Buzet Celebrates 88 Years as Truffle Center of Istria

Daniela Rogulj

December 4, 2019 – It has been 88 years since scientist Massimo Sella discovered the capital of truffles in the heart of Buzet.

And thanks to his diary and records, the history of Istrian truffles and Buzet as a truffle town is written, reports Glas Istre.

“Just 220 meters from the Albergo alla Fontana Hotel, between December 9 and 11, 1931, a half-kilo truffle was found. This is the center of truffles today! Thanks to the record of Istrian scientist Massimo Sella from Rovinj, an avid photographer and nature lover, there are clues to the history of Istrian truffles, as well as the history of Buzet as a truffle town. When the councilors declared it a truffle town 20 years ago on the eve of Subotina in September, it was because of tourism branding, and we have a historical stronghold that this is the case. Buzet justifiably bears the name of truffle town,” says Buzet native Robert Marusic.

Marusic is from a truffle family traditionally engaged in the truffle hunt in Sovišće, and actively involved in the promotion of Buzet as the town of truffles.

Massimo Sella was born in 1886 in Biella. He completed his natural sciences in Rome to become director of the Rovinj Institute for Marine Research in 1924, where he left behind an extensive archive. Today, a special foundation takes care of this. What is especially important for the Istrian truffle zone is that Sella determined the development cycle of the Istrian white truffle, an expensive underground fungus of the Latin name Tuber magnatum pico and marked the sites of Istrian truffles.

“Sella, with friends, including Clara Ida Countess Barbara Elisabeth, daughter of Johann George Hutterotta, the owner of St. Andrew island in Rovinj, today’s Red Island, and truffle adventurers Carlo Testoni and Pietro Giovannelli, both from Pula, but a native of the Emilie region, stayed in the northern Istria region from December 9 to 11, 1931, and recorded something of great importance. Not far from the Fontana Hotel in Buzet, they pulled out a half-kilo heavy white truffle with the help of a lagotto dog, one named Dora. They later founded a truffle trade and export company in Livade, but that’s another story. The subject is Buzet here,” Marusic says.

Marusic says he had heard about Sella’s truffle discovery in Buzet before, and when looking for a photo of said truffle, the director of the Istria County Tourist Board, Denis Ivosevic, recommended that he go to Rovinj, where documentation about Massimo Sella and his works should be stored. Through Mirko Cetinski, he contacted the Rovinj Museum, in which the Sella Family Foundation set up an exhibition of photographs titled “Massimo Sella (1886-1959), Other Countries, the Second Sea”, a retrospective of valuable photo records of Rovinj, back in 2016. Tajana Ujcic gave him the contact address of the Sella Foundation in Italy, which operates under the name “Testimonianze per Massimo Sella”. The Sella family today inherits the work of Massimo Sella.

“Through her assistant, Ellene Gallo, his daughter Selina Sella-Marsoni informed me that she was very pleased with my interest in the historical position of Buzet on the topic of Istrian truffle production and that she would relay to her coworkers to view the large archive Sella had left to her successors. She approved the submission of documentation that could assist me in my search. So I studied various records that, normally, given Massimo Sella’s status, are more research-scientific than travel-tourism. We could not find a photo of this truffle, but Gallo sent me a copy of a key document entitled “Il truffle bianco in Istria” by Professor Massimo Sella, Istituto italo-germanico di Biologia marina di Rovigno d ‘Istria. It was published by the Italian publisher Societa botanica Italiana, in Florence in 1932, and in the new botanical Italian magazine printed by Tipografia Mariano Ricci also from Florence,” Marusic concludes. 

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