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Umbria: the village of Norcia among black truffles, lentils and ham.

Wednesday 18 april 2018

The artistic treasures of the Umbrian village, its history and its gastronomic treasures, from the black truffle, to the lentil of Castelluccio to the ham.

Umbria: the village of Norcia among black truffles, lentils and ham.

It is where the gentle landscapes of Valnerina meet with those of the mountains of the Sibillini Mountains that rises the village of Norcia.

Village of art dramatically wounded by the earthquake, Norcia has its roots in the fifth century BC, when the lands of the Sabines was the northernmost outpost. Conquered then by the Romans at the beginning of the III century BC, in the first century AD becomes the Roman "Nursia Valeria", while in 250 it houses the bishop folignate San Feliciano, which converts it to Christianity making it become an important diocese since the IV century.

Plundered and devastated by the Goths before and by the Lombards, then, in 572 it passed under the rule of the Longobard Duchy of Spoleto, a period in which Norcia saw the birth of its most illustrious citizen, that Saint Benedict who is the founder of Western monasticism.

Then again attacks by the Saracens, to whom a period of depopulation and decadence occurs, while in the Middle Ages it was a Guelph city subordinated to papal domination, then forming a free commune at the beginning of the 12th century and giving way to a flourishing era in the following centuries, they saw it become a main center of the area. In the seventeenth century it is a lively artistic and cultural center that sees convents, monasteries and churches spread in the city and a theater and a literary academy are born.

History marked by raids, looting, rebirth and flourishing periods but also by catastrophic earthquakes, which in many periods have tragically wounded the soul and deeply marked the history.

The history that reigns within the walls of the thirteenth century, with a unique heart shape, with the eight ancient doors and medieval towers. The main square is that of San Benedetto, which also gives its name to the basilica, which tradition says was built on the remains of the birthplace of the saint.

Among the most prestigious public buildings is the fourteenth-century Palazzo Comunale, while not to be missed are the Civic and Diocesan Museum of Castellina, located in Piazza San Benedetto, where precious works of art from local churches and archaeological finds are kept. of the VII-VI century BC and the Criptoportico di Porta Ascolana, where are preserved jewelry, vases, epigraphs, stones and objects belonging to the Sabine civilization.

Norcia, however, is also good food and extraordinary flavors, an authentic gastronomic paradise, where there are typical products of excellence. From the precious black truffle to Castelluccio lentil with ham.

Norcia black truffle with a rounded shape but also lumpy, and the size that often comes close to those of a large apple, which is collected throughout the winter under hazels, hornbeams and oaks, the protagonist of the local table in several recipes including Fettuccine with Norcia black truffle, veal escalope with black truffle and gnocchi always prepared with the precious tuber.

Very ancient is the story of another of the treasures of local gastronomy, the lentil of Castelluccio, a picturesque fraction of Norcia. Cultivated on the karst planes of the area, within the Sibillini Mountains National Park, it has remarkable nutritional qualities. From the particularly thin and tender skin, it can be cooked without being previously soaked. Typical local recipes include lentil, potato and rice soup, soup with lentils and anchovies and lentils with sausages or cotechino.

Then the ham. The most widespread raw seasoned product of the region, Norcia PGI ham can be produced, as well as in Norcia, also in Spoleto, Monteleone, Cascia, Preci and Poggiodomo.

The pork thighs are trimmed, salted, left to rest for a week, massaged, salted again and left to rest for two weeks and more, then again deprived of salt, brushed and again massaged. Then proceed with the washing with warm water, the drying and the sugnatura which consists in covering the exposed part of the muscle with the suet, that is the minced pork fat and seasoned with salt and pepper.

It then proceeds with seasoning, which takes place in rooms specially equipped to allow adequate air exchange, and a proper exposure to light and moisture. The maturing period can not be less than twelve months. Then all that remains is the branding.

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