Umbria Blog | I Primi d’Italia in Foligno

Every year at the end of September the food festival I Primi D’Italia takes place in Foligno. A good reason to visit this often underrated town in the centre of Umbria. It was pretty crowded on Sunday afternoon, but very cozy. Throughout the city there are designated places to taste all kinds of primi (pasta or risotto), either from a particular region or from a famous chef. You pay at the counter €3 to €8 euro to have 1 to 3 different primi.

Are you in autumn in Umbria, then go to this festival for a less touristic experience, that is… few foreign tourists, a lot of Italians though.

Foligno itself is very much worth it. It is a small livable city in the plain between Assisi and Spoleto, easily accessible from the motorway or by train. We previously wrote about its Cathedral and Palazzo Trinci.

Near Foligno is the famous wine village of Montefalco where you can stay in modern apartments, ideal for two people and within walking distance of the village.

Every year in June and in September there also is a medieval festival not to be missed in Foligno: the quintana.

Umbria Blog | visit La Pergola and eat like barbarians

Between Lake Trasimeno and Perugia are the holiday apartments of La Pergola. It has nine apartments and a large pool. At 4 km distance is Castel Rigone where you find a bakery, a bar and a grocery store.

Friends of mine were on a holiday at La Pergola in apartment Orvieto. They were five adults and a baby. Of course I already knew the apartments, but hanging out there as a tourist was my first experience. It really felt like a holiday! The views from the pool surprised me, so amazing. I loved it.

It was incredibly warm, so cooling down in the pool was almost a necessity that day. It was nice to meet other guests from Villa in Umbria around the pool. It is always pleasant to hear from guests how they spend their holidays and that they’re enjoying their time in Umbria. Also my Belgian friends were having a good time visiting many places like Assisi and Perugia, and also Cortona in Tuscany, all easy to reach from La Pergola.

In the evening we went to Castel Rigone for the local festival called “La Festa dei Barbari”, the festival of barbarians. A yearly sagra which takes place early August. Before dinner, we paid for our food and the wine was inclusive, how wonderful! Local barbarians served us free red and white wine at our table.

We drank wine as water and we ate as barbarians. We’ve tasted almost everything! After the food there was music, dance and theatre. A great experience when you’re on a holiday in Umbria.

Umbria Blog | visiting Norcia

The last time I was in Norcia was in 2015 two years ago. On a warm summer day I made some pictures of this typical village in the mountains. The Cathedral of Saint Benedict, the square, the statue and the lovely delicacy shops always had a special place in my heart. Norcia is the birthplace of Saint Benedict and is associated with traditional gastronomic products: the black truffle and the “norcinerie” (cold cuts and cheeses).

Brancaleone da Norcia

Brancaleone da Norcia

Norcia, Castelluccio di Norcia and surrounding villages are damaged by the earthquake of October 2016. A large portion of the Cathedral of Saint Benedict on the main square collapsed. Only the facade is still proudly standing, now with scaffolding keeping it straight. Many shops are closed, the inhabitants live in containers and many buildings in the town centre cannot be accessed.

Main square Norcia

Cathedral Saint Benedict

Saint Benedict of Norcia

Saint Benedict

Recently I’ve read an article in the Dutch newspaper Volkskrant titled “The green heart of Italy is longing for tourists: Umbria needs you”. This made me decide to go and see for myself what the effect of the earthquake is. It is true, this year isn’t easy for anybody in this area, but it is not dangerous to visit!

Norcia is situated about 150 km from the Trasimeno Lake where I live and from here Florence and Siena in Tuscany are closerby then Norcia. But also Norcia is in the province of Perugia, like Lake Trasimeno. And though the immediate area is certainly seriously damaged, the rest of Umbria is still normally accessible and without any damage.

On television, internet and in the newspapers you see pictures of the damages in Norcia and in Castelluccio di Norcia. But seeing it with your own eyes is rather confronting. When you walk in Norcia and you speak with the locals, it is impossible not feeling sorry and sad for what happened to this beautiful little town and its inhabitants.

As soon as I drove towards Norcia I saw the medieval walls and entrances protected with scaffolding. I parked my car outside the walls where one normally pays. I asked in a “rebuild” tabacchaio where I could find the parking meter. The answer to my question was confronting: “After the earthquake all the parking places are for free”.

Norcia is almost a ghost town. The streets are empty, many shops are closed, houses are uninhabited and many banks are closed. The police supervises the buildings and empty houses.

In a small shop at the corner of the small theater square I spoke with Antonio. Brancaleone da Norcia is a real “norcineria” where you can buy (also online) delicious ham, cold cuts, sausages and sheep cheese. Antonio is grandfather and has family living in Perugia. “After the earthquake much less tourists come to Norcia”, Antonio told me. He was in Norcia during the earthquake.

Brancaleone di Norcia

Antonio and Sylvia

norcineria in Norcia

Norcia city centre

La Locanda del Teatro is a restaurant on the same square. Antonio accompanied me to Francesco, the owner of the restaurant. “Before the earthquake it was always busy with peope, but look now”, Francesco told me. “Norcia has changed, and we suffer a lot. Hotels are closed and many people stay away”.

Together with some bars, shops and another restaurant Francesco continues his activity in Norcia. After October 30st, the day of the earthquake,  the habitants couldn’t go back into their houses, also Francesco. Last winter he slept in a caravan with his colleagues. Now they’ve found a small apartment where they live together and continue with the work in the restaurant. They want to give Norcia a future. La Locanda del Teatro is from Francesco’s family already for generations. His family has invested in this place and he doesn’t want to give up. He wants to rebuild Norcia.

It was heartbreaking hearing Francesco’s stories. He loves Norcia and his restaurant where he grew up. You taste his love and passion in his food. I’ve had a wonderful lunch, the pasta with truffle was outstanding, like the delicious ham and dessert. I’ll return here for sure.

Restaurant in Norcia

La Locanda del Teatro Restaurant in Norcia

Address of the restaurant:
La Locanda del Teatro
Piazza Vittorio Veneto 10
06046 Norcia (PG)
Umbrië, Italië
Tel: +39 (0) 743 817857