One of the most decadent, expensive and delicious additions to a meal, sought and enjoyed the world over, truffles are usually in high demand. According to one expert in Italy’s region of Tuscany however, the spread of COVID19 (coronavirus) has had a huge impact on the market, which in turn has afforded the prized fungi a chance to flourish.

Giulio Benuzzi, better known as Giulio The Truffle Hunter, leads workshops and walks throughout the year, and usually hunts for truffles in every season. Guests are brought on picnics and educated on the art of gathering alongside expert truffle dogs. With tourism and restaurant sectors halted amid the coronavirus pandemic, things have been much quieter than usual, something that has actually had positive impacts on the natural world.

Greve in Chianti
Tuscany is famous for its vineyards, truffles and fine produce © Jan Malkovsky / Alamy Stock Photo

“The coronavirus has certainly influenced the truffle season and also the lives of us truffle hunters. The demand for truffles has dropped by 50% - 60%, and as a result, we go looking for them much less. This factor allows truffles to live a more symbiotic relationship with trees,” Giulio told Lonely Planet. 

According to Giulio, the fewer truffles that are removed from the earth, the more spores remain underground, leading to the generation of new families of truffles. Another advantage is with industry closed and cars off the road, the lowered presence of C02 in the atmosphere allows trees to be more oxygenated.

Italian truffles
Truffles are sought for the subtle, dish-enhancing flavour © Susan Wright / Lonely Planet

Giulio collaborates with tour operators, hotels and wine producers, and is looking forward to a time when he can return to doing what he loves amidst the Florentine hills and forests. He even runs a special truffle academy where people can learn more.

According to Giulio, one glimmer of good news is that when travellers once again flock to Italy there will hopefully be plenty of delicious truffles for them to enjoy.

Keep up to date with Lonely Planet's latest travel-related COVID-19 news here.

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