Adventure in Italy - Truffle Hunting
If you happen to visit the lovely city of Verona, Italy and are looking for a wonderful experience off the beaten path (literally and figuratively), check out Luisa Zecchinato and her cooking classes–Cooking at the Villa.
My friend and I recently went to Verona, and we really wanted to take a cooking class from an authentic Italian chef. We found Luisa on the Internet (google cooking classes in Verona). On her website, there was also an offer for a truffle hunt, after which, participants would go to her cooking school and prepare authentic dishes with the truffles. This is exactly what we wanted, and it’s exactly what we got!!
Luisa responds quickly and efficiently when you contact her via her website. She is incredibly accommodating and will put together any sort of experience you would like to have with regard to cooking, truffle hunting, visiting local farm stands, etc. She sets everything up herself, and you do not have to do anything at all, other than get to Verona and meet up with her, which we planned for late July, apparently the height of truffle season in Italy. On the day of our truffle hunt and class, laden with sustenance in the form of coffee, cream, iced tea, fresh peaches, and pastries for us, she came to get us bright and early at our hotel .
She then drove us up into the scenic and lovely hills of Lessinia (just outside of the city of Verona) for the hunt.
We had a fantastic experience with Lorenzo, a retired firefighter, and his dogs Tina and Kika, master truffle hunters all.
The actual hunt is quite an adventure in hiking in the woods, seeing beautiful scenery and indigenous flora and fauna, and finding truffles. The dogs are just adorable and amazing as you watch them in their quest for truffles. Lorenzo told us not to play with them, so as not to distract them from their mission.
This was nearly impossible for us, since they were so sweet and playful…….but, duty called, so we perservered. Trained very well, the dogs sniff out the truffles, dig, take the truffles in their mouths, then return to Lorenzo, who is allowed to gently remove the truffle from them in return for a well-deserved treat.
Okay, they do decide to eat a truffle here and there, but you can’t blame them–the aroma of the truffles is intoxicating for humans, so understandably irrestisible to the dogs. When the darling dogs finally wear themselves out (and have found quite a treasure trove of truffles), and the hunt is over, the cooking class begins!
Luisa took us to her gorgeous villa, which is cooking school and home for her. She welcomed us into this wonderful place and made us feel right at home. Since we’d been up so early, she made us espresso and offered a snack.
We then got right to work making deviled eggs with truffle, homemade pasta with truffle, and a lovely traditional tiramisu. Luisa is completely hands on, and will show and share techniques for various things–how to peel a hard-boiled egg, how to shave truffles, how to store them, etc. as well as very detailed instructions on making the pasta. She answers every single question you could possibly have about anything regarding Italian food, wine, etc. and is more than happy to share her vast knowledge. Before you know it, you feel you are in the home of a wonderful friend, spending a delightful day cooking and eating. And, everything you make turns out beautifully, so the experience is extremely satisfying. If you thought homemade pasta was a challenge you could not master, you find you were quite wrong–Luisa’s teaching technique allows for the student to do most of the actual preparation, with her guidance, and consequently insures a lovely finished product. We were so very proud of the meal we created with her! And, the best part: eating what you have just created!! Everything we made was lovely to look at–Luisa emphasizes presentation through use of lovely serving dishes and a very nice dining room table, set formally for our meal.
And, it all tasted divine! Food of the gods!! Truffles are an amazing natural creation–they magically transform everything they touch. And, the tiramisu was the perfect sweet ending to our savory meal. After we had finished our delicious repast, Luisa chatted with us about the rest of our plans in Verona, and generously offered suggestions, even checking bus schedules, etc. to help us plan. Then, she gave us a packet of our recipes for the day, diplomas celebrating our accomplishments, and bus schedules for touring nearby Lake Garda. We bid a sad but satisfied farewell to the villa, and Luisa took us back to Verona, where we relived our exciting day and all of the terffic food we had prepared and eaten. It was truly one of the most lovely and memorable experiences we could have ever had, and we will be always grateful to Luisa and Lorenzo for sharing so much with us. In the end, not only did we take away our lovely experience, but we also felt truly that we had made lasting friendships with very special people. That was the best part!!