San Miniato’s White Truffle Festival 2021

San Miniato’s annual White Truffle Festival has been a highlight for me ever since calling Italy home and falling in love with a boy from San Miniato 15 years ago — here is another article about the White Truffle Festival from the early days of the blog from back in 2010. And I have to say, quite happily, that it doesn’t change much. My favourite stalls are always in the same place, I know where to go back to for that great truffle pecorino, or that tasty fried snack or the best roast chestnuts. Year in, year out, you can bet they will be there, in the same spot and there is something very comforting about that.

So together with my San Miniato Dining Guide, this guide below to my favourite things at the White Truffle Festival (13-14, 20-21, 27-28 November 2021) should have you all sorted for a trip to experience this celebration of this incredibly rare and unique foraged ingredient. I am including, too, my top tips for choosing a white truffle, should you choose to go down that (delicious) road!

How to Navigate the White Truffle Festival:

Every main street and piazza is filled with food stalls, so you really can’t go wrong with a wander! But make sure to make it up the stairs to Piazza Duomo (you can also get there via Piazza della Repubblica where there is a lot to see too) which is where you will find the truffle tent and local winemakers tent. Then, you’ll find the main stalls in Piazza della Repubblica and Piazza del Popolo, which house regional delights from all over Italy — this is a treat for locals as it’s near impossible to get delicious Sicilian cannoli without actually going to Sicily, or spicy Calabrian nduja! There are taralli and olives from Puglia and cheeses from Sardinia, and more. In the loggiato of the church of San Domenico there are more stalls serving street food — a steaming lampredotto panino or a hearty bowl of ribollita, perhaps? Or maybe you’ll be curious to try the truffle beer? Along the Via IV Novembre you’ll find a good gelateria offering white truffle gelato and there are some little shops selling Christmas trinkets.

Just follow your nose!

Things to try at the White Truffle Festival:

  • Ciaccioni — deep fried to order, these are fried flat breads about the size of a piadina. You can have it plain, but I’d suggest getting one of the filled ones. Prosciutto, truffled lardo, nutella, and more — pick one and you won’t regret it. Find these at the Misericordia (where you can also get white truffles and truffle products) on the way up to Piazza della Repubblica.
  • Roasted chestnuts — in the corner of Piazza della Repubblica, just as you pass under the arch you’ll see the drum of roasting chestnuts in the corner. It’s the season!
  • Truffle Sausages — If you’re only going to plan to buy one thing at the festival, make it a string of the truffle sausages at Falaschi butcher shop. They only make them for this moment and they are so good you should just eat them raw as so: slice down the casing and peel it off, then flatten the sausage meat onto a slice of hot, just grilled crostino. If you have it, grate some extra white truffle over it.
  • Castagnaccio — I mentioned chestnuts but this is another Tuscan specialty made from chestnut flour, water and olive oil. Naturally sweet from the chestnuts, this batter is topped with pine nuts, sometimes walnuts and raisins, often too with rosemary. I am a huge fan of the one they make at Bar Cantini near Piazza al Popolo. It’s packed full of nuts and raisins, way more than the usual one. Very special.
  • Cecina — A thin pancake like snack but made with a batter of just chickpea flour, water and olive oil, baked in a wood fired oven. Pizza del Popolo do an excellent one and for the festival they’re serving it with housemade butter with truffle, such a treat.
  • Brigidini — paper thin, aniseed flavoured wafers, a tradition from the nearby town of Lamporecchio, that are often baked right there in the candy van with the huge sign that says “Addormentasocere” (candied almonds, also worth trying, that apparently make your mother in law fall asleep). You should smell the wafts of these wafers competing with the wafts of truffles.
  • Torta di San Miniato — light as a cloud brioche doused in vin santo, this cake made by Maurizio Pasticcere is so delicate and soft it just disappears in your mouth as soon as you take a bite. Buy an extra.

How to choose a white truffle

In case you would like to go home with a real, fresh white truffle (tuber magnatum pico), there is a special tent set up of the San Miniato tartufai in Piazza Duomo (next to the local winemakers tent) and it is here you should come, breathe in deeply, and take a slow walk around the different stalls. A word of advice, if you are serious about buying a truffle, come first thing in the morning (they open 10am on Saturdays, 9am Sundays). Not only will you get the best pick, but it will be quieter — the afternoon crush of curious onlookers can make this quite a crowded spot.

The cost

Prepare to pay anywhere from 4,000 euro a kilo to 7,000 euro a kilo at the moment. Yes, that’s really expensive! The lower price is generally for smaller, knobbly and broken bits, while the higher price is for perfectly round and larger pieces. To give you an idea of how precious white truffles are as opposed to black truffles, a new season black truffle goes for around 300-600 euro a kilo.

