Norcia: the heart, tradition and taste of Umbria
Norcia was founded by the Sabines, set against the Sibylline Mountains. According to historians the area was inhabited right from the Neolithic age but the first records of continuous settlement date back to the 8th century BC. It really developed at the end of the 5th century BC and its name came from the Etruscan name “Norsia” (the name of the Etruscan goddess of fortune).
Another theory instead maintains that the name originates from Urso, the name of the ancient builder of the town.
Ancient Nursia, as it was also known in Latin, was celebrated in the works of Livy, Plutarch and Virgil. In the Aeneid Virgil mentioned the commander of the Norcian troops, Ufens, alongside Turnus, in the fight against Aeneas. It went on record for the first time in 205 BC, when it offered Scipio, in the alliance with Rome, some volunteers, together with the towns of Rieti and Amiternum, during the 2nd Punic War. In the 2nd century BC Norcia was raised to the rank of Prefecture and then to that of Roman Municipality in the fourth region of the Sabine period.
Norcia was the birthplace of St. Benedict, the patron saint of Europe and the patriarch of Western monasticism.
His Rule, which encapsulates the Eastern Orthodox monastic tradition, shrewdly and discreetly adapting it to the Latin world, opened up a new way for European civilization after the decline of Roman civilization.
Following in St. Benedict’s footsteps, centers for prayer, human enhancement and hospitality for the poor and pilgrims were set up in mainland and island Europe. Two centuries after his death there were to be more than a thousand monasteries guided by his rule. Pope Paul VI proclaimed him patron saint of Europe on 24 October 1964.
Beside the beauties of nature and associated itineraries, Norcia is also a gastronomical paradise with a wholesome cuisine featuring a wealth of characteristic local products: Castelluccio lentils, spelt, the prized black truffle (tuber melanosporum) – the real king of traditional Norcia recipes – cheeses of all types like pecorino and caciotta, but above all “norcineria”, the noble and ancient art of processing pig meat, which dates back to the 13th century and has made the Umbrian city famous throughout the world. In the city’s streets you will be surrounded by the aromas of the typical local products.