Norcia is located in the southeast Umbria, in the heart of Valnerina, a mountainous area crossed by the river Nera, the main tributary of the Tiber. It was founded in the 5th century BC from the Sabines.
Saint Benedict, creator of the Benedictine monastic system, was born and lived in these mountains and even today the Benedictine monks have their headquarters here in Norcia.
Thanks to the Benedictines, Norcia was one of the first centres where surgery was born, with its surgical school, which began with the study of pigs, whose organs are very similar to those of human beings. Pigs that, in the course of time, became the main economic resource: in fact “Norcineria” is the Italian term with which today pork butchery is indicated, just because it was invented precisely in Norcia. In this one day tour you will spend the morning in Norcia capital and then move in the afternoon to the charming village of Castelluccio di Norcia, both within the Monti Sibillini National Park.
Norcia is located right on a fault line and that is why it has been hit by several earthquakes over the centuries. The most recent, in 2016, was one of the strongest in the entire Italian history but the skilful construction and the careful use of modern anti-seismic building technologies made possible to avoid the worst. Today Norcia is a town that is trying to rise again in which, during a morning, you can visit the historic centre, which still shows the signs of the earthquake. You will find old lanes and delicatessens, where you can stop off to eat a sandwich with the best cold cuts of the “Norcia's tradition”. The town's focal point is St. Benedict's square, with the Castellina museum, the Town Hall, the solemn statue of St. Benedict and the Basilica dedicated to the Saint, of which today only the facade still stands. The “house of St. Benedict” was repeatedly destroyed by the earthquakes over the centuries and the facade is the only part that has remained intact, which is why it still retains a faithful aspect to the original, which dates back to the thirteenth century. The European Union, honoring the memory of St. Benedict patron of Europe, has allocated significant funding to rebuild the Basilica.
If you visit Norcia during the last weekend of February and the first two of March you can taste the precious black truffle. During that period the “Truffle market exhibition” takes place every year. It is also possible to taste the famous tuber in other periods in the restaurants of the town. If you love craft beer, you must try the “Nursia”: red or blonde, it is made by Benedictine monks. It is possible to find it in the local bars or buy it at the new monastery of San Benedetto in Monte, where the monks moved in the aftermath of the earthquake.
The most important village in the municipality, Castelluccio, is located about 30 kilometres from Norcia. You can leave Norcia after the lunch time to get there (it takes about half an hour because the road is quite tortuous). Castelluccio is an authentic spectacle of nature. Arriving by car, the view is lost on the large plain (the Pian Grande, about 1400 metres above sea level): kilometres and kilometres of fields surrounded by mountains, where the famous Castelluccio lentils are born and grow: During the winter these fields are covered by an abundant blanket of snow and during the summer by the colourful lentil flowers and other coloured plants, which create the show better known as “La Fioritura” (Blooming). The best time to admire it is between mid-June and mid-July. Once you have crossed the Pian Grande, climbing up a small hill, you arrive up to Castelluccio, a very small village (today there are only 9 residents) but full of charm. Even Castelluccio was almost completely destroyed by the 2016 earthquake, there are still some farmhouses and a new structure with restaurants and bars built after the earthquake.
If you have more than one day in these areas, you can take advantage of the many trails in the Monti Sibillini national park through which you can take walks, with different difficulty levels, on summer or on winter.
Monte Vettore is the highest among the high mountains that surround the Pian Grande (2476 metres), on which you can make beautiful excursions. For the most athletics is possible to climb up to the summit and then descend to the beautiful Pilato lake, unique in its kind, in which lives a species of crustacean that doesn't live anywhere else in the world: the Chirocephalus marchesonii, which takes its name from its discoverer and that in some periods of the year colours the small lake of red.
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