NARNI / NORCIA
This small town in southern Umbria can truly be called the heart of Italy as it is the closest town to the geographic center of Italy. Originally called Nequinium, the town was renamed Narni after the nearby river when it was occupied by the Romans in the 2nd century BC. Although this town is not considered a tourist destination, it does have a number of interesting attractions, particularly the town’s underground tour.
On the top of Narni one will see the Rocca, an immense fortress built in the 1370′s by Gattapone. Although it was abandoned for many years, the fortress has now been restored and has wonderful views of the surrounding countryside from it’s grounds. The Rocca was commissioned by Cardinal Albornoz who is said to have had a large role in converting Narni from a free commune into a papal-controlled state.
Norcia sits at the foot of Monti Sibillini and has been a trading city and staging post for centuries. It is famous for being both the birthplace of St. Benedict, founder of Christianity’s first monastic order, as well as being one of Italy’s great culinary capitals. Today, Norcia is best known for its local produce, in particular black truffles and top quality meat, sausages, and salami. The city is just a 90 minute drive from Perugia and is well worth a day trip for those interested in traditional Umbrian cuisine. The word “norcino” from the town’s name is now synonymous with superior meat products.