Last lost Paradise

Castelluccio and Piano Grande with flowers blossoming in late May

Umbria Unknown and Uncontaminated

Paradise de la Reine Sibylle

The French writer, Antoine De La Salle, wrote magnificently about one of the last unspoiled corners in Italy. I’m referring to the National Park of Monti Sibillini, 180,000 acres of uncontaminated land on the Apennine mountain range between Umbria and the Marche regions.

The land is divided into Piano Grande (Big Plain) Piano Piccolo (Small Plain), Piano Perduto (Lost Plain), and Castelluccio di Norcia(150 inhabitants), the one and only small center in a radius of 25 kilometers surrounded by a beautiful mountains and nature. Click here to see pictures.

In late Spring, when the last snow has melted, the green pastures begin to change colors, yellow first, then red with millions of poppies, and blue, white, violet, a giant palette of beautiful colors under a clear and sunny sky. A true Paradise for hikers, bikers and just visitors in search of a tranquil place to spend a few days to recharge while enjoying nature and great cuisine far from the hectic crowded cities.

The cuisine is something really extraordinary. The area is famous for the production of lentils, those harvested on the Piano Piccolo are thought to be the best in the world, small tasty and flavorful, true delicacies especially when prepared with the local cured meats.

The cured meats of this area are indeed out of this world. The air and the temperatures in this area are ideal for the production of Prosciutto, Salami, Sausages, Pancetta and more. I’m sure that travelers to Italy have seen in Rome or Florence or in other places in Central Italy, shops with signs reading “NORCINERIA.” This sign indicates products from Norcia, the virtual capital of the Sibillini National Park.

Not to be missed is Pecorino di Norcia, a cheese made with sheep milk, excellent both fresh or aged, delicious grated on Pasta alla Norcina. This area is also famous for its Black Truffles, superb on pasta in any season. Remember to look for Porcini mushrooms to bring back home or to enjoy at Norcia’s many restaurants, a true delicacy here.

There is more than gastronomy in this pristine area of Italy. The park area comprises several small quaint villages in addition to Norcia and Castelluccio. Consider visiting Visso, Castel Sant’Angelo,
Amandola, Bolognola and Ussita as well.

Before I forget, I don’t want to miss a chocolate shop on the main street in Norcia that makes a unique and delicate chocolate.

For hikers <> I would suggest some mythological places like the Sybille cavern, Pilatus Lake and Mad Hell Throat. These are among the most spectacular hikes you can imagine. A detailed hiking map is available and easy to find in bookstores in Italy. Or if you need one in the USA feel free to give us a call.

The best time to visit and enjoy the flowers is between the end of May the end of June. The timing is tricky because it depends on how cold the winter was and when the last snow melted. The area is busy in the summer months with Italians, mainly former inhabitants, who return with their families to spend two or three weeks of vacation. The air is always clean, the temperatures are warm in the day and pleasantly cool in the evening and nights. A car is necessary to reach the various hiking starting points. I’m not aware of any transportation available in the park.

Norcia, Visso, Bolognola are the gateways to the park; there is limited public transportation available from Rome, but if you do not have a car you can take the train Trenitalia to Spoleto and then a bus to Norcia.
I could not find a website for the bus schedule. best suggestion is to call the Ufficio Promozine Turistica in Spoleto Tel. 39-0743-238920.

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