Itinerary in the Lands of Truffle, Le Marche: a journey through history, traditions, passion, nature, art and food and wine, from Acqualagna to Fossombrone, from Cagli to Urbania and Sant’Angelo in Vado. Information and tips to better plan an experiential tour.
“A trip to the Marche, not hasty, leads to see wonders.”
Discover and experience the Marche in an even more authentic and engaging way looking for those “wonders” that Guido Piovene talks about through an exciting itinerary in the Lands of Truffle.
Ancient and fascinating lands that were once identified thanks to the strong imprint of Montefeltro as Terre d’Urbino, and that today, while presenting and telling themselves through a well-defined and autonomous identity and geographical and cultural connotation, continue to maintain a special bond. All this thanks to a precious element in common that, ever since, as an invisible common thread delimits, narrates, and brings them together: the truffle!
An intense journey through history, art and food and wine – that here often become one – discovering another wonderful fragment of one of the most beautiful regions and perhaps, in their incredible variety, less known in Italy, the Marche.
From Acqualagna to Fossombrone, passing through that naturalistic marvel of the Furlo Gorge, continuing then for Cagli, Urbania and Sant’Angelo in Vado, discovering stories of truffle hunters, truffle cultivation and vineyards, exploring archaeological sites, theatres, house museums, private collections and art galleries. And even ancient fortresses, palaces and churches that hide real treasures, unknown to the most.
“For Plinius the truffle was a callus of the earth. For Brillat-Savarin the diamond of the cuisine. For Rossini, the “Mozart of mushrooms”. According to the ancient wisemen, his abuse caused melancholy. Rasputin prescribed it to Tsar Nicholas and Tsarevich Alexei to cure his haemophilia. While Napoleon and the Marquis de Sade used truffle in their amorous tenzoni: both considered it an exceptional aphrodisiac.”
An art as ancient as the world that of the Truffle Hunt and Extraction in Italy, that in 2021 has entered come right the UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage.
An art and a use that have their origins in ancient times.
In 78 A.D. Plinius the Elder talked about its use in the Naturalis Historia and a few decades later the Greek philosopher Plutarch of Chaeronea assumed that this particular mushroom originated from the interaction of water, heat and lightning. It is no coincidence that the Latin poet Juvenal, influenced by these considerations, attributed the birth of the truffle – in Latin simply defined Tuber Terrae – to a lightning thrown by Jupiter on the ground next to an oak.
And again, in mid-1500s the doctor and scholar Alfonso Ceccarelli, described with great precision in his book Opusculus de tuberis the many qualities and uses of truffle, in addition to the appreciation that this “divine food” collected in the European courts and among the high prelates of the clergy.
An art and a use that still today, despite the passing of the centuries, continue to feed the passion and dedication of the truffle hunters of the Marche (and of the many lovers of tuber terrae that every year arrive in these areas to taste it) who, faithful to the traditions of their ancestors, raise and lovingly train the precious truffle dogs (mostly Lagotto, Pintier and Bracco) and care for and carefully prepare the land and plants so that the best conditions for the birth of this sought “diamond of the dirt” can be created.
An art and a use that today represent the pride of these lands attracting travellers from all over the world not only for art, culture and history but also for the opportunity to enjoy an authentic Truffles Experience. A complete experience that from the “Hunt” arrives to the tables of the best restaurants and farmhouses in the area, very often accompanied by a selection of the best wines of the area.
Down here are some of the experiences and tastings I personally tried and that I would recommend, also strong of the explanations and “technical” support (fundamental for my experience) received by Raffaele Papi and Franco Morena, sommelier of Ais Marche, Bruno Capanna, President of the Association of Truffle Hunters of the Marche Apennines who first designed the Department of Truffles in the municipality of Acqualagna, and Silvano Petreti, President of the Association Truffle Hunters Fossombrone.
The Cantina Mochi – Agriturismo Ca’ Le Suore is a wine estate with an adjoining farmhouse at the foot of Monte Nerone owned by the Mochi family.
The estate offers stays, catering, direct sales and special moments of relax and wellness experiences, such as yoga retreats, as well as the opportunity to taste its special wines, of course.
