Industrial crap food producers remind us constantly that they just have to feed ever more people, so you’ll just have to come to grips with their tasteless output of sugary treats and their monopoly, in the US at least, on food production. It’s hard for us to think about farming as a small-scale operation, a family feeding themselves and maybe a couple of other people. The time is past; there shouldn’t be an option we’re told—every available acre must be put to use feeding ever more people!
But what if we could time-travel? What if we could live in luxury that modern life affords the dwindling number of people who can pay for it while we’re surrounded by folks happily growing fine, hearty, and tasty food in the Umbrian countryside? What if those people in our little village tucked into the folds of the Apennine foothills are actually bound by a document written before Columbus sailed the ocean blue?
Well, let me tell you, all of the above is possible at the Black Truffle Lodge in Pettino, Umbria. Ready, time traveler?
The Black Truffle Lodge
So your lodgings are spread over two stories. On the ground level is a modern living room with a big TV, high speed internet, a table, a comfortable sofa and a fireplace—all the trappings of a modern life. Upstairs is your bedroom which has a reading area and small library on one side. The bathroom has a huge double shower, mirrored by a large whirlpool bath.
There are two of these suites. That’s it. The village cannot host a thousand time travelers at once.
Outside the Lodge
So you step outside your door at dusk and the chickens are out pecking around your feet and hay is being raked off a bale to feed the cattle who’ve retreated to the barn. The chicken eggs will become part of your pasta for the evening. It’s all so very idyllic.
You have suddenly entered the world of a self-sufficient village in which each landowner is a relative of the original landowner in the 1400s. Some raise cattle, some hunt truffles (Umbria is a majority supplier of black truffles to Italy) and others hunt the truffle’s nemesis, the wild boar, who is said to consume about 60 percent of the estimated availability of the tuber.
Francesca runs the place. She makes pecorino cheese from the milk of the 300 sheep on the farm. Some of those sheep will supply wool as well. She’s also a darned good cook, and will make your meals if you’re lucky. Her cantina, which you might visit, holds 500 liters of olive oil, enough for her family for a year. There’s also wine, cheese, prosciutto, and capers from Sicily. The winter won’t be a time of want for the family.
After the pasta is plated, it will look like this:
So essentially the economics go like this: we collected some truffles, sold some to buy flour and other things we can’t produce, then took a small amount of the truffle to make an easy condiment for pasta that used the flour and the eggs collected from our chickens. Everything done is done for one’s life and well-being. Everything was provided by the earth in a non-invasive manor. No corporations have intervened. No grand profits have been sent to small islands to avoid taxation.
So here’s the thing: you, as the time-traveler, hold a special place in this village. You have access to all the folks who you’ll meet, many of which speak very good English. This is the genius of the place. Go on a truffle hunt with Luca and Alessandro and they will delight you with stories of the dogs, of the hunt, of the history of the place. You’ll meet the shepherd and, if you like, get to know him.
You’ll have a little snack, the universally acknowledged “best way to taste truffles”: a scrambled egg with shaved truffles and good olive oil. You can see it all by clicking the arrow below and letting the pictures tell the story.
To take part in this unique adventure
Lots of information is contained on the website of The Black Truffle Lodge including reservations and directions. It’s a bit of a ride up the mountain to the little village, so reserve; there are only the two rooms. You don’t have to stay at the lodge, you can do the truffle hunt as a day trip from Rome, as many people do.
To see other things to do in Umbria, see our Umbria map and travel guide.