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

Umbria Blog | photo exhibition Si Billino!

As most of you know the earthquake on October 30, 2016 caused a lot of damages in Norcia and many surrounding villages in the Sibillini mountains. One of these is Castelluccio di Norcia, a small mountain village at an altitude of 1400m at the foot of the Vettore mountain. At this moment Castelluccio cannot be reached anymore, one hopes to restore the infrastructure before summer.

Many people from this area are now living in temporary shelters, tents, hotels at the Adriatic coast and accommodations along the Trasimeno Lake in Umbria. The Prime Minister has promised that all homes will be restored. But how long will that take?

There is an enormous sense of solidarity among Italians who over the centuries have learned to live with earthquakes. The Italian government has promised millions to rebuild the affected areas.

One of the many initiatives to support the people of the Sibillini area was started by Umbria Lab and is called Si Billino!. Umbria Lab is a cultural association founded by Marco Angeletti and fellow artists and entrepreneurs. They organize initiatives to promote the Umbria region, but they also join events for fund raising. At this moment they raise money for the earthquake victims in collaboration with Ri-Fiorita.

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Si Billino! is a photo exhibition about Castelluccio di Norcia and the Sibillini Mountains. All pictures are taken by Italian photographers and show the wonderful nature of the Sibillini mountains, Castelluccio di Norcia, the Piano Grande and the Pilato Lake, all are impressive landscapes. The photos can be seen until February 3 in the cultural center of Terni, CAOS. Thereafter, the exhibition will be moved to Foligno.

We visited the exhibition in Terni where we also purchased lottery tickets for the project where Si Billino! and Ri-Fiorita stand for: the construction of a clubhouse in San Pellegrino di Norcia where residents can meet and organize all kinds of initiatives for the local population. San Pellegrino di Norcia is a small village 4 km from Norcia.

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Ri-Fiorita is a cooperative set up by Umbria Lab together with four other associations whilst Si Billino! is a project invented by Umbria Lab. “Fiorita” means literally “blooming” referring to the impressive flower fields of Castelluccio di Norcia in the months of June-July. Ri-fiorita means “re-blooming”: the cooperative stimulates all kinds of initiatives to support the communities in the area most hit by the earthquake.

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Si Billino! is a wonderful exhibition, and an honorable initiative at the same time.

Visit the website Sensazioni d’Arte for more information about this project Si Billino! (In Italian).