The Best Time to go Truffle Hunting in Croatia
Guide to the best Istrian festivals for truffle hunting in Croatia
Truffles have been a prized delicacy since ancient times. The first references date back 4,000 years, but nobody back then knew where truffles came from. Ancient Romans and Greeks thought lightning striking the ground caused them. Others thought that they were parts of tree roots. And the writer Cicero called them “children of the earth.” Today, these edible diamonds are particularly popular in Croatian cuisine; to discover more about how and where to find them, here are our suggestions for the best time to go truffle hunting in Croatia.
What are truffles?
Despite what the Romans thought, truffles are actually a subterranean fungus nestling amongst the roots of certain trees including oak, alder, beech, horn-beam and hazel. They also need stony, rocky ground and an arid Mediterranean climate to thrive and although truffles are a great addition to cuisine, they don’t look particularly tasty straight out of the ground. They’re knobby, covered in soil and look a bit like a rough-skinned, blackened potato.
And because they grow underground they’re very difficult to find. But fortunately, truffles have a particularly pungent perfume that mimics certain hormones given off by pigs so other pigs can be trained to hunt them. Dogs are also used to go truffle hunting in Croatia since pigs tend to eat the flavorsome fungus, whereas dogs will give it up to their master if presented with a treat.
Another factor that makes truffles especially difficult to find is that they only fruit in particular months of the year so if you’re planning to go truffle hunting in Croatia, here are some of Croatia’s biggest truffle festivals this autumn.
Subotina Festival in Buzet – early September
Situated to the north of Istria, near the border with neighboring Slovenia, sits the historic town of Buzet. Dubbed the truffle capital by connoisseurs of this underground mushroom, the medieval commune sits atop a 151-meter high hill overlooking the fertile Mina valley where the truffle forests dip down to the river. Once part of the Venetian Republic, Buzet is better-known as the home of the white truffle of Istria, believed by many to be as good as the world-famous tartufo bianco of Alba in Italy.
To try these fabulous fungi for yourself, check out Buzet’s annual Subotina truffle festival in the second weekend of September. The 3-day festival kicks off the Istrian truffle season with a procession, folk music, a bike marathon and, of course, plenty of truffle-inspired food with wine. And don’t miss the star attraction – an enormous truffle omelette or fritaja made from over 2,000 eggs and 10 kilos (22 lbs.) of fresh truffles. It’s a delicious way to start the truffle season!
Note : Subotina 2016 runs from 10th September to 12th September, but always check dates before you visit.
Zigante Truffle Days in Livade – from mid September to early November
The historical county of Istria is famous for truffles. Its forests boast three types of black truffles and the Motovun forest is one of the most important areas for white truffle hunting in Croatia. Back in 1999, Giancarlo Zigante, a local Motovun hunter, found an enormous white truffle weighing in at 3.5 lb. with the aid of his faithful dog, Diana. The fungus, nicknamed Millennium, was cast in bronze and entered into the Guinness Book of Records as the largest ever found. Zigante hosted a large dinner for 100 truffle lovers and, since then, the name Zigante has been forever linked to Croatian truffles with Giancarlo, crowned the King of Truffles, becoming the country’s largest producer-exporter of these delicate delights.
The Zigante Truffle Days festival, hosted by Zigante Tartufi, is held in the little village of Livade over seven weekends from mid-September to early November. It’s one of the longest gastronomic fairs in Europe, treating truffle-lovers to cookery demonstrations, taste tests and an extravaganza of truffle-related products including oils, breads and salami. Add in Croatian wine tasting, olive oil, cheeses, golden honey and grappa and you have the ideal gourmet experience!
Note : In 2016 the celebrations run from 18th September to 30th October, but dates vary each year.
But don’t worry, if you are traveling outside these dates, you can still enjoy a full day of truffle hunting in an Istrian forest near Livade. You’ll see the dogs with their masters in action, and enjoy a wonderful truffle-based lunch of local dishes for a truly memorable day. There’s also an annual Gala Dinner held in honor of the world record beater so if you’re nearby on 12th November 2016, our friendly experts can help you book a place at the table!
Tuberfest in Oprtalj – late October
Organised by the town of Oprtalj near Livade, the Tuberfest is another fabulous opportunity to go truffle hunting in Croatia. The festival brings together hunters, producers, chefs and truffle connoisseurs from around the world, and visitors can expect a wonderful array of truffle products, culinary demonstrations and sales auctions. And no truffle festival is complete without wines, oils, local fruits and honey to accompany the terrific tubers. But don’t miss the homemade cookies and hot chestnuts whose wonderful sweet scent mingles wonderfully with the pungent perfume of the truffles; it’s a heady mix to set the taste buds tingling!
