The Motovun forest has been known for its truffles since ancient times. Local inhabitants used to say that these ‘smelling potatoes’, usually found during land clearings, were favourite among their pigs, while only some recognized their true commercial value. Although the chronicles connect truffles with the construction of the Istrian water supply system and the Poreč-Trieste narrow gauge railway, so called popular Parenzana (1902 – 1935), the first scientific publication confirming the existence of truffles in the Motovun forest as well as their commercialisation occurred during 1930s following the establishment of ‘Azienda del Tartufo – Sella, Hütterott and C. Levade’.
The first registered truffle hunters – Carlo Testoni and Pietro Giovannelli from Pula, native to the truffle region of Emilia Romagna; baroness Barbara Hütterott (a daughter to George Hütterott – an industrialist and a trader, the owner of St. Andrew’s Island near Rovinj, who was also the honorary consul of the Japanese Empire in Trieste), and scientist Massimo Sella, director of the Rovinj Institute for Maritime Biology at that time were among company owners. As the inhabitants of Istria were not very good at truffle searches, the first truffle hunters were brought from Italian regions of Ferrara, Bologna and Ravenna. In 1937, the Motovun forest concession was granted to the family of the first Istrian pilot (1912) Emilio Facchini from Livade, who were also the owners of St. Stephen’s Sp
The largest habitat of truffles
Thanks to its humid microclimate, alkaline soil and its growing trees (poplar, willow and pedunculate oak, in particular), the luscious Motovun forest has become an ideal habitat to a white truffle (Tuber magnatum Pico), the most valuable truffle in the world which, apart from Istria, grows only in some Italian regions (Piedmont, Tuscany, Umbria). The forest itself is a witness to a long and important history. The Forest of St. Mark was the only forest of which the Republic of Venice took special care due to its valuable pedunculate oak which curved feature allowed it to be used in shipbuilding.
The Republic of Venice also appointed special supervisory bodies under a direct competence of the highest Venetian authorities. The strict forest order was maintained during the rule of Austria-Hungary and Italy. This largest preserved coastal indigenous deciduous forest in Croatia is protected for its singularity, rarity and representativeness as well as declared a special forest vegetation reserve.