White truffles are notorious for causing a frenzy among foodies and restaurateurs alike.
They’re incredibly difficult to find, only harvested in the autumn, and have been known to fetch some shockingly high prices — back in October, Russian oligarch Vladimir Potanin bought four pounds of the fungi for $US95,000.
The white truffle has chosen an interesting place to grow, too. It thrives in the damp forests of the Langhe, a hilly area in the southern part of Italy’s northwestern Piedmont region. The small town of Alba is considered the capital of the region, and thus, the capital of Italian white truffle production.
Reuters photographer Stefano Rellandini visited Alba during their annual truffle auction to capture a bit of the mystical process.
Here's an up-close shot of a slice of white truffle. Typically chefs and truffle hunters are on the lookout for something much bigger.
The sun sets over the hills of Serralunga d'Alba, a town in the region of Italy known as the capital of white truffles.
Ezio Costa, 66, searches for truffles in the woods in Monchiero, near Alba. Costa's family have searched for truffles for four generations.
Costa's dog Jolly helps with the hunt. Dogs are trained from birth to detect the smell of the truffles, which give off a distinctive smell for a limited amount of time.
Costa sits outside his restaurant in Monchiero and smells a truffle, typically about the size of a man's fist. Truffles are famous for their unique, strong smell.
For a few days each November, truffle connoisseurs travel to Alba to participate in the World White Truffle Auction. Here, a seller shows his wares to potential customers.
At the 2013 edition of the auction, two truffles weighing 2.09 pounds sold for about $US120,000 to a buyer from Hong Kong. The two truffles caused a frenzy with photographers.
Truffles are used on a variety of dishes, from risotto and mashed potatoes to buttery pasta. Pictured here is a dish of cardoon with white truffle and pear, served at Guido Ristorante in Serralunga d'Alba.
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