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TIME FOR A CAREER CHANGE? Dog lover, who had enough of the banking crisis? Here's to your new life. San Giovanni d'Asso's museum visit and guided walk will introduce you to the two salient points of truffle hound training. 
  • start off by teaching the dog how to smell out the truffles (how? I don't have a clue, but that's exactly why you're driving all the way to Tuscany)
  • once the dog is getting the scent right, the art is to explain your animal friend, why he's not supposed to eat the truffles after sniffing them out. Which must be the really tricky bit. 

However, no sense trying to train a dog, if you yourself don't know how to recognize a truffle in the first place. Which is why the afternoon will start off with a guided visit at San Giovanni d'Asso's truffle museum. Even people not mad about that rather peculiar scent (aka anyone's children), will enjoy the interactive and stylish exhibition inside San Giovanni d'Asso's castle. 

Once you've got the basics right, it's time to see the experts at work. San Giovanni d'Asso is famous all through Tuscany for its truffle yielding hills. The town lying right between the Crete Senesi and Val d'Orcia, organizes a wonderful truffle festival every year during the first two weekends in November (which can be approached from Siena or Florence on an original steam train). You better put the dates down, in case you're getting serious about the whole truffle hound business.

MUSEO DEL TARTUFO (truffle museum), Sunday 17th of February 2013

  • 3.30 pm - museum visit
  • 4 pm - guided walk with the local truffle hunters and dogs
  • 5 pm - merenda, the Tuscan equivalent of tea (but with much more substance). 

In case you were thinking hogs, not hounds - you're arriving a little late.
Italy banned the use of truffle pigs in 1985. Their great nose was useful in finding the way (some say hogs are much better at it than dogs), but their impulsive nature (and tendency to be a little overweight) caused damage to such a degree that truffle growth dropped massively after the pig had been through the field. 

Sad? I know, those pigs would have looked great on facebook. But you can always check out instead. No, not truffle hunting in China or the Ex - Soviet Union, but a trip planning website with one good nose - whether you're after concierge truffle hunting in Italy or elephant watching in Botswana. 

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