Umbria is the green heart of Italy. Discover with me Spello, Norcia and Castelluccio.
Umbria, easy to reach from Rome or Florence even for a one-day trip or a weekend, is the region of medieval hamlets, gorgeous vineyards and sweet hills.
Despite of its unquestionable beauty, it managed to keep its feature of not so crowded and original holiday location.
Among the must-sees, there are three hamlets: Spello, Norcia and Castelluccio di Norcia.
Spello is an adorable medieval village to discover, official listed among the “most beautiful hamlets in Italy”.
Located on a hillside, it kept most of its original look, surrounded by the ruins of ancient roman walls and other, more recent, built to realise the “Fortress” during the Pope reign.
In addition to its charming beauty and flare and its roman and medieval monuments, Spello has also several important art pieces, such as a cycle of frescos from Pinturicchio in the Santa Maria Maggiore Church.
As all the Italian hamlets, the pleasure is to discover them simply taking a walk through their streets.
This doesn’t mean, though, that having a planned itinerary can be very helpful.
You can access Spello through one of the 5 doors of the walls:
1. Porta Consolare;
2. Porta Venere;
3. Porta Urbica;
4. Porta Romana;
5. Porta San Sisto.
Starting from Porta Consolare, the main entrance during the Roman age, you will be in the so-called Terziere Porta Chiusa, one of the three areas in which Spello is divided from the Middle Age.
The other two are Terziere Mezota and Terziere Posterula.
Walking through its tight streets and the balconies full of flowers, you will admire the peculiar houses-towers, built in pink calcareous stone from the Subasio Mountain.
One of the most important religious buildings in town is the church of Santa Maria Maggiore, from the XI century, located just after the border between Porta Chiusa and the Terziere Mezota.
This church has an artistic value as it contains several paintings, such as the frescos from Pinturicchio in the Baglioni Chapel.
In the side chapels there are also two frescos from Perugino.
In the surroundings, it is possible to visit the Saint Andrea Church, with its enchanting Romanesque style portal and the major altar apse holding some frescos from the Umbria school and a painting from Pinturicchio.
In Piazza della Repubblica (Republic Square) you will admire many interesting buildings, one among them the Town Hall, which is now hosting the Archaeological Museum.
Inside, it holds splinters from the Roman Theatre and other historical masterpieces, such us the Rescript from the emperor Constantin: a document giving permission to celebrate the yearly gladiator ludos of the Umbria population league, the traditional games, in Spello, in exchange for the city to consecrate itself to the devotion of the "Gens Flavia".
Next to the Augusto Arch road, in the Terziere Pusterola, remains from the Roman door are still visible.
Reaching the Roman Arch, also known as Porta dell’Arce or Porta dei Cappuccini, you will arrive in the upside, called “the Citadel”, once a medieval fortress of which some towers still exist.
The area is now the location of the Cappuccini Monastery, and it has a breath-taking view.
Following the stronghold walls, you will reach the majestic Venus Door (Porta di Venere), between two huge towers with a strong visual impact.
From here, it is possible to reach the ruins of the Roman amphitheatre and another door, Porta Urbica.
Nearby, you will find the interesting San Claudio church, an example of Romanesque architecture built on an ancient temple dedicated to Saturn.
Spello is especially famous for its Infiorate: the tradition of realising pieces of art with flowers.
It all started on a Sunday in 1990, when an old lady from Spello spread, in the street in front of her place, yellow wild brooms and wild fennel, picked on the Subasio Mountain.
It was a flower carpet, made up to receive the host representing Christ’s body.
In the next few years after this first simple floral tribute, other people living in Spello started making floral decorations for the streets, during the celebration of the Corpus Domini, sixty days after Easter.
This is how the Infiorate tradition started, and nowadays it is attracting many curious tourists and has given Spello the name of “the Flowers Hamlet”.
Just a few steps away from Spello, you will find Pekko Country House, an eco-friendly bed&breakfast with a gorgeous view on Subasio Mountain.
The owners, Tiziana and Paolo, are willing to make you explore the hamlet and its environs, such as Collepino, Assisi, Spoleto, Norcia and Bevagna.
The village is surrounded by farms and restaurants to taste some of the typical dishes such as fried eggs with truffle, fried boar meat and Colfiorito red potatoes.
The perfect conclusion to your visit!
After Spello, you could visit Norcia, the city which was severely affected by the earthquake in October 2016 and which, with strength and determination, is on the way for its touristic rebirth.
Norcia is a typical medieval town, surrounded by defensive walls and crossed by suggestive tight, curvy alleys reaching San Benedetto square, the heart of the historical centre.
In the centre there is the statue of the saint protector and, around it, the monuments symbols of the city: San Benedetto Cathedral – unfortunately, after the earthquake, only the façade is left – the town Hall from 400, the Castellina and Santa Maria Argentea Cathedral, also with a broken outline due to the seism.
At the moment, none of those materpieces can be seen from the inside, but the square itself has a special charme, as here the city wounds are visible but a few steps away there is the main street, Corso Sertorio, in which shops and businesses are being brought back to life.
Norcia is a maze of halleys to discover, of stories to listen to and tastes to try.
You will find restaurants, food shops and norcinerie, the typical pork butcheries to try local products such as truffle or norcino salami, the traditional cold cut of the area.
Keep in mind that tourism largely contributes to Norcia re-birth, so after visiting and loving it, purchase local products to enjoy home or offer as gifts.
You will personally contribute to the new start of the city!
From Norcia, you could reach Castelluccio di Norcia, a small section of the historical centre, sadly devasted by the earthquake, and Castelluccio upland (“I piani di Castelluccio”).
Most of it is still a red area, closed to tourists.
It will be possible, though, to reach the main square from where to admire the show of Pian Grande, Pian Piccolo, Pian Perduto (literally the big, the small and the lost upland) – and their blooming in June and July – and the Vettore Mount.
Despite of the difficulties, some enterprises managed to start over, so you will find spots to eat and enjoy the local delights.
Piani di Castelluccio is an upland located on the Umbria side of Sibillini Mounts, at the feet of Vettore Mount.
These are three:
1. Pian Grande (The Big Upland, Perugia province);
2. Pian Piccolo (The Small Upland, Perugia province);
3. Pian Perduto (The Lost Upland, Macerata province).
The lentils and other flowers blooming, from the end of May to the beginning of July, are a unique sight.
There is no specific date to catch this magic, as it is a sequence of different bloomings from different kind of flowers, in separated moments.
After the seism, many streets have been closed as inaccessible, but the last updates tell us that, starting from the 28 of May 2018 and indefinitely, in order to make possible to see the blooming, the road will be open every day from 5.30am to 9.30pm non-stop.
What are you waiting to start your Umbria discovery?