Ciao Italia Part II: Norcia and Castelluccio (Umbria)

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After sleeping for 10 hours straight, we were all ready for our our day trip to Norcia and Mount Sibillini. We set out with our tummies filled with a hearty breakfast of pastries, bread, fried eggs with bacon and coffee at the agriturismo.

It was a 1.5 hours drive to Mount Sibillini. We took way longer than that as our GPS brought us on a never-ending winding road. When we got to Mount Sibillini, we were a little confused as there was no sign for a carpark or entrance. We found an information booth and the lady told us that the entire area that we have been driving through is Mount Sibillini and there is no single entrance to it! What a bummer!

Thankfully, she directed us to a scenic area around Mount Sibillini – Castelluccio. We are so glad that we made it there for it was breathtaking. It made the drive worthwhile.

Castelluccio di Norcia

castellucio plains

Castelluccio sits high up at 1,400 metres above Piano Grande and is an entire area of sweeping mountains and deep set valleys. The plains would be blooming with wild flowers during spring and summer. Given that it was autumn when we were there, there were only spots of flowers left.

That did nothing to take away the grandiose beauty of the place. No words nor picture can capture the true beauty of the place. You would just have to make a stop here to find out.

Better yet, take a drive down here with the windows of your car wind down and feel the breeze blow past you. It ranks as one of the most exhilarating experience that I ever had.

wild flowers in castelluccio

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We drove away from Castelluccio with high spirits and would up at a trattoria serving rustic Umbrian dishes like wild boar, black truffle pasta, slow roasted lamb (more on food later).

Norcia

We rounded up the day in Norcia, a town that I was really looking forward to visit even before my trip. You see Norcia is basically a food lover’s wonderland.

It hails black truffles and it is known for its pork and chinghiale (wild boar) products. You can also find the finest lentils that is grown in the Castelluccio plains here.

The term “Norcineria”, which refers to speciality butcher shops that sell pork related products, comes from Norcia itself because of the expertise of their butchers in curing pork. And true to its reputation for its pork, Norcia town is filled with Norcinerias selling many varieties of salumi (cured sausages), pancetta and prosciutto.

Norcia is also known for its tartufi nero (black truffles). In the month of February, there would be a week long international black truffle festival where the town’s black truffles would be the highlights as well as the whole range of the local specialities.

I practically went on an unrestrained shopping spree in this town and filled my shopping bags with the likes of truffle paste, truffle honey, lentils, farro, dried porcini mushrooms, that was after I filled my tummy with with the samples laid out in the shops. 

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Norcia town, shop

Of the items I bought, the one worthy of mention is the black truffle infused wild boar salumi. It is superb and is one of the best cured sausage that I’ve had; the meat wasn’t too salty, it had the right amount of truffle flavour, and the right ratio of fats to meat. We spoke to the butcher and he explained to us that he uses salt, black pepper, herbs and truffle to cure it.

Norcia

We visited the San Benedictine church (Basilica di San Benedetto) which stood  in the middle of the town’s piazza against the backdrop of Mount Sibillini. This is the birthplace of San Benedictine.

Unfortunately, we did not manage to stay late enough to hear the Gregorian chants by the Benedictine monks. I heard that that it is very enchanting and was really sorry to have missed it. I do hope that you place it on your itinerary if you are in the area.

We visited the little shop next to the church and we chanced upon a monk who moved over from Indonesia and had a good chat with him about Norcia, the monastery and the microbrewery of the church that produces Birra Nursia. We bought two bottles of the blond ones (there is another darker brew) to drink later in the evening. The style is pretty similar to a Belgium style beer which I enjoy – refreshing and fruity.

Stay right there for more of my Italy adventure!

Next up, Assisi..

Have a lovely weekend!

love,
jo

Castelluccio morning mist

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Visit

Castelluccio di Norcia
It’s better to plan and check out some maps online rather than relying on your GPS which would most likely fail you for this one.

Basilica di San Benedetto
Piazza San Benedetto, Norcia, Italy

To purchase the monastery’s beers
Corvus et Columba (gift shop just adjacent of the basilica)
http://birranursia.com/

Eat

Gelato at Bar Benito
Via G. Marconi 4, 06046 Norcia, Italy (It is next to Hotel Benito)

Great and cheap gelato in Norcia (there aren’t many choices to begin with). I liked the nocciola (hazelnut) and baccio (chocolate and hazelnut) flavour. The fragola (strawberry) is good too.

Ciocolateria Vetusta Nursia
Via Mazzini, 6 (in Norcia town)
Viale della Stazione n. 41-43 about a kilometer outside of town (their warehouse, factory and shop – with better prices)
Stop by this ciocolateria to purchase chocolates to bring home. We visited their factory and shop to purchase some chocolate, nougat as well as some dried farro and lentils. We were also given a short tour of their factory on how they produce chocolate by this warm and friendly old guy who didn’t speak a word of English. Oh, they also sell truffle infused chocolate (or truffle truffles) if you want to try.

Shop

The streets of Norcia is filled with so many specialty food stores that it is hard to pin point a single one.

Just remember to take home black truffle goods (in all forms. I particularly like the honey and paste. you can also buy them whole). Also, stock up some Castelluccio lentils where it can be hard to find elsewhere. If your country allows, you should take home some cured meat.

Driving and parking

To drive to Norcia from Montefalco, head towards Spoleto (SS3) then take the SS685 towards Cascia/Norcia. It should take slightly over an hour.

Like most Umbrian towns, you would need to park right outside the Norcia town walls (Porta Romana). If I remember correctly, the parking should cost you €1 per hour. You would need to buy the ticket using a coin machine and place the ticket on your dashboard.

autumn trees

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About jothetartqueen

My first love is eating. A very close second is my love for baking and cooking. I passionately believe that the best form of appreciation of something is almost always through the creation of it. This passion took me on a whirlwind, unforgettable ride through the patisserie diploma course at Le Cordon Bleu (Sydney). Join me on my discovery for the love of food – through the kitchen, through the markets, through experimenting, tasting and loving.
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6 Responses to Ciao Italia Part II: Norcia and Castelluccio (Umbria)

  1. I love Italy. Looks like you are having a fabulous trip.

  2. Gorgeous destination and pics Jo! I love that photo of the market salami and lentils! I can imagine how much you shopped because I would have done the same :D

  3. Stunning landscapes, truly surreal beauty you’ve captured in these photos! And oh, truffle infused chocolate sounds like some otherworldly decadence. Your travels inspire both envy and hunger, but I’m so thrilled to read through it all. :)

  4. Jo, I just loved reading this tonight. Italy is definitely a favorite country of ours. We fell in love with it this past June. We didn’t get to your region.. so I know we have a great reason to go back. We did hear about chinghiale and black truffles. Our friend bought a chinghiale hat:) I can’t wait to read about your food experience!

  5. pattyabr says:

    absolutely beautiful pictures! have a wonderful time!

  6. LB says:

    I would so love to ride there (ane eat there … drink there … after riding of course :-) )

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