All the Valnerina the Valley where the river Nera flows and the town of Norcia at the beginning of the Valley are famous in the world for the typical precious product of these lands: the black truffle also called “the black diamond” for its delicious flavor its limited production and also… for its price!
What to see
From December 24th 2014, to January 6th 2015 in many towns, villages and castles in Umbria the Nativity scenes will be represented along the streets, with a lot of citizen to represent the scenes of Jesus’ Birth.
The tradition of the Nativity scenes is very ancient in Umbria. It was performed for the first time in 1223, in the Holy night of Christmas, by a famous Umbrian Saint, Francesco d’Assisi, in the village of Greccio, with real people playing the different characters. Since that time, every year the Holy night is evoked in the Umbrian villages where the medieval buildings create the right atmosphere for this living performance. People wear the customs of the Roman centurions, shepherds, and artisans, representing their daily lives and ancient works and arts. The whole villages and little towns become the set of the Sacred scenes, enlightened by torches and bonfires, while Christmas music and carols make the scenes complete. Traditional Christmas sweets and cakes and warm drinks are offered to the visitors.
One of the main characteristics of Umbria is the integrity of its nature and landscapes and its beauty is very special because of the presence of the millenary olive trees.
Umbrian Region along with Tuscany is the best producer of “extra-virgin olive oil” exported all around the world. Its territory is covered by 27.000 hectares of olive-trees, there are 250 oil mills that produce about 90.000 quintals of oil, 8.000 of which are DOP certified. In Umbria the olive tree culture creates natural landscapes, human work, and touristic attractions.
Every year in November in Umbria there is an event called “Frantoi aperti” (Open Oil Mills); all the oil mills where olives are crushed and the oil is extracted are open to visitors so they can taste the “olio novello”, the new just pressed pure “extra virgin” olive oil with its exciting fragrance and its green-golden color. Oil producers welcome their guests with “bruschette”, toasted local bread with tomatoes or olive sauces and pure oil, local cheeses and salami, and the new wine produced on September and October. At the same time during the four or five weekends of the month the towns nearby organize a lot of events to promote the oil knowledge and the art of tasting as well as products expositions.
Are you ready? If you decided to visit Umbria during the second part of October, keep a diet for the first part of the month then go to Perugia and dive into a chocolate rushing river that overrun all the streets of the town’s center, following the sweet, tender perfume of the “Gods’food”!
Chocolate factories have old traditional presence in Perugia. Since different years the town has organized Eurochocolate for visitors to value its products and producers. Countless events happen to celebrate the sweet golden chocolate. From Courses and Labs organized by the chefs of Perugia’s University of Flavours, to sculptors moulding enormous chocolate blocks along the main street of the town, to the Section dedicated to the culture and traditions of the Countries producing cocoa, to the “Chocomarathon”, a non-competitive Marathon all around Perugia.
For ten days visitors can taste or buy all kinds of pralines, sweets, cakes, or taste a hot chocolate cup at the refined pastry shops along the streets of the town, among the beauty of ancient buildings of Perugia’s center, looking to the mountains all around, covered by red and yellow woods under the blue sky of the Umbrian Autumn.
"Up and Down on the Old Railroad" is the title of a non-competitive MTB cycling, along the route of the old railway line that linked Spoleto to Norcia until 1968. Every year on October the byke tour is organized by MBK Club Spoleto, and the old railway is run from Spoleto to Sant’Anatolia di Narco, in Valnerina.
The Spoleto-Norcia railway was an electrically powered railway, projected with very innovative concepts at the beginning of XX century. It was built on the model of Swiss railways, with five electromotives, to overtake the 900 m. of altitude of the Umbrian Appennino Mountains, that separate Spoleto from the Valnerina. The Valnerina is the River Nera Valley and it continues till Norcia. The project was made by the Swiss engineer Erwin Thomann and the works began in 1913. After some delays, due to the First World War, the railway was open only in 1926. It was 51 km along, with 19 tunnels and 24 bridges and viaducts, often realized with very hardy and innovative technologies, and run among amazing landscapes between the green mountains and the Nera River. After the diffusion of cars circulation in that area, in the 1960’s with a very shortsighted perspective the railway was dismissed without considering the attractive value it could have to develop tourism in that extraordinary and still few known area.
Now the route is used in an ecologist way, and often is run by trekking or bicycles and horses. Some of the old little stations along the route have been turned into information and hospitality points. In the villages that you can pass by along the route may have good little restaurant offering good food and wine at good prices.
For more information: www.umbriainmountainbike.it
Every year on 4th of October St.Francesco is celebrated in his town, Assisi, in the heart of Umbrian Valley. St.Francesco d’Assisi and St. Caterina di Siena are the Patrons protectors of Italy. In these last times the figure of St. Francesco has given rise to a renewed interest and has been often taken as a model, for his renounce to wealth and important position, his radical style of life, his attention and care of poor people, his sincerity in reporting corruption, especially inside the Church Institutions. Probably that is why the new Pope, who is renewing the Church and is battling against the corruption inside the institutions, has chosen for himself the name of Francesco. Recently the film-director Liliana Cavani has shot her third movie about St. Francesco’s life, exploring his relations with Middle East spirituality of his time.
St. Francesco lived very poorly with his companions who followed him in his life style, and influenced a young girl, Chiara, belonging to a noble Assisi’s family, who left all her goods and her family, to adopt the same life style, pray with her followers and take care of poor and weak people.
One of the places very much loved by Francesco is the “Porziùncola”, a small stone church built in the IV century by Palestine hermits, arrived in Central Italy from the Adriatic Sea. There he stayed and prayed, there he understood that he had to live in accordance with Christ’s Gospel and there he died also, on 3rd October, 1226. Now the Porziùncola is englobed in a larger XVII Century Church, S.Maria degli Angeli, just some km outside of Assisi, and every year is visited by a number of pilgrims.
Not long after his death the Franciscan Order called the great Italian painter Giotto to paint by frescoes the walls of the big Church dedicated to the Saint where he was buried. This frescoes cycle represents the first big example of modern art, preluding to Renaissance painting. The figures aren’t more flat and static like in byzantine paintings or mosaics, but represent contemporary people with their tridimensional bodies, living and working in that time, in that town, in a natural landscape that has replaced the golden, metaphysical backgrounds of the ancient painting. The cobalt-blue of the Church’s gothic vaults creates a mystic, spiritual atmosphere that makes the visit a unique spiritual experience.