“Three reds: Mochetto and Massimo which are Sangiovese and Merlot grapes and Burano which is a pure Merlot, and two whites: the ‘Ca’ Le Suore’ which is a blend of Trebbiano and Malvasia and Donna Agnese which is 100% Incrocio Bruni 54, vine obtained with Verdicchio and Sauvignon.”
Tasting that I had the opportunity to do accompanied by Simone Mochi, owner of the company, and the sommelier Raffaele Papi of AIS Marche.
“I am just a presenter who introduces to the stage of nature,
where the real protagonists are the truffle and the products of the land.”
(Alessandro Benvenuti, La Cerca)
Welcome to the world of Alessandro and Luigina and their Agriturismo La Cerca – Organic Truffles, culture and respect for traditions, land and, of course, the production and processing of organic truffle (without chemical aromas, preservatives and additives) of the Marches.
A unique immersive experience – the truffle beds, the truffles experience, the restaurant, the farmhouse, the welcome and the direct sale – to discover the world of truffle and its flavors, among combinations of precious white, precious black, bianchetto (spring white), uncinatum and brumale truffle, accompanied, in my case, by a selection of Incrocio Bruni 54 wines, specially cured by Raffaele Papi of AIS Marche.
The ecstasy of the senses!
Il Lampino Restaurant in Acqualagna is a tradition – in the world of catering, hospitality and the production and preparation of truffles and local products – handed down from generation to generation since 1967.
Paolo Topi, “NO CHEMICAL TRUFFLE” certified restaurateur and expert truffle hunter will allow you to make a real complete experience, from guided tours to truffle beds, with truffle tasting prepared with the personal recipes of expert local chefs, at his restaurant offering fresh truffle dishes of Acqualagna from appetizer to dessert.
Tasting, that of Lampino, which I had the opportunity to make together with Paolo Topi, Bruno Capanna, President of the Association Truffle Hunters of the Marche Apennines and Raffaele Papi of AIS Marche.
“It is said that in a full bottle there is half wine and half dream.
Massimo and his family invite you to share the one and the other half.”
A young and family-run company, located in an agricultural area of very high value almost 500 meters above sea level, that has chosen Chardonnay and Pinot Noir as the only vines to make vineyards in the high hills.
A challenge won with a selected production of excellent wines (and oils) – Alfresco, Adagio, Alcaico, Artesia and M’Arte – that I had the opportunity to taste personally together with sommelier Franco Morena of Ais Marche.
La Collina delle Fate organizes tours, tastings, events and hospitality thanks to the Dimora San Venanzio, “created close to the Pieve di San Venanzio, a medieval church of high historical and cultural value, finely recovered and restored, on the hill overlooking the landscape from which you can admire the estate and the wonderful winery.”
“The tavern was born in the same alleys where in the past the smell of food
and the shouting of people filled the air with an atmosphere that today I want to recreate for you.”
In the heart of Fossombrone, in a period house turned into a real tavern in the style of the ’20s, Host Luca Zanchetti offers a cuisine full of local traditions that meet and mix with the national and international ones, the result of his many experiences abroad.
A dinner – mine – based on local products – mother yeast bread “Maria”, fig Lonzino, roe deer – accompanied by the stories “of truffles” and the experiences of Silvano Petreti, President of the Association Truffle Hunters Fossombrone, and as always from a selection of wines proposed by sommelier Franco Morena of Ais Marche.
He is from Le Marche, she is of Tuscan origin but now Marchigian acquired.
The love for the land hosting them, the irrepressible passion for the products of their territory and the deep respect for the local gastronomic tradition, led Giovanni and Gabriella to give life to the Agriturismo E Cantina Ca’Icardo.
A place where you can really find the flavors and hospitality of the past, all accompanied by their wines Ca’Icardo, in my case “told” once again in an excellent way by sommelier Franco Morena of Ais Marche.
An itinerary in the Lands of Truffle cannot be separated – in addition to the enogastronomic experiences mentioned above – from the discovery of historical places and paths where the “culture of tuber terrae” has found fertile ground for its spread, from the first settlements of Roman times to the court of Montefeltro, through collectors, painters, writers, up to the great characters of the Italian Novecento.
Our itinerary starts discovering Cagli and the lands from Catria to Nerone.
