A Visit To Norcia, A Town In Southern Umbria
The town of Norcia in southern Umbria is famous for both religious and culinary reasons. On the religious side of the equation, Norcia was the birthplace of St Benedict, founder of the Benedictine monastic order. On the culinary side, there are high quality pork products made from free range pigs that live in the surrounding countryside, prized black truffles found in local woods and thin-skinned lentils grown on the high plain known as the Piano Grande. As a consequence, sausage and truffle are the main ingredients in Norcina pasta sauce. We have a friend who comes to stay regularly and who had become obsessed with the idea of a visit to Norcia after eating Pasta alla Norcina. Finally, he got to fulfill his wish as on a sunny day in January we decided to go there for a day out.
In fact Norcia is associated with pork products to the extent that a butcher’s shop that specialise in cured pork products is often called a Norcineria. You will find plenty of these shops in the centre of Norcia, the most famous of which is Ansuini. We came across what appeared at first sight appeared to be a pig (rather than donkey and cow) themed nativity scene that had been forgotten after the Christmas celebrations, closer inspection, however, revealed it to be publicity for the Ansuini shop. Such was the skill of people from Norcia at butchery that they became surgeons and the term Norcino was applied to anyone offering their services with a knife to those in need. As, I’m sure you can imagine, in the days before anaesthetic a surgeon needed to work extremely quickly
Norcia is on the edge of the Sibillini mountain range near the epicentre of the 2016 earthquakes. The church in the centre of the town collapsed along with several other buildings, repairs are still underway. It’s position on the edge of the mountains means that Norcia has regularly suffered earthquake damage and, unlike many Italian towns, there are no tall buildings. After a wander around town we went to the only restaurant that was open in mid-January on a week-day, as luck would have it, this proved to be an excellent choice, Osteria Sienti’n Può.