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Report 450: Saints and Flowers, Ham and Cheese: Seven Days in Norcia, Umbria

By Jeannew from PA, Spring 2003

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Page 3 of 8: Around Town and Shopping

Around town:

Norcia is a pleasant town for strolling and exploring with several churches and small museums. Some neighborhoods were originally winter quarters for shepherds and their flocks. Regulations forbid buildings over a certain height because of earthquakes, and this gives a sense of openness to the town.

There are several pleasant piazzas, but the center of everything is Piazza San Benedetto. In the cool of the evening adults come out to stroll and chat while children race about on tiny bicycles. A lofty statue of St. Benedict himself stands in the middle of the piazza overseeing the activity. His 13th c. Basilica is to one side. In the basement of the Basilica are the ruins of a Roman house where St. Benedict and his twin sister, Santa Scholastica were born in 480. St. Benedict is said to be the founder of western monasticism. A wonderful fresco cycle of his life can be seen in Tuscany at Monte Oliveto Maggiore south of Siena.

Shopping:

Norcia has more than just the ubiquitous specialty food stores for our shopping pleasure. Several clothing stores offer goods from punk gear to upscale “Mom” clothes. We also noted linen and gift shops, one featuring local copperware. Two stores cater to outdoor enthusiasts. Both sell detailed local maps. Geosta, via Foscolo, 10 features many books about the area, mostly in Italian. We purchased a nicely illustrated hiking guide to the Sibillini Park that came with a supplemental booklet containing the English translation. Here, a kindly clerk helped us purchase an inexpensive day pack (€10) to replace one stolen from our car in Cortona. The Geosta web site has some interesting links about the town and region.

We enjoyed shopping at Interiors which is on the left as you walk from the Porta Romana to Piazza San Benedetto. The store is chock full of a wide array of beautiful items for the home from table lamps to knives. The really exquisite goods are priced accordingly. However, the owner was very nice to my husband when he was hesitating about purchasing an espresso pot. “You can get one without the wood handle for less money” she told him, and went down to the basement to fetch one. Before we left Norcia we made it a point to return and purchase small gifts to take home from a nice selection of playful plastic kitchen items by Alessi.

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