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History and myth

The ancient world

The first mention appears in the Naturalis Historia by Pliny the Elder (79 A.D.). The anecdotes told show that truffles, Tuber in Latin, were greatly appreciated by the Romans, who certainly learned about their culinary use from the Etruscans. In the first century, the philosopher Plutarch of Cheronea introduced the idea that this precious fungus originated from the combined action of water, warmth and lightning. Many later poets derived inspiration from this idea. Juvenal, for example, explained its origin as the result of lightning thrown by Jove near an Oak, a tree sacred to the Father of all gods. Also, due to Jove’s well-know power of seduction, aphrodisiac properties have always been ascribed to truffles.

Middle Ages and Renaissance

For a long time, naturalists had divergent opinions about truffle classification. Some classified it as a plant, others as a growth of the soil and even an animal! Aside from the various beliefs, truffles were highly appreciated, especially by the nobles and high priests. Some scientists of that time described the truffle aroma as a sort of quintessence producing ecstatic effects on human beings: the sublime synthesis of the satisfaction of all senses as the representation of a superior pleasure.

The Piedmontese and Alba Truffles

In 1700 the Piedmontese truffle was considered a delicacy by the European nobility. Composer Gioacchino Rossino was among the admirers of this “fruit of the earth” and referred to it as the “Mozart of all mushrooms”. The Piedmontese white truffle was considered the most prestigious, but it is only in 1900 that the Truffle of Alba became world famous, thanks to Giacomo Morra and his brilliant promotional ideas. Giacomo, hotelier and restaurateur in Alba, was rightfully “crowned” the King of Truffles in 1933 by The Times.