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Last Updated: Saturday, 18 December, 2004, 11:50 GMT
Record-breaking truffle goes home
By David Willey
BBC News, Rome

The world's most expensive truffle
The truffle was initially said to be buried in the head chef's garden
The world's most expensive truffle, bought at a charity auction, for more than $50,000, is being buried in Italy on Saturday after being returned there.

The 850g white truffle, a very rare type of mushroom that grows underground, was accidentally left to rot in a restaurant safe in London.

The gourmet's delight was dug up by specially trained truffle-hunting dogs in the mountains near Pisa last month.

It is being buried in the grounds of an historic castle in Tuscany.

The truffle finally went under the auctioneer's hammer for a world-record figure of more than $50,000.

The purchasers were clients of a fashionable Italian restaurant in London.

The precious truffle was hand-carried to London and displayed at the restaurant.

For a week, manager Enzo Cassini refused to cut it given the huge interest his record-breaking truffle had aroused among food lovers and journalists.

Tuscan farewell

Then the unimaginable happened.

The world's most expensive truffle began to go bad.

It putrefied.

It became uneatable.

When the truffle experts of Florence heard about the unhappy fate of their most precious truffle, they asked for its return and organised a solemn burial.

It was set to take place in the grounds of an historic castle built by the Medici, former rulers of Florence, after the truffle's remains were brought back by Mr Cassini.

After a farewell poem, the truffle is being solemnly re-interred not far from where it was originally found.

The hope is that it will regenerate and produce another monster truffle next year.

In exchange, Mr Cassini will get back a selection of much smaller white truffles weighing the same as his original trophy mushroom - a gesture which will doubtless delight his disappointed London customers.


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