Probably not, she said. The first time she went truffle hunting with Farenetti, "I thought the same thing," Sheldon Johns said. "But then we found over 50 truffles, and I doubt that he would have planted all of them."

But what about a few, just to make sure no one was disappointed? "I don't think so," she said, adding, "but I can understand if there are suspicions."

I called Kathy to let her know that we had not solved the mystery of the carne grande truffles.

But did it matter? Not really.

We had come for adventure and a respite, and those we had found.



Tasting tour


From LAX, Air France and Lufthansa offer connecting service (change of plane) to Turin, Italy. Restricted round-trip fares begin at $658 until March 31, increasing to $740 until May 25.


To call the numbers below from the U.S., dial 011 (the international dialing code), 39 (country code for Italy) and the local number.


Culinary Arts International, 27 W. Anapamu St., No. 427, Santa Barbara, CA 93101; (805) 963-7289 or in Italy 0578-798-370, . Our tour was run by this company, which offers guided weeklong tours of Italy's culinary regions throughout the year. Includes cooking classes or demonstrations at local restaurants. Cost for Oct. 22-28 "Truffles and Risotto," which includes a visit to the Slow Food Salone del Gusto food festival in Turin, about $3,550.


Turin Palace Hotel, 8 Via Sacchi, 10128 Turin; 011-562-5511, . A 130-year-old hotel that is elegant and close to Turin's attractions. Doubles from $210, including buffet breakfast, service and taxes.

Relais San Maurizio, Hotel del Monastero, 39 San Maurizio, 12058 S. Stefano Belbo; 0141-841900, . On a serene hilltop setting. The former monastery has 33 rooms and suites. Doubles from about $250, including continental breakfast, service and taxes. The hotel's restaurant, Guido da Costigliole, has one Michelin star and offers excellent Piedmontese cuisine and hard-to-fine wines.


Italian Government Tourist Board, (310) 820-1898, .

— Catherine Saillant