Once again November saw the end of the season here at Casal dei Fichi with our gourmet weekend breaks. Loosely themed around the olive harvest we always try to vary them slightly from year to year, to introduce new places and experiences that we have discovered and provide a bit of variety to our regular visitors. As Perugia airport is now so easily accessible we began the first weekend by meeting our guests there. With an hour to fill before lunch we stopped on the Marche / Umbria border for a walk in the beautiful countryside through the Sibillini mountains where, in a glade of oaks, Cristine and Danielle from La Cerqua explained the basics of truffle hunting, ably assisted by their delightful Lagotto Romangnolo pedigree “truffle hound” Spuma. Soon she started scratching around the trees and found some tiny tubers – the training and instinct clearly paying off. Later from the denser undergrowth she proudly emerged with one, and then another, black truffle.
At this point there was only one thing to do and Cristine and Danielle guided us to a restaurant whose chef had no difficulty preparing some truffle based delicacies including a tortilla onto which Danielle grated a generous quantity of the fresh truffle. The unprepossessing Botteguccia del Campo
is a great find; situated in a former World War 2 concentration camp and rustically furnished. After enjoying patron/chef Stefano’s great local and fresh food which he passionately explains, it no longer seemed surprising that it was packed on a weekday lunchtime.
Another unusual experience, which we hadn’t anticipated, was to feel the magnitude 6.6 earthquake which struck central Italy on 30 October. Although Casal dei Fichi was completely restored to comply with the latest earthquake standards it is still a very un-nerving experience for those not used to it. Being some way away from the epicentres and suffering no damage ourselves, we had not fully appreciated the full impact that the series of quakes has had on the community over the last 3 months. The miraculously low casualty rate of the more recent quakes is mainly a result of people already having abandoned their structurally damaged homes and whole communities are now facing winter in temporary housing.
Danielle and Cristine can no longer stay in their home, temporarily they are with us while the building is assessed and made safe. Not that it has dented their passion for truffles and their business is still running normally, so if you would like to enjoy a taste of Le Marche, or are looking for something different this Christmas, please take a look at their website. It is also a practical way of supporting the region through this difficult time as 1000’s of brave people try to carry on their lives in as normal a manner as possible.