Path of Taste: Spoleto and the Valnerina
The territory of eastern Umbria, which starts from the beautiful town of Spoleto, extends to the border with the Marche region, separated by the Apennines of Umbria a large part of which is a protected national park of Monti Sibillini. Norcia is the birthplace of Umbrian cuisine par excellence with regard to the processing of pork (the art of norcina). This part of the region is characterized then by the massive presence of green areas and pristine valleys, the Nera Valley, crossed by the clear waters of the Black River, ideal for nature lovers, walkers, and sports activities such as trekking, rafting, canyoning, climbing and paragliding.
How to get here:
Car: Superstrada E45
Car: Strada statale 209 “tre Valli Umbre”
Train: Stazione ferroviaria Foligno
PLACES TO VISIT
Spoleto, Norcia and the Valnerina
Spoleto is a city of great history and tradition characterized by the imposing Rocca Albornoz which towers above the town, and the bridge Ponte delle Torri. This Umbrian town hosts the annual “Festival dei Due Mondi”: a large and well-established international exhibition of art and entertainment. In the old town the early Christian basilica of San Salvatore and the cathedral dedicated to Santa Maria Assunta, Romanesque and baroque interior. Also significant is the testimony to the Roman era such as the Arch of Drusus, the Roman House and the Roman Theatre. There is also the interesting archaeological museum and the theater Menotti (the largest in the region). Sports and wildlife entheusasits should not miss the bike path on the stretch of the former railway track Spoleto-Norcia.
From the territory of Spoleto going to the Apennines you discover a path of nature and tradition, through charming villages where tranquility reigns. Along the route from Spoleto to Norcia is the center of the national park Monti Sibillini with fairy-tale villages immersed in the green forest, including Sant’Anatolia di Narco. This medieval village is surrounded by fourteenth century walls on which stand two towers from the 1400’s. In the village there is a thirteenth-century castle, the parish church of Santa Anatolia, the Oratorio di Santa Maria delle Grazie and just outside the village is the Abbey of Santi Felice e Mauro.
Scheggino is a small village with the churches of Santa Felicita and San Niccolò. The natural beauty of the place and the surrounding greenery highlights the colors of this quaint village.
Vallo di Nera, nestled in the green of Umbria’s Valnerina, is listed as one of the “most beautiful villages in Italy” with its ancient medieval fortress and the beautiful Piazza San Giovanni. The rest of the village is characterized by its compact housing and the typical narrow picturesque streets.
Before reaching Norcia a worthy detour is Cascia. Approximately 620 meters above sea level, this town has always been known as the land in which St. Rita of Cascia lived, making it a religious destination chosen by many of the faithful. Cascia has a long history whose signs are strongly imprinted in the territory, and richly illustrated by archaeological, epigraphic, archival documents, monuments and objects of historical and artistic value. The symbol of Cascia is the modern Sanctuary dedicated to St. Rita and the small village of Roccaporena. The nearby river Nera offers glimpses of impressive beauty and the opportunity to play sports of all kinds, from trout fishing to river rafting.
A few minutes drive from Cascia, is Norcia. Located in the eastern part of the region of Umbria, and in the heart of the national park of Monti Sibillini, Norcia is a pretty village where traditions and tranquility reign. Norcia is also the city of St. Benedict, the patron saint of Europe, but especially for the culinary art traditions of the city properly called “norcine”, which is flanked by fine dishes such as black truffle and the famous lentils of Castelluccio di Norcia. The natural context in which it is located, offers visitors the chance to find great places for hiking and walking, like the neighboring streams Sordo and Corno, where you can kayak and raft.
An unmissable visit to Castelluccio di Norcia, also called the ‘roof of Umbria’, with its 1,500 meter altitude. The old village is located just above the Great Plains, overlooking the entire valley. Today the village has few inhabitants, and only during the summer is filled with visitors. The houses overlook the vast plain (which was once a vast lake), where they grow the famous lentils, and raises cattle just below picturesque mountain ranges. The show environment is a natural museum full of attractions and perfect for those who enjoy hiking and trekking; very interesting is the winding path that climbs Monte Vettore up to the legendary Pilato lake. The typical dish of the Castelluccio lentils are cooked in several ways, one of the best to try is with the sausages of Norcia. From experience in equal measure the Farrotto saffron, fresh and aged cheeses, and other legumes found in things like zuppa di cicerchia (grass pea soup).
The most recently added DOC Umbria (2011). This wine is produced in the territory around the city of Spoleto and Foligno obtained from Trebbiano Spoletino with various types of wines on the market: Spoleto white, Trebbiano, Trebbiano superiore, Trebbiano spoletino passito and spumante.
Wineries Spoleto and the Valnerina
Wineries in this eastern area of Umbria extended to the border of the Marche region, distinguished mainly by the local gastronomy and the production area near Spoleto, where you get the excellent “Spoleto” DOC wine with producers and wineries that offer services and gastronomic experiences in an area characterized by traditional flavors and nature.
Extra Virgin Olive Oil DOP – Colli di Spoleto
An oil of excellent quality made from the most common varieties of the region, grown in the fertile Umbrian hills near the area of Spoleto.
