my own Italian mother died in a hospice in the U.S.).
Over 350 guests came from Florence to help the charity, each paying a 25 euro admission fee.

After a close look at the display table, guests were called the to the auction hall.
Each truffle was carried individually by groups of children, almost like bridesmaids,
to the auctioneer, Massimo Bartolozzi, a noted Florentine antique dealer.
He was lent for the occasion by his wife, Donatella Carmi, president of the FILE association.

Between entrance fees and the auction, 35.000 euro was raised to assist FILE's patients.
A 140 g truffle, called "un mostro" by auctioneer Bartolozzi, alone went for 2500 euro.

This being Italy, of course a complementary dinner was offered at the end.
The Fattoria Dianelli generously prepared bruschetta with their own olive oil, an assortment of farm products, mainly cold cuts such as prosciutto and soprassata, Tuscan bread with sliced truffles and a selection of estate red, rosé and white wines.  I drank the rosé, which was light and fruity.

Renowned chef Fulvio Pierangelini of Florence's Savoy Hotel, along with his staff
(pictured above) prepared a special treat:  shrimp risotto served with shavings of white truffle.
It was delicious.

San Miniato may be an unfamiliar name to some--except to those who have seen the film Le Notti di San Lorenzo ("The Night of the Shooting Stars"), which recounts the town's shelling during the Second World War--while to others it may be known for its celebrated, award winning truffles.  Rita Kungel, Gabrielle Taylor and I in the company of the then-faithful Beautiful Florence blog photographer Carly Vickers filed a complete report as an earlier blog post: Truffles, San Miniato and More Truffles (11/24/11,

The photos in this post were taken by soon-to-be faithful Beautiful Florence blog photographer Janelle Piva.   This special evening also proved that we journalists work hard but eat well.  Always.  Sempre.