Cagli, an ancient walled city that the latest theses of historians and scholars – based on some determined landscape elements – would indicate as the background of the Ideal City, which today can be admired in the National Gallery of Marche. And where every 2 of August the ancient Game of the Goose takes place, whose tradition dates back, from known sources, at least to 1543.
Enjoy a walk from the Torrione Martiniano, a fortified complex created in 1481 at the behest of Duke Federico da Montefeltro and from which you can enjoy a beautiful view of the old town on one side and the Fortress of Cagli and the Convent of the Capuchin Fathers on the other, as far as the beautiful Teatro Comunale, opened in 1878 with the Opera Il Violino del Diavolo.
Then continue as far as the Archaeological Museum and Via Flaminia, set in the thirteenth-century Palazzo Pubblico opening onto the majestic Piazza Maggiore, and where you can admire several findings from the Roman station of Cale, as well as a perfectly preserved medieval burial.
Finally reach the Church of San Domenico to see live two wonderful works by Giovanni Santi, the father of Raphael, the fresco of Christ in the Sarcophagus between San Gerolamo and San Bonaventura and the wonderful Tiranni Chapel. It seems that Raphael himself posed as a model for the angel portrayed on the left of the Madonna.
For further information about the tour of Cagli I invite you to contact the Tourist Information Office, here.
Only 9 km separates Cagli from Acqualagna, a small town in the Marche whose origins date back to a remote past, mentioned for the first time in a 1292 parchment as burgo aqualania, a kind of reception center for travelers, and that today is known and celebrated as the “World Capital of Truffle”. The only territory in which all the qualities of truffle are born and where every year, between the second half of October and the first week of November, the famous National White Truffle Fair takes place.
“In Italy there are 25 species of truffles and only 9 can be harvested and marketed. In Acqualagna, thanks to the climate and the type of soil, you can find the 4 main varieties of truffles all over the year. Just for the wide availability of choice, Acqualagna welcomes 3 Truffle Fairs, of which the most important is the National White Truffle Fair.”
(Truffle Museum of Acqualagna)
You cannot leave Acqualagna without visiting its original, experiential and innovative Truffle Museum – where you can also witness an exhilarating disquisition about the precious mushroom made by Rossini and Dumas “in person…” – and the adjacent Birthpalce of Enrico Mattei, the founder and president of ENI, who brought the idea and model of the great Italian energy company to the
world. The house, a few simple rooms, is full of relics, videos and documents related to the life and murder of the great Italian manager.
“Ingenuity is seeing possibilities where others see none”
We leave behind the stories and flavors of Acqualagna to reach in a few kilometers the Furlo Gorge State Nature Reserve.
First stop is the ancient and evocative Abbey of San Vincenzo Al Furlo, also called “of Petra Pertusa”, from Latin ad Petram Pertusa.
A Benedictine abbey whose presence is attested by sources since the end of the tenth century. Its peculiarity is to have a raised presbytery with a crypt under: inside there is a Madonna del Latte attributed to the School of Giotto and a fragment of a work attributed to Giovanni Santi.
To better understand the richness of the Furlo Gorge State Nature Reserve, my tip is to stop – before exploring the reserve – at the Museum of the Territory to discover the geological and cultural history of the entire site.
A gorge formed 15 million years ago with the escape of a large relief from the sea level and the consequent progressive compression of a stream that ran to the surface and that cut it in two, forming a suggestive 3 km gorge on the bottom of which flows the river Candigliano.
Today the whole area is a nature reserve preserving and monitoring the life of many animal species, including two specimens of Golden Eagle.
The road that follows the line of the gorge is the ancient Via Flaminia.
Final stage of this first part of the itinerary in the Lands of Truffle is the ancient Fossombrone.
The town was founded by the Romans as Forum Sempronii, and just outside the center is still possible to visit the Archaeological Park (even 23 hectares!) developing on its ruins.
Fossombrone reached the peak of its splendor and importance under the Malatesta, the Montefeltro – not by chance it was chosen as the winter residence of the Duke of Urbino – and the Della Rovere, and we owe them some of the most beautiful and evocative buildings in the old town.
Start having a walk along Corso Garibaldi, through the Double Loggia, on the right the one once “for the rich”, on the left the one for “the poor”.
