After a very busy three days in Rome, we rented a car and hit the road for Norcia which is located in the Umbria region.  The mountainous landscape of Umbria was a surprise for me.  I was expecting the rolling hills of Tuscany.  However, Norcia is actually a medieval town tucked in the mountains on the edge of the National Park of the Sibillini mountains.  Norcia is the birthplace of St. Benedict whose statue is in the central piazza.  The monks renovated the Basilica of St. Benedict in this central piazza in the year 2000 and lived there until earthquakes destroyed the Basilica and much of the town in 2016.  The face of the building remains standing with the rubble from the rest of the building still piled behind it.  These monks are truly fascinating.  They sing for the community daily and even have produced a top-selling album of their music.  In addition, they own and operate a brewery.  Birra Nursia is delicious.  Read about this fascinating community of monks  It is well worth your time.

We were so fortunate to visit Norcia on the day of their spring festival.  Mass was held in the central piazza, and we listened to the beautiful voices of the monks singing.  There were medieval costumes and music, games and a walk through town with all the townspeople.  In the afternoon, we took a long walk along a bubbling creek admiring the surrounding snow-topped mountains.

There are so many reasons to visit Norcia:

—The best truffles and truffle hunting in Italy;

—It is the home of prosciutto.  I can live on a diet of prosciutto, so I was definitely in my happy place.

—It is an epicurean dream, and foodies from around the world make a pilgrimage to this beautiful village just to experience the food.

—Active travelers to Italy love the many options to experience the outdoor beauty.  There is wonderful hiking during the summer and winter, white water rafting, hang gliding for the bravest of visitors and many more activities.  We took a long hike during our stay and were just in awe of the beauty.

Norcia really is a secret gem in Italy.  More visitors need to add it to their itinerary, not only to experience all it has to offer, but also to support the people and monks of Norcia who are intent with their hard work and limitless positive attitude to rebuild and recover from the devastating earthquakes of 2016.

Palazzo Seneca.  This 5-star hotel with Vespacia, a Michelin star restaurant, is located right in the heart of Norcia, steps from the central piazza.  My family absolutely adored our stay at Palazzo Seneca.  The Bianconi family has mastered the art of creating an environment where guests truly feel they are guests in a warm, inviting home, not just a hotel.  

The breakfast buffet was so wonderful where our orange juice was juiced when ordered, the prosciutto and cheeses were plentiful and ready to be sliced and the service was always welcoming.

The opportunity to eat at Vespasia was a real treat.  Each course was creative, beautiful and delicious.  Our kids also enjoyed the treat of trying new foods.  The chef was also kind enough to offer french fries to our 8 year old.  What a treat to enjoy a Michelin star meal without the stuffy attitude that is often present.  It was a really enjoyable experience.

Palazzo Seneca feels like a medieval manor with a fabulous spa in the basement.  The rooms are filled with antiques collected through the years by the Bianconi family.  The bathrooms are very large.  We had a terrace off our room with an absolutely gorgeous view of the mountains!  This hotel was our kids' favorite during our trip where they were comfortable exploring the property and enjoying time in the living room playing chess.  They also loved being able to step out the front door and explore the village of Norcia and get some pizza and gelato on their own.  The entire experience was a welcome respite for us all after the bustling environment of Rome.

Here are a few pictures of our time in Norcia!  Please contact me at or 314-780-8845 with any questions about this wonderful city.

Julie Jones