Tartufo nero (Black Truffle) di Norcia
The black gold of Norcia and the Apennines of Umbria, a precious tuber with an intense flavor, able to enhance any dish. From pasta to second courses, and even salads and side dishes. Every year in Umbria there are events and fairs dedicated to black and white truffles. The most important are in Norcia, Pietralunga, Città di Castello, and Fabro.
Farro (Spelt) di Monteleone di Spoleto
This ancient grain is well suited to the arid and hilly land of Umbria, and is widely used in regional cuisine. Farro di Monteleone di Spoleto is the only species that produces a light tobacco colored flour instead of white. In the kitchen it is used in soups, salads, and the flour is used to prepare cakes, pies, and cookies.
Zafferano (Saffron) di Cascia
Mainly from Cascia and the territory of Gubbio and Città della Pieve, Umbrian saffron is of the highest quality and very appreciated in the kitchen for preparing dishes with strong fragrant flavors.
Formaggio percorino di Norcia
In addition to the known Ravaggiolo which is a fresh cheese, the production of cheeses has spread especially in the Apennines of Umbria. The cheese from the area of Norcia and around the western side of Umbria is made from whole sheep’s milk, and after a maturation period of about 90 days, the pecorino cheeses are left in ancient oak barrels for 4-5 months.
Lenticchia (Lentils) di Castelluccio di Norcia IGP
In addition to the prosciutto of Norcia, the eastern side of the region has another product of gastronomic excellence, Castelluccio lentils. This rich, small and tasty legume is produced in the great plains of the enchanting village of Castelluccio di Norcia (at approx. 1,500 meters above sea level) small size with a thin tender skin. Precisely because of the high altitude at which it growns, the Castelluccio lentils do not require any treatment, and this keeps all the great taste and nutritional properties intact. In the region this legume is used for soups, salads and even with fish such as salmon and anchovies.
Prosciutto di Norcia IGP
Another delicious product of Umbria, prepared and worked in the areas of Norcia, Cascia, Monteleone di Spoleto, and Preci Poggiodomo, places with an altitude of over 500 meters above sea level. Climate is one important factor in the production phases, as is the quality of the meat (only “heavy” pig specimens, adult male and female) and the method of curing. Of this great product you can appreciate the look and taste, almost spicy, but not salty.
Roveja di Cascia e Civita
A small pea-like legume that is typical of the eastern side of Umbria. Ideal for soups, or eaten plain with extra virgin olive oil. In some areas it is reduced to flour to make a special polenta (farecchiata) topped with chopped anchovies and parsley or broccoli.
PRODUCERS AND FOOD SHOPS
Local Producers of Spoleto and the Valnerina
Typical products, producers and agricultural companies on the eastern side of Umbria around Spoleto, Norcia and the Valnerina. A green territory where there are many producers of various typical Umbria products; spelt, saffron, vegetables, truffles, meat and cheeses.
- Tagliatelle alla norcina: long handmade pasta cut thick and thin, in this recipe it is served with sauce made of sausages and cream.
- Pappardelle al cinghiale o alla lepre: long handmade pasta with egg, cut broadly with a sauce made with wild boar or hare, and flavored with spices including, onion, rosemary, thyme, and juniper.
- Farrotto allo zafferano di Cascia: spelt or farro is another common and typical Umbrian product that goes well in this recipe with the rich taste of pure saffron of Cascia. In particular, the Farro di Monteleone di Spoleto is a DOP product.
- Umbrichelli al tartufo: a type of long pasta handmade pasta with only water and flour, this version is very common in the area topped with a black truffle sauce.
- Bruschetta con pane di Strettura all’olio: typical bruschetta of this area topped with extra virgin olive oil.
- Salsicce e lenticchie: Umbrian dish made from pork sausages accompanied by lentils or tomatoes.
- Pecorino di Norcia: a tasty medium aged sheep’s milk cheese.
- Caciotta al tartufo: a soft cow’s milk cheese flavored with black truffle of Norcia.
- Salumi ed insaccati vari: including the “morbido di Norcia” a soft salami with short maturation, similar to ciauscolo marchigiano.
- Prosciutto di Norcia: a tasty aged prosciutto, one of the classic Umbrian IGP.
- Trota al tartufo: this trout is very common in the Valnerina, prepared with onions and black truffle.
- Porchetta di maiale: a traditional dish of rural Umbria, pork cooked in a wood oven and flavored with fennel and black pepper.
- Lenitcchie di Castelluccio di Norcia: a very tasty IGT lentil dish.
- Roveja di Cascia – Civita: small legume like peas with a delicate taste.
- Crescionda spoletina: a typical dessert with amaretti and cocoa.
- Attorta: puff pastry filled with apples and cocoa.
RESTAURANTS AND TRATTORIAS
Restaurants Spoleto and the Valnerina
Typical trattorias, restaurants and wine bars in the area of Spoleto, Norcia and the Valnerina. In an area like this which has always been known for its food, is not hard to find good places to eat, restaurant and family-run trattorias with local products and dishes based on local specialties, such as pork, game, and black truffle. Among the dishes on the menus in this area: Pasta alla norcina, tagliatelle al tartufo nero (black truffle), farrotto allo zafferano (saffron), sausage with lentils, trota (trout) del Nera al cartoccio, Attorta Spoletina (similar to apple strudel).