The hidden treasure of Istria: The record-breaking “Great White”

The hidden treasure of Istria: The record-breaking “Great White”

A magnificent truffle for the book of Guinness World Records

The Great White... Three words usually associated with the terrifying beast lurking in the depths of the ocean. It does exist, but this is another kind of story. At the very heart of Istria, in the Mirna river valley, in Motovun Forest, at the foot of the quaint little town of the same name, there are no monsters. You might encounter the legend of the Istrian giant by the name of Veli Jože, but this green oasis on the largest Croatian peninsula is more widely known for a culinary gem called Tuber magnatum pico.

 

This is the white truffle – the most expensive and high-quality mushroom in the world, and a true king of Istrian cuisine. It grows from September to January in the green areas of Motovun thanks to a favourable combination of a specific microclimate, damp soil, and the poplar, willow, hazel, oak and lime trees whose roots it usually attaches to.

 

As they are buried underground like some ancient treasure, it takes a special kind of skill to find them, such as a nearly photographic memory of every inch of the forest, strong focus and attention, a good long-term memory, a wealth of experience, man’s best friend – the dog, and, much like in many other things in life – a little bit of luck.

Ivo Biočina

Giancarlo Zigante had all of these when he and his dog Diana found the precious nugget on 2 November 1999. White truffle is usually the size of an apple, but this particular specimen, found in the village of Livade, in Motovun Forest, was rightfully called the “Great White”.

At 1,310 g, this magnificent fruit of the earth earned a spot in the book of Guinness World Records as the largest truffle ever found. The record-holder that was named Millennium was served at a dinner for a hundred guests, and made Livade the global centre for this delicacy. This tiny Istrian village is now the truffle capital. The best time to visit and taste divine Istrian dishes is during the Truffle Days festival (Dani tartufa) in the autumn and winter months.