GETTING THERE: Milan Malpensa is the most convenient international airport to Piemonte, although the Turin airport may soon become a good option for international travelers as a result of the 2006 Olympics. Alitalia flies nonstop from Washington Dulles to Milan from $622.
GETTING AROUND: You'll need a car to adequately explore the Piemonte countryside and small towns. We rented from Europcar (877-940-6900, www.europcar.com).
WHEN TO GO: The heart of truffle season in the Piemonte region is October and November but depending on location, weather and truffle variety, the season can stretch from June through January, according to local expert Roberto Bovetti.
WHERE TO STAY: Cascina Cichetti (69 Frazione Mellea, Murazzano, 011-39-0173-798501) is a bed-and-breakfast with two cozy, immaculate suites and a sweeping view of the mountains. Rates start at about $110 per night double occupancy. For other countryside options in Piemonte, check out "Karen Brown's Italy: Charming Bed and Breakfasts" (Karen Brown's Guides, 2005, $19.95); reviewed lodgings are also listed at www.karenbrown.com.
WHERE TO EAT: We ate breakfast and dinner at Cascina Cichetti (with no need for lunch after the hearty breakfasts). Breakfast included local cheeses, eggs, cured meats, bread and four kinds of homemade jam. Co-owner Silvana Faggio owned a restaurant for 25 years and will serve dinner with advance notice (about $41, with truffles extra, priced per gram; we paid about $70 for a white truffle shaved over three dishes apiece). We were able to watch Silvana cook the six- and seven-course dinners in her open kitchen, ask questions and pick up tips. Excellent, reasonably priced wines are available by the bottle with meals.
WHAT TO DO: We organized our impromptu truffle hunt through Cascina Cichetti. There are also cheesemakers and other producers of farm products in the area who welcome visitors. At slightly lower altitudes, you'll find vineyards and wineries making the famous red wines of the Piemonte.
The town of Alba, Piemonte's "truffle central," hosts the National White Truffle Festival (www.fieradeltartufo.org) in October and into November, and you'll see the fungi in all forms for sale at local shops, along with serving gear, books and souvenirs. The tourist office offers a two-hour "truffle-hunting excursion" (011-39-0173-362562, www.turismodoc.it) every day during October and November for about $25. The tours are scheduled on request year-round, weather permitting (and not in the snows of January and February). They also have an hour-and-a-half course on the "sensorial analysis of truffles," which covers how to choose them, keep them and eat them, for about $21.
INFORMATION: The Langhe Monferrato Roero Tourist Consortium (011-39-0173-361538, www.turismodoc.it) has regional information, as does the Regione Piemonte (011-39-011-522-1035, www.regione.piemonte.it). For general information about Italy: Italian Government Tourist Board, 212-245-5618, www.italiantourism.com.
-- Gayle Keck