A couple of days ago, 20 October 2012, a family of four living in the province of Pisa, mother father and two children collected some wild mushrooms, took them home, ate them and died, all four. The mushrooms they collected were, in English, Death Cap (amanita phalloides) which is the one responsible for most mushroom deaths in Europe.
Wild mushrooms are much sought after in Italy for two reasons; they are delicious and they can be very expensive to buy at the market (Caesar’s Mushrooms, amanita caesarea, were selling at €75 a kilo in a local Rome market). This particular mushroom is perhaps the most delicious but is quite rare. Others very much worth finding and eating are the Cep (porcino), the Parasol (mazza di tamburo) and the Field Mushroom (agaricus campestris) but there are many other good edible ones.
Get yourself a good book on mushrooms (funghi) with photographic illustrations and study it carefully when you go mushrooming. After all, the really dangerous ones are very few and the good ones are usually easy to identify. But, as you see from the two illustrations the Death Cap is not only very poisonous (there is no antidote, if you eat one you are on a one-way ticket) but very cunning. It can be of a variety of colours and smells good. DON’T EVEN HANDLE it if you find it. And always remember the mushroomers’ golden rule:
IF IN DOUBT, THROW IT OUT.