I am always amazed by Italy. Yes, I know I am biased as I was born in Rome and spent most of my childhood summers romping through the Imperial Forums, getting gelato right across the street from the coliseum or walking the many glorious bridges that cross the Tiber River. Each summer I would try to see something new and just a few weeks ago was able to visit a splendid little town called Norcia, province of Perugia, located in South East Umbria.
The drive from Rome is just under three hours. The first half of which is pretty much straight driving, the second half, winding curves in and out of mountains till this gem of a town located on a flat plain surrounded by cascading, rich green mountains. For the faint of stomach, plan ahead…I had to make multiple stops due to my nephew feeling queasy.
Norcia dates back to the Neolithic age with the first signs of ancient Rome sprouting in the 1st century. First settled by the Sabines and later attacked by the Lombards, Norcia was unprepared and took some lumps during the Saracean attacks of the 9th century, plunging the town into rapid decline until the 11th century. In the 12th century Norcia becomes part of the Papal Territories and begins to flourish.
Norcia is one of the few towns left with the original surrounding walls still intact. Throughout Italian history, towns were built and enclosed within towering walls to ward off would be attackers and to grant the vantage point of seeing your enemies from a high point, allowing for the towns people to prepare for an attack. In fact this small town, which can be seen in less than 30 minutes walking, consists of only a Benedictine Monastery, a fortress called the Castellina built in the 16th century to house the Papal governors, scattered Gothic and Renaissance churches, and of course the main Piazza San Benedetto, the main piazza of the town adorned with small tourist stores and delicacy shops.
The immediate land outside the walls consists of stone houses clustered together. These beautiful houses overlooking the greenest mountains I’ve ever seen are rented for as little as $500 a month in high season. The one my family rented for the above mentioned price consists of three floors, three bedrooms and breathtaking views. It reminded me of Alice in Wonderland for the sole reason that something so simply beautiful and harmonic is hard to believe with your own eyes. I felt I should pinch myself to be sure that I didn’t fall down a magic rabbit hole. The air is light and a constant breeze offers refuge from the blaring sun. To me, the silence was almost eerie. I could hear my thoughts, the crickets and my least favorite, the roosters clucking in the morning.
Eleonora Nord received her BA in Creative Writing and Graduate Certificate in Publishing and Editing Arts from Antioch University in Los Angeles. She speaks four languages and is a Cambridge Certified English Teacher. Eleonora Co-Edited an E-Book called The Commercial Audition: A Working Actor’s Guide by David Andrew Dalton and has freelanced for numerous websites and the magazine CelebLife.