Norcia and the Plains of Castellucio

Refreshed after a night at the Enoteca Piazza Onofri we headed south to Norcia - a small town located close to the Subillini National Park in SE Umbria.

Palazzo Comunale, Statue of St Benedict & Basilica of St Benedict dominate the town square
At first I couldn't quite put my finger on why, but I was immediately attracted to this small town - it seemed quite unlike the others we'd visited. Just as ancient but quite different - more homely, none of the smart shops, and that Italian style was a little more understated.

The town is completely surrounded by still intact walls that have stood since at least the 14th century - over 600 years. The town walls and those of the more important buildings are much thicker and obviously fortified. And - apparently after several eathquakes in the 18th century a Papal bill forbade any buildings within the town walls to be over 12.5m high.

So - clearly the look and feel of Norcia is at least in part due to a history of eathquakes (1328, 1567, 1703, 1730, 1859, 1971, 1979) which have over time erased much of its older architecture and created a range of subtly different 'earthquake' resistant styles.

But - while the architecture is striking, so also is the number of shops selling hams, cheese and truffles. Norcia is literally synonymous with salumi and black truffles, with the winter months being devoted, by the locals, to the hunting of wild boar and truffles.

Although we didn't have time to explore the resaurants here I'm sure that with such a wealth of local produce they would have been more than a match for the previous nights fare (although perhaps no match to the wine). Instead we purchased some bread and Porquetta with the intention of having a small picnic on the Plains of Castelluccio........

First view of the Plains with the 'Cloud Maker' in the background
While the Plains are best seen in the Spring, they still have an atmosphere about them in late September.

From our first viewpoint I could imagine Ghengis Khan and his hoardes of warrior horsemen charging across the Plain - making for the small hillside town of Castellucio. This image was later reinforced as we descended into and drove across the Plains and passed a small herd of horses that are apparently hired out for a days riding.

Castellucio rises from the Plains
Castellucio - gateway to the Sibillini Mountains

In my minds eye - Ghengis Khan and his Mongolian Hoardes gallup across the Plain

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