Decision of the Intergovernmental Committee: 16.COM 8.B.18

The Committee

  1. Takes note that Italy has nominated Truffle hunting and extraction in Italy, traditional knowledge and practice (no. 01395) for inscription on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity:

Italian truffle hunting and extraction is a set of knowledge and practices that has been transmitted orally for centuries. Today, it still characterizes the rural life of entire communities in the Italian peninsula. Truffle hunters, or tartufai, usually live in rural areas and small villages. There are two steps to truffle hunting: the hunting and the extraction. The hunting entails the identification of areas where the truffle plant grows, from whose roots grows the underground fungus named ‘truffle’. This step is carried out with the help of a trained dog. The hunters then use a special spade that allows them to extract the truffles without disturbing the soil conditions. Truffle hunting involves a wide range of skills and knowledge (about climate, the environment and vegetation) related to the management of natural ecosystems and to the dog-truffle hunter relationship. This knowledge is passed on through oral traditions, including stories, fables, anecdotes and expressions that reflect the local cultural identity and create a sense of solidarity within the truffle hunting community. Truffle hunting is often associated with popular feasts that mark the beginning and end of the truffle season. The practices respect ecological balance and plant biodiversity, ensuring the seasonal regeneration of the truffle species.

  1. Considers that, from the information included in the file, the nomination satisfies the following criteria for inscription on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity:

R.1:  The bearers and practitioners of the element possess knowledge about plant cycles, moon phases, rainfall patterns and habitat. Knowledge and skills are transmitted orally from senior practitioners to youth, through observation and imitation. Community associations and museums also organize training courses for young people. Truffle hunting is primarily practiced by men, but there has been an increased number of women practitioners. The element commits human beings to the natural environment, improves the mental and physical well-being of its practitioners, is a source of revenue, and is associated with popular feasts. The element is aligned with human rights and sustainable environmental practices.

R.2:  Inscription would promote increased awareness about elements that highlight the relationship between human beings, animals and the environment while contributing to the safeguarding of local traditions associated with rural communities. It would increase awareness of the general importance of intangible cultural heritage and encourage international exchange among communities involved in intangible cultural heritage safeguarding relating to human and environmental rights. Finally, inscription would increase collaboration with UNESCO Chairs to promote research on traditional knowledge systems. Dialogue would be encouraged through traditional and digital platforms among the communities, groups and individuals concerned with the element.

R.3:  Measures for safeguarding have been premised on the constant informal transmission between generations. Additionally, organizations and museums have organized courses for transmission of the element, notably including people with disabilities. They have also organized the collection of oral evidence from practitioners and bearers and the mapping of habitats and natural spaces associated with the element. The State has enacted laws to ensure customary practices of hunting and extraction, compulsory training for young people, and truffle-hunting training for dogs. A well-planned set of measures are proposed and notably includes reinforcing informal and formal transmission of the element and including young people with disabilities. Proposals for research, documentation, promotion and enhancement are covered in the file, with the technical and financial support of the State as well as the participation of associations, museums, universities and practitioners.

R.4:  The communities have been involved in the nomination process since 2012. The process has included various activities and involved practitioners and bearers. The community groups and individuals concerned gave their free, prior and informed consent to the nomination via the associations that represent them. The tradition of keeping hunting locations secret was respected in the nomination process and safeguarding proposals.

R.5:  The element is listed on the MEPI – Inventory of Intangible Cultural Heritage Elements in March 2020. The inventorying process involved the community’s participation (including through interviews) and documentation efforts. It also included non-governmental organizations, academics and experts. Updating, which includes assessing the element’s viability, is undertaken in alignment with periodic reporting and in a bottom-up process.

  1. Decides to inscribe Truffle hunting and extraction in Italy, traditional knowledge and practice on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity;
  2. Encourages the State Party to pay attention to the potential risk of over-commercialization of the element and to ensure that any tourism efforts are monitored and well-managed;
  3. Further encourages the State Party to remain focused on the animal welfare aspect of the element when planning and implementing the safeguarding measures;
  4. Also encourages the State Party to share safeguarding experiences with other States Parties with similar elements.