Starting from the Baroque Church of San Filippo Neri, take some time to explore the other three most important museums of the town, the Art Gallery, the Archaeological Museum, where are preserved all the finds recovered from the archaeological excavation of the Roman city, and the wonderful House Museum Quadreria Cesarini, the house of Giuseppe Cesarini (1895-1977), notary and well-known collector.
An art collection that, born with the idea of bringing together the works of the painter Anselmo Bucci, has become a real art gallery of the 1900s with inside valuable works by Giorgio Morandi, Marino Marini, Francesco Messina, Achille Funi, Gino Severini and many other artists of 1900s.
Please, find further detailed information about your stay in the town by contacting the IAT Fossombrone Point.
Urbania, the ancient Casteldurante famous throughout Europe since 1500 for its precious and elaborate ceramics – which are still produced according to tradition – and place designated by the Dukes of Montefeltro as a summer residence.
An unmissable stop on an itinerary in the Lands of Truffle.
You can choose to immerse yourself in the magical atmosphere of the “Barco” Ducale – the “spiritual” residence of Federico da Montefeltro on the outskirts of the town – get lost in the streets of the ancient village between the Doge’s Palace, the Civic Museum and the pottery shops, stop to have lunch in one of the famous restaurants in the town center or immerse yourself in the history and mysteries of the town by visiting the Church of the Dead.
A fourteenth-century chapel that preserves in the narrow sacristy behind the altar the mummified remains of 18 individuals lived in a time frame ranging from mid-1500 to 1800. What may seem macabre and disturbing apparently, actually reveals during the visit a very interesting story about the Brotherhood of Death and a particular mold of the land present in Urbania, that allowed to preserve over time the bodies buried, having at the same time a real and precise cross-section of what were the habits of life and death in the past centuries.
It closes the circle of this intense and varied path, Sant’Angelo in Vado.
A small and charming center of the upper valley of the river Metauro, where every year between October and November the popular National White Truffle Exhibition takes place, developed in medieval times on the ruins of the Roman city Tiphernum Mataurense.
It was named after the Archangel Michael, then ‘in Vado’ was added from the passage of the ford on the Metauro.
A walk in its old town will lead you to discover a series of buildings, museums and churches really valuable, including the Palace of Reason and the Civic Tower dating back to 1300, the eighteenth-century Cathedral, Santa Maria extra muros with the Art gallery and the Museum in addition to the seventeenth-century Palazzo Fagnani, now the town hall.
But its most precious jewel is not far from the town center, in the area of Campo della Pieve in what was to be the residential area of the ancient Tifernum Mataurense, in the wonderful Domus del Mito, rightly considered the most important archaeological finding in Italy in the last 50 years.
A large noble domus of about 1000 square meters erected towards the end of the I century A.D., that hides inside a rich complex of bichrome, and polychrome mosaics extraordinarily preserved over time. His name Domus del Mito is due to the abundance of mythological figures in the mosaics, from the one in the vestibule that “tells” with an incredible abundance of details “the triumph of Neptune”, to Dionysus and Medusa, then passing through elegant geometric patterns, harmonious hunting scenes and marine struggle that highlight the high social status of the owners.
A real unicum that deserves to be known, visited and told.
Imagine a sandstone farmhouse immersed in the green of a majestic valley, located on the ancient road that connected the current Marche to Umbria, not surprisingly, the remains of more buildings of Roman times were found not far away, and with a strategic position for anyone wishing to explore the Lands of Truffle calmly.
Agriturismo La Ferraia is the ideal starting point for a weekend of relax and exploration.
10 rooms in Poor Art equipped with all comforts, a common room equipped for relax, reading and hearty breakfasts (sweet and savory) daily prepared with the best local products – the facility is part of a farm of 20 hectares with production of cereals, fruit and vegetables, aromatic plants and breeding of small animals – a swimming pool and a series of paths and small nature reserves.
A place of peace and beauty available in every season. All this a few kilometers far from Cagli.
Itinerary realized, lived and told for the project Among Truffles and Magical Places – #tartufodascoprire in collaboration with Copagri Marche, rural development agency assisting and supporting the training and growth of agricultural businesses in the Marche region, and with the Chamber of Commerce of the Marche.