Driving through the Apennine Mountains, which form the spine of central Italy, we rounded the final bend and there, perched high on a lofty hill overlooking the valley in front of us, stood 13th century Castelluccio di Norcia. A strikingly spectacular sight, this tiny village is, at 1452 metres above sea level, the highest inhabited town in this picturesque mountain range.
It had been a drive of about five hours from the Veneto and I was being expertly chauffeured by Tom Weber, The Palladian Traveler, who makes an annual visit to this beautiful area of Umbria, where some of his family stay for the month of August.
Normally populated in winter by only fifteen hardy souls, this meagre population swells to about 150 residents in summer plus quite a few tourists keen to sample its famous food and enjoy the wonderful walking trails.
Norcia is the nearest large town, some 28 kilometres distant, and I was informed that most of the inhabitants of Castelluccio move down there before the snow sets in.
Castelluccio towers above the Piano Grande (great plain) and is situated in Monte Sibillini National Park. This Piano Grande is popular with paragliders who soar overhead while children fly their colourful kites and ride the quiet ponies in the riding stable.
In springtime and early summer the plains are wild with colour. La Fioriatura (the flowering) heralds the arrival of bright red poppies and yellow rapeseed giving a fabulous display, which I hope to see at some time in the future.
The grasslands also make ideal grazing for sheep and cattle.
Castelluccio di Norcia is famous for its lentils. They are its most prized crop and are typically served with sausages. The area is also famous for its pork and lamb, with porchetta (roast pork) appearing on most local menus. In fact, a butcher shop here is called a norceria, instead of the normal Italian word macelleria.
Another popular dish is farro (wheat grain), which even comes as a risotto called farrotto. Chick peas also abound, not to forget all the delicious salame, cheeses and mushrooms.
We visited a small factory where ricotta was being made and sold both fresh and aged. Fresh ricotta is great as a dessert with a fruit puree.
Biscotti and fruit-filled pastries are also a big part of the hearty diet enjoyed by the inhabitants of this mountain village.
Walking is a pastime I enjoy immensely and I was delighted when Tom suggested we walk to the Croce in Cima, overlooking the village. A lovely hike uphill – not too difficult for the moderately fit – the views from Monte Veletta were well worth the effort.
We stayed at Antica Cascina Brandimarte at the top of the village.
For complete information on Castelluccio di Norcia,click HERE.
Continue this Umbrian journey with my fellow bloggers:
Vino Travels: Immersion in Umbrian wine with Sagrantino
The Palladian Traveler – Marcello’s Big Fat Italian Christening
Orna O’Reilly – Castelluccio di Norcia: On the Rooftop of the Apennines
Culinary Adventures with Camilla – Roasted Flank Steak with Zucchini Mint Pesto with an Umbrian Merlot
Italophilia – Visiting Assisi in the Enchanting Umbrian Hills
Just Elizabeth – The Intense Flavours of the Valley Museum
Rockin Red Blog – Beauty and the Beast
Enofylz Wine Blog – Umbria’s Sagrantino: Call It a Comeback
Food Wine Click – Orange is the New Red: Paolo Bea Santa Chiara & Umbrian Steak on FoodWineClick
The Wining Hour – Taste Umbria – Black Truffle Linguini with Shrimp & Montefalco Sagrantino
Cooking Chat Food – Rigatoni with Collard Greens & Sausage with Wine from Umbria