Note : Tuberfest 2016 takes place on 22nd and 23rd October
The Festival of Truffles and Terran in Motovun – late October
Known locally as TeTa, this is a one-day celebration of two of Croatia’s most eminent products – truffles, or tartufi, and Terran wine. Exhibiting the biggest and best truffles from around Motovun and offering public tastings of the Terran wine, this is a truly Croatian experience not to miss.
The first mention of Terran goes back to the 1300s when it was served to diplomats, ambassadors and nobility. Since then, the traditional wine has dominated the Istrian table, recently reaching further afield as visitors discover its delights. Terran is a robust wine with hints of raspberries; it is said to be the color of hare’s blood, with traces of purple tones in its hue. And it’s a fabulous companion wine for prosciutto, truffles, wild game and spicy meat dishes, although there are also some lighter Terrans that are extremely drinkable as an aperitif, too! If you’ve not yet tried truffles or Terran wine, then TeTa is the perfect place to discover this authentic pairing!
Note : TeTa 2016 falls on 24th October, but dates may vary from year to year.
If you can’t travel in autumn, don’t despair; you can still go truffle hunting in Croatia. The luxury 5-star Hotel Monte Mullini is a perfect Adriatic spot to soak up some summer sun, offering easy access to the Croatian countryside. It’s an ideal choice for travelers and gourmets alike and is the perfect base for exploring Istria’s colorful medieval villages, too. Add in an Istrian gourmet private tour and you’ll find yourselves strolling along the peaceful streets of Motovun, Zavrsje and Groznjan, right at the heart of truffle country, before savoring the pungent truffles, olives and wine that make Croatia such an ideal destination.
Truffle Weekend in Buzet – early November
Celebrating the flavorsome fungus, Buzet’s truffle weekend offers the ideal gourmet getaway. Stalls laden with truffle products tempt visitors, along with a wide range of local cheeses, olive oil, biscuits, pasta, honey and wine. Add in a cooking school, procession, treasure hunt and a dog show and you have a typically Croatian festival to celebrate Istria’s finest export.
Note : Buzet Truffle Weekend 2016 takes place on the 5th and 6th November.
Festival of Muscat and truffles in Momnjan – 11th November
Known locally as Martinje, St Martin’s Day is celebrated every year on the 11th of November with an Istrian festival of Muscat and truffles. Hosted by the town of Momnjan, the festival brings together the illustrious white truffle and the golden-hued Momjan Muscat wine unique to Momjanština. Local restaurateurs, in partnership with excellent local vineyards, offer the perfect pairing of deep truffle flavors with sweet Muscat wine. Delicious!
Alternatively, if you’re not in town for the truffle celebrations and are a wine connoisseur, why not check out our wine tasting at the picturesque Kozlovic Winery in Momjan instead. Generations of winemakers have been producing Momjan Muscat, making them one of the oldest in Istria. You can join them for a guided tour of their cellars before choosing from a selection of Terran, Muscat and several other delicious local wines for a guided tasting. It’s the ideal aphrodisiac for lovers of Croatia!
Or simply ask your Select Croatia travel expert to add an Istrian Delights day trip to your vacation, thereby taking in truffles, canyons and wonderful local cuisine. You’ll explore Istria’s lovely landscape before stopping at the Lim Fiord and medieval Hum, the smallest town in the world. And after a spot of sightseeing, you’ll follow up with a late lunch that offers truffle specialties including truffled sheep’s cheese and even truffle gelato. Perfection!
Ready to go truffle hunting in Croatia?
The Croatian truffle is a treasured treat that has been gracing the top tables for years and its hidden home makes it a real luxury. So if you want to explore the beautiful, unspoiled Istrian countryside and indulge your taste buds, then truffle hunting in Croatia is the perfect choice for you. And whether you go out with the truffle dogs, or seek out these fabulous fungi at one of the many local festivals, you’re bound to fall in love with the natural beauty of the area. So what are you waiting for? Our wonderful travel experts are on standby to help you book your truffle hunt and create memories to cherish. And don’t forget to leave us a comment with your favorite truffle recipes, or check out our blog for our suggestions for the top 10 places to visit in Istria! Happy hunting!
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