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Norcia: St. Benedict and Fresh Air

A town of eastern Umbria: 42°47.8N, 13°05.6E. Altitude: 604 m. Population in 2003: 4900

[image ALT: A large irregularly square piazza with a very open feeling to it. A 2‑story Renaissance building with arcades on the left, a Gothic church on the right. Each has a tall square towers with arched openings. It is the Piazza S. Benedetto in Norcia.]

The Piazza S. Benedetto:
the Town Hall on the left and the church of S. Benedetto.

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		Norcia is small and remote, not very much more than a village, in a sparsely populated mountain area of central Italy.

It is also wonderful, probably my favorite town among all the beautiful places in Umbria: over a dozen Roman inscriptions lying around on street corners (if you have a sharp eye), bits of a Roman basilica, several particularly interesting and attractive medieval churches, a nice little museum and a complete circuit of medieval walls.

If all that dusty antiquarianism leaves you cold, well, enjoy the fresh mountain air, the wide streets of a very livable town and did I mention that Norcia is famous thruout Italy as a place to eat?

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In A.D. 480, St. Benedict and St. Scholastica, brother and sister, were born here. The church of S. Benedetto is said to have been built on their house: our less romantic age attributes the Roman masonry in the crypt to a 1c basilica instead.

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I found another church somewhat stranger, though the guidebooks make no fuss about it. I will probably always think of S. Agostino as the church of the Holy Underwear: a very curious collection of frescoes indeed.

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[ 1 page, 7 photos ]

The guidebooks do comment on that peculiar edifice now known as the Edicola, the decoration of which forms an unusually complete iconographic textbook of the Passion.

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The Roman inscriptions appear in some very odd places as well; my visits to Norcia have been something like scavenger hunts. . .

Since this formal site is still very much under construction, for good photos and an idea of Norcia and its atmosphere and food, you should see my diary: 13 Oct 97 • 31 Oct 98 • 11 Jul 00 • 13 Jul 00; and for the immediate area: 1 Sep 00 • 21 Sep 00. For a formal if brief summary of the town's history and monuments, see the article Norcia of the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica; or, better yet, the sites in the navigation bar at the foot of this page.


Sitting as it does in the middle of a remote area of rather high mountains, Norcia is one of the larger comuni in Umbria, carrying with it from the Middle Ages into modern times a long list of subject towns and hamlets, almost all of which are very small, a few hundred inhabitants if that. As elsewhere in Italy, those that have a certain administrative identity of their own are frazioni of the comune (singular: frazione, literally a "fraction"): a complete list of them follows.

In the summer of 2000, I got a little bee in my bonnet and made a sub-hobby of a small area straddling the comuni of Norcia and Cascia (with my friend Franco Spellani of the Pro Trevi historical association without whose car and driving skills the whole business would have been nearly impossible), so that this site has, or will have, an unexpected amount of information on a few of these frazioni, including a collection of photographs. For now, links are usually to my diary, which may also contain further links — as usual on my site, don't forget to check the navigation bar at the bottom of the page — but eventually more formal pages ought to be forthcoming.

Agriano • Aliena • Ancarano • Biselli • Campi • Casali di Serravalle • Castelluccio • Cortigno • Forsivo • Frascaro • Legogne • Nottoria • Occricchio • Ospedaletto • Pescia • Piè di Colle • Piediripa • Popoli • S. Marco • S. Pellegrino • Sant' Andrea • Savelli • Serravalle • Valcaldara

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Page updated: 27 Apr 20