After the thigh-challenging hill towns of western and northern Umbria, the flatter, less elevated prospects of Norcia can come as a relief, but it is the town itself which needs relief these days. Devastated by the October 2016, magnitude 6.6 earthquake – the largest in Italy since the 1980 Irpinia shake – Norcia lost its precious medieval Basilica di San Benedetto (only the facade survived) and numerous buildings around town. Down but not out, however, things were looking up at the time of research as Norcia – and the surrounding Valnerina river valley – was slowly coming back to life.
Lured by its tartufo nero (black truffle) and slew of gourmet delights, foodies have begun returning to Norcia, keen to take in the crisp mountain air and picture-book medieval views between bites of prosciutto di Norcia IGP (dry-cured ham) and salame di cinghiale (spicy wild-boar sausage). The town's spiritual claim to fame as the birthplace of St Benedict is another reason for lingering here.