It’s a game which is played out every year at least twice a year when the wild mushrooms – the porcini, start silently pushing their way up through the fertile soil up in the mountains around Barga.
The weather is watched, rainfall is watched, a close eye is kept on the wind and the calendar to see you will be the optimum moment to go up onto the mountains to pick the mushrooms.
It is effectively one of the few cash crops available in this area and for the seasoned mushroom hunter some serious money can be made at the right time of the year with the right mushrooms.
Timing is everything because at the start of the season the price of porcini is high. If it is a good year and there are many porcini, the price falls.
Not so many years ago it was kind of a civil war with the local mushroom hunters protecting the areas against what they considered were outside invaders coming in and stealing their crop.
Many people in the area can well remember occasions where tyres were slashed on cars found up on the mountain in the mushroom areas if they had numberplates from outside this area.
Thankfully this kind of “protectionism” has more or less stopped but there is still a kind of silence when they mushrooms first arrive with people not willing to say where they have been to pick them or even if the mushrooms have actually arrived.
That silence in the city continues until the secret is finally out in the open and it’s not revealed by word of mouth but rather by the nose.
The fragrance of porcini mushrooms being cooked in kitchens around the city permeating through the streets is unmistakable and so finally the conversation becomes an open conversation and people actually start admitting that yes the porcini season has officially started.