I tell ya. There are some beautiful places on this planet. Some of which look like belong to another planet. I can think of some parts in south Utah like Lake Powell, and Horseshoe Bend in Arizona that look like something you may see in science fiction movies. The common theme is usually color. And if you come at the right time to this part of Umbria you might just see every color imaginable. If you come at the wrong time as we did, its spectacular, still.
Castelluccio is where beautiful mother nature meets cruel mother nature. It is perched dramatically on a hill in the middle of a large plateau surrounded by the Sibillini mountains. On October 30, 2016 Castelluccio was the epicenter of a 6.6 earthquake that decimated the village. Eight months later the famous wild flowers that surround the village were back. And once the roads opened about a year after that, the tourists started to come back as well.
So when is the best time you ask? Sometime between end of May and beginning of July. Its something that is not possible to time properly. We came in the second week of June and the colors were not quite as robust as the pictures we’ve seen. Notice the before and after of Castelluccio (Google it). Although destroyed, its still stunning due to its position. Today you can drive up, enjoy a meal, or do what we did. A picnic of Salami e Pecorino overlooking the mesmerizing back plateau, following the herd of sheep. The feeling of being in the middle of the devastation you heard about years ago, while surrounded by this landscape is indescribable.
You will most likely pass Norcia on the way, which also got severely damaged during the earthquake. One of its main attractions, the Basilica of St. Benedict, totally destroyed. What remain is the facade facing the statue of St. Benedict, still standing, all defiant in the middle of the square. The city was a ghost town when we popped in. Many stores, and restaurants closed, or relocated after the quake.
The Norcia pork butchers are so famous, they are called Norcino across Italy, and their shops are Norcinerias. They are the Culatello of Pork butchers. Inside a typical Norcineria you’ll find cured meats galore including Grandpas balls, Palle del Nonno. The Italians call them like they see em, although Grandpas balls seem a lot larger than mules balls, Coglioni di Mulo for some reason. Be careful when slicing them.
On the way to the flower fields, pass by Antica Norcineria F.lli Ansuini for some picnic supplies including bread. Or better yet get it from the store with the same name inside Norcia. Although same name, they dont seem related somehow. Like twins that are not in speaking terms. Then stop by at Cioccolateria Vetusta Nursia di Arianna Verucci for your chocolate needs and perhaps a tour of their facility as we did. But if you prefer to sit down for lunch, reliable sources told me to head to Agriturismo il Casale degli Amici just outside Norcia. A day trip to this area in the summer is memorable to say the least.