Why they’re so expensive

White truffles are so rare, they are only found in a handful of places in Italy, such as Alba in Piedmont, San Miniato and San Giovanni d’Asso in Tuscany and Le Marche. They grow about 20-40cm below the ground and humans can’t find them without a trained dog. Oh and they cannot be farmed, as black truffles can. And, it has been a terribly dry year, much too dry and too warm for white truffles, which need humidity (they are 80% water) and the cold to ripen. So they are scarce this year. In past “normal” years, the price of white truffles has hovered between 2,000 and 3,000. Re-reading that 2010 article, wow, what a great price truffles were that season, 1,200 a kilo! No wonder we ate tagliolini al tartufo so often that autumn! 2020 was a good year too, plus, restaurants were closed and so the price of truffles went down (a silver lining to being in our second lockdown in truffle season in our new home).

How much do you need

You don’t need a huge truffle to make a lovely meal, just 3-5 grams shaved over a dish for each person is enough. So if there are just 2 of you, that small, hazelnut-sized nugget might set you back 25-40 euro this year. It’s quite normal to pay between 35-50 euro for a plate of tagliolini al tartufo bianco this year in any restaurant or trattoria so buying and making your own is a good saving, actually!

How to use a White Truffle

As soon as you take it home, keep it in a glass jar in the fridge. Ideally, use it as soon as you can, the shelf life is very short — 5 days, maybe 7, but why wait? Clean it only right before you need to it. A gentle brush with a damp nail brush is good. Wipe with some kitchen paper and it’s ready to use. Whatever you do, do not cook it! You will just waste it. White truffle is best grated finely, perhaps over a warm dish of fried eggs, or buttery pasta. Keep it simple and delicate. Fat is the best companion for truffle so these two dishes are the best way to enjoy tartufo bianco.

You can pick up fresh tagliolini at the alimentari opposite Falaschi butcher shop, Così è se Vi Piace, or at many of the stalls in the festival. Grab some truffle butter while you’re at it, it helps to layer the truffle flavours, add a bit of parmesan cheese (but not too much), or simply fry a couple of eggs in butter, leave the yolks runny and dinner is ready!

Other things to see and do

  • Tartufonie — At 4:30pm on Sundays there is a free classical music performance in a different church each weekend. On November 21 it will be in San Domenico (Piazza del Popolo), Antonio Vivaldi’s Four Seasons by the soloists of the Tuscan Chamber Orchestra and on November 28 it will be a choir in the Duomo of San Miniato. You need a Green Pass to attend.
  • Quinto Martini — A stunning retrospective exhibition of 73 of the great Tuscan sculptor’s (1908-1990) work is on display (above) until November 28 at Palazzo Grifoni, 9am-12pm and 3pm-7pm. You need a green pass and it’s free!
  • Rocca di Federico II — That tall tower that you can spot from miles away? That’s the Rocca or the watch tower. Built in the 1200s for Federico II, the king of Sicily, then destroyed in 1944, it was faithfully rebuilt in 1958. You can climb up it and get a spectacular view. The sunset from here is particularly special. Open 10am-3pm during the festival.
  • Truffle hunt — See my workshops page or contact me for more information. We go on an exhilarating hunt for white truffles and we cook with them!

For where to eat and sleep in San Miniato see my Dining Guide to San Miniato too.

Visiting the White Truffle Festival

In 2021 the festival will be held on three weekends, 13-14, 20-21 and 27-28 of November, starting at 10am on Saturdays until 11pm and 9am on Sundays until 11pm.

The main thing to know about the festival is that driving in and out of San Miniato is extremely restricted. Streets are closed as food stalls and tents take up every single piazza (and car park) in town and it becomes pedestrian only for the entire weekend while the whole town emanates the perfume of these precious tubers.

So how to get in if you aren’t already (cleverly organised) in town? There is a shuttle bus service that goes between two big parking lots in San Miniato Basso: either from the Palazzetto Fontevivo  (both Saturday and Sunday) or the Pam supermarket (just Sunday). So if you are driving, park your car here and catch the shuttle bus (4 euro return ticket, children 14 and under are free). If you are coming by train from Florence or Pisa, get off at the San Miniato train station and you could walk to the Pam supermarket (15 minutes) for the shuttlebus, catch the 320 bus which leaves from the station every 30 minutes and takes you to Piazza Dante Alighieri in 15 minutes (note it is not available on Sundays). You can buy a bus ticket (1,80 euro) at the bar below the bus stop (or from an Italian phone number you can send a text message to 4880105 with the word “PISA” from your phone for a ticket). Or call a local taxi driver to bring you as far as it can go to San Miniato (Piazza Dante Aligheri), such as Claudio Bertini (335 527 5938).


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