It is safe to say that Norcia, as well as many other towns in Umbria and in Central Italy, has been touched but not transformed by development and industrialization. Visitors who reach it will find a peaceful and antique atmosphere while wandering around the alleys and visiting the many lovely churches. Although these traits might resemble other nearby towns, there are, at least, two aspects which make this quiet location proud and relevant: Norcia’s (religious) history and its traditional gastronomy, especially its cured meats.
Norcia’s history begins in the fifth century B.C. when the Sabines settled here developing a “modern” society. It then became an ally of the Roman Empire during the Second Punic War after the Romans troops conquered at the start of the third century B.C. After the fall of the Empire Norcia was sacked several times and then definitely conquered by the Lombards and put under the control of the Duchy of Spoleto. During the XII century the city gained a sort of autonomy from the Papal State, succeeding in increasing its political and economical strength until a catastrophic earthquake (one of many in Norcia’s history) thwarted its ambitions. One of the reasons why the city achieved a certain level of prestige was its close relationship with the important Benedictine order; its founder (Benedetto), in fact, was from here and here is where the order developed and where its followers came to live by his philosophy, “ora et labora”, pray and work.
What, nowadays, puts Norcia on the map is its production of unique cured meats. This skill was surly developed throughout time; its inhabitants were known for their ability to use and process pork meat even in ancient times and, when they were forced to migrate because of economic reasons, exported proudly these knowledges. Once in Norcia, shopping in some Norcinerie is certainly a must. The most-known product is “Prosciutto di Norcia”, a two-year-aged ham that has little do with other famous Italian hams, like Parma’s, because of its stronger, saltier taste. Prosciutto, though, is not the only treat Norcia’s gastronomy has to offer so my advice is to pack up and go taste for yourself!
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