Many people come to Norcia as part of a religious pilgrimage to the birthplace of St. Benedict. I was drawn to the outer edge of Umbria, nestled at the base of the Appenine Mountains for other pursuits. I was here to explore the naturalistic beauty of the territory, indulge in the culinary delights, and enjoy some luxury in the relatively new Palazzo Seneca.
Arriving late in the afternoon, I quickly head to the main square: Piazza San Benedetto. I had forgotten that piazzas such as this still exist, where only Italian is spoken, pedestrians sparse, and a few local children kicking around the ball. I am comforted by the realization this scene lives on.
I continue down Via del Corso, where small shops known as Norcineria, sell the area’s local delicasies: black truffles, salami, and cheese. The shops proudly boast your typical “kitsch,” mostly menacing boar heads. I was literally dragged into one such shop as an old, friendly, Italian man was eager to share his NYC history with a New Yorker. This wasn’t the only such experience. The warmth and desire to engage foreigners was a continuous treat during my stay. These visits were always pepppered with “assagia, assagia, mangia, mangia,” pleads for me to sample the local fare.
The Palazzo Seneca is first class in every respect, from the welcoming staff who cannot do enough, the family whose presence is always available to ensure your satisfaction, and the careful design in the rooms and throughout the Property.
One of the attractions of Norcia is the town of Castelluccio, easily accessed by car. Climb up and over the mountain to discover the imposing and boundless “Great Plain.” The fields are at their most impressive in the Spring, as the flowers blossom into an explosion of colors. I was told that the town had become a haven for those looking to escape from their life, or drop off the proverbial radar. A quirky local tradition is the graffiti that boldly decorates the walls of the homes and buildings, commenting on everything from town gossip to politics.
Don’t forget to include Norcia in your Umbrian vacation.