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Truffle hunting makes UNESCO list

The UNESCO panel in Paris announced on Thursday that Italian truffle hunting has made it onto the UNESCO list of the world's intangible cultural heritage. Practitioners of the traditional practice put in their bid eight years ago.

Farm group Coldiretti said the accolade "is an important step towards defending a system marked by a special relationship with nature in a rite that is rich with anthropological and cultural aspects. It is a tradition that is decisive for many mountain rural areas which are disadvantaged from the tourist and gastronomic standpoints".

Coldiretti stated that the art of truffle hunting involves a network of around 73,600 practitioners, called 'tartufai', organised into 45 groups in a national federation ranging from 44,000 individual tartufai to 20,000 'free searchers'.

He continued to say that truffle hunting joins Sicilian puppetry (2008), Tenor singing (2000), the Med diet (2010), Cremonese violin making (2012), processional shoulder-borne machines (2013), and Neapolitan pizza makers (2017) on the UNESCO roll of honour.

Other Italian treasures to be honoured include falconry, dry-stone walling, the Prosecco Hills, and the beech woods of Aspromonte, the farmers' group said.

Due to a COVID-linked scarcity, gastronomes and enthusiasts of the treasured and pungent fungus known as the white truffle had a fantastic 2021 season, with prices reaching new highs.

The most valuable truffles are discovered primarily in Piedmont, near Alba, where a yearly festival honouring and auctioning the gastronomic gem takes place.

White truffles have a stronger flavour, are rarer, and are more expensive than black truffles, which have a longer growth season and are more prevalent in the centre and south of Italy.

The annual World Truffle Auction, held in the Grinzane Cavour castle outside of Alba on November 11, drew tycoons from all over the world to compete for the season's most valuable tubers.

Truffles are rooted out of the roots of roughly 50 trees, predominantly oaks, but also hazels, poplars, mulberries, and willows, and by specially trained dogs.

Hunters have become more competitive in recent years as demand has increased, and there have even been tales of skulduggery such as hamstringing or poisoning rivals' top dogs.

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