Fall in Bologna, Italy: Sagra del Tartufo Bianco

It’s already November, but somehow it feels like summer just ended and fall has finally arrived. September seemed an extension of summer, with countless blue sky days and perfect temperatures; and October, if you ask me, passed by while I blinked. The temperatures have taken the plunge and fall coats and boots have made their way out of storage and out onto the streets of Bologna.

Perhaps it finally feels like fall because this is one of the first weekends we really slowed down; we made no plans and just simply enjoyed living in Bologna. We bundled up and biked to the Saturday morning Slow Food market. We read on the couch. We caught up with family and friends back home. We cooked a big pan pizza topped with chard and onions and took a stab at cooking the typical Tuscan soup ribollita. A friend came over for dinner bringing pumpkin puree and porcini mushroom risotto.

Then on Sunday, we finally visited our first sagra — an Italian festival typically celebrating a specific local food. We headed to the Sagra del Tartufo Bianco (White Truffle Festival) in Savigno about 40 minutes outside Bologna. It was a gorgeous and relaxing day: we wandered the streets sipping mulled wine (vin brulé), checking out the truffles and other local food products, and browsing stands selling handmade crafts and second-hand clothes. We came home with full bellies – after sampling some truffle dishes and plenty of sweets – and a bag full of souvenirs: dried porcini mushrooms, fresh chanterelles, dried figs, salted pumpkin seeds, prune and orange compote, raviole cookies filled with blueberry jam, a pair of second-hand shoes, and a handmade knitted poncho.

Here’s the afternoon in photos:

White Truffle Sagra Savigno

The white truffle is a rare and expensive mushroom — among the most prized delicacies in the culinary world. White truffles are typically served raw, shaved over pasta, risotto, salads, or fried eggs. The biggest truffle festival in Italy is in Alba — the Fiera del Tartufo — and takes place in October and November. Other than the sagra in Savigno, in Emilia-Romagna, there are also truffle festivals in Sasso Marconi and Calestano, south of Parma.

White Truffle Sagra Savigno

It’s a good thing you only need a few shavings of white truffles to give flavor to a dish, because these babies are pricey! The white truffles at the festival cost €130 to €300 for 100 grams. In this photo, you can see that little guy costs about €30.

White Truffle Sagra Savigno - black truffles

In comparison to the white truffles, the black truffles seemed like a steal (about €28 for 100 grams).

White Truffle Sagra Savigno - truffle scented eggs

Along with the truffles themselves, a slew of truffle themed products were for sale like truffle eggs (eggs that are stored for a period of time surrounded by truffles so that they absorb the truffle scent), truffle butter, truffle oil, and truffle cheese.

Porcini Mushrooms in Savigno

There were fresh chanterelle mushrooms and fresh and dried porcini. There was also all of the typical Emilia-Romagna fare like tigelle, cresentine, crescente, cured meats, cheeses, ciccioli (pressed pig lard), and pesto di lardo.

White Truffle Sagra Savigno - menu

There were a couple of large tents where you could order typical truffle dishes. These stands served the less expensive, but very flavorful black truffles. The lines were long — we waited about 40 minutes for our food, but were able to take in the sights and enjoy our mulled wine while we waited.

White Truffle Sagra Savigno - lunch

We sampled the truffle risotto and fried eggs with truffle and tigelle — both delectable. It did feel strange eating a delicacy like truffles — something we’ve only ever tasted while seated around a white-table clothe at a fancy restaurant — off of plastic plates and lunch tray while seated elbow-to-elbow with strangers at a stretch communal dining table in a packed tent.

White Truffle Sagra Savigno - menu

A second tent serving typical truffle dishes. It’s probably a good thing the line was long, or we would have been tempted to try more.

Butterfly on vintage print

A butterfly (farfalla) begging to be photographed on top of vintage posters at one of the second-hand stands.

I admittedly felt guilty leaving the White Truffle Festival without, in fact, buying or sampling any white truffles (we did sample black truffles!!).  But I didn’t trust my hands to handle a prized white truffle in the kitchen and I also couldn’t justify buying the €20 truffle shaver for what would likely be a one-time use.  If we’re feeling extravagant, perhaps we’ll head back into the countryside to taste white truffle prepared properly at an agriturimso before fall is through.

There are times I feel at odds with Bolognese traditions — as a person who tends to eat vegetarian fare and is more often found hiking than wining and dining — but on this particular slow, fall day it felt great to surrender my usual ways and live the vita bella for an afternoon.

You might also be interested in:
What’s the Deal with Truffles? from the Kitchn
Truffle Fairs in Italy from about.com
White Truffles 2013 from Huffington Post

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