Paolo Ciccioli, professional truffle hunter and owner of Agriturismo Ramuse in the Italian region of Marche, shares his journey from city centre truffle trading to running a remote agriturismo.
What inspired you to start your own Agriturismo, Paolo?
It has always been my lifelong dream to build Le Marche Agriturismo Ramuse on the grounds of my Grandmother’s fruit farm. Starting in 2004 and finishing on 2007 I used the finest materials to completely reconstruct the two buildings you see today.
What were you doing before this project?
Before I started the Agriturismo business, I was selling my truffles to many top chefs in London and Oxford and in London’s Borough Market.
Why did you choose the Ascoli Piceno area to set-up?
I was born and bred in the Ascoli region and so this is where my heart is. After my experience in London, I decided that the best solution is to taste the truffle in the place where it is found to appreciate the maximum fragrance and the magic of their perfume.
Were there any challenges that you faced getting started?
The main challenges were having the right craftsmen available at the right times, along with sourcing proper materials such as vintage bricks and stones. Sometimes bureaucracy slowed the project down.
What has been the best bit about your new life?
Although it is hard work, running an Agriturismo allows me to always follow my heart. Each morning I wake up to a truly beautiful panorama of nature.
What tips would you give anyone else trying to set up a hotel/B&B?
You need to plan and re-plan. Also, whatever your budget is, you will need 50% more!
What do you think makes your place a really special place to stay?
Le Marche Agriturismo Ramuse is set in a tranquil beautiful valley that brings you close to nature, being ideally placed between the Adriatic & the Sibillini mountains.
I only use local products, many from my own farm such as Oliva Ascolana Tenera (a tasty olive), eggs from the free range black Ancona chickens, and our special pink apple the mele rosa dei Monti Sibillini. We have fresh peaches, cherries, apples, homemade jams and nuts to eat throughout the year. Having worked in the wine trade, I also have a very good knowledge of the local wines and have a selection available for any time of day or night.
Tell us about your truffle hunting, what does a typical day as a truffle hunter involve?
A day in the life of a truffle hunter begins with checking the weather. It has to be dry so that Trilly my truffle dog can smell the truffles. Next we have to dress in the hunters outfit and with our special digging tool we are ready to set off.
What we bring back depends of the time of year. Truffles are seasonal with the stronger smelling White Truffle (Tuber Magnatum Pico) being found around Ramuse between October and November, and the Black summer truffle (tuber aestivum) from May to October.
How do you use the truffles in your cooking?
My favourite meal is freshly scrambled eggs with grated black summer truffle on top, simple but delicious!