We travel because we want to discover new places and experience other cultures. The combined travel experience of those of us at The International Kitchen is immeasurable. From big cities, to small towns, we’ve been across continents, as we’ve met locals, visited local points of interest, and, of course, dined on some of the best regional cuisine there is in the world. (We’ll be recounting many of our favorite memories this week on our blog and on social media, so stay tuned!)
If you ask any of us in our Chicago office, we’ll all say we have different favorite spots, both for cooking vacations and otherwise. In terms of big cities, Peg and Cory have a love of Rome (Peg did live for a time in this historic, ancient city). Karen says that Paris and Venice tie in her book, as both are magical. Paris, actually, is a big favorite for many in our small office, if only for all its history, food, and beautiful architecture, just to name a few reasons.
But when asked about smaller towns, everyone has a different favorite… except when it comes to Norcia, Umbria. For those of us that have visited this walled town, it ranks as one of the best places to visit in all of Italy. Why? What is it about this small town set in the hills of Monti Sibillini Park? Is it the sausages, lentils, and truffles, for which the town is so famously known?
Is it the Benedictine monks with their Gregorian chants in the town’s main cathedral? Is it the hospitality of those in the town, especially the Bianconi family, who run a few restaurants and hotels? Or is it the stunning, surrounding countryside, where truffle hunters and their dogs roam to find the coveted black truffle? All of those things are reasons to love this small town, but it’s also about so much more.
Norcia could be considered a quiet town, with few cars and little nightlife. Even so, it’s still full of life. When I visited for 4 nights as a part of my honeymoon culinary vacation, the town was holding a medieval festival, complete with flags, parade, music, and a crossbow competition. During other times of the year, the town hosts other quintessential Italian festivals, such as one all about the black truffle, naturally. Ancient traditions clearly abound in this charming town.
Part of our love for this piece of Umbria is our cooking vacation, A Food Lover’s Paradise in Norcia. It’s the perfect gateway to discovering the traditions and foods of the region. Richard, our Group & Incentive Travel Specialist, couldn’t agree more. As he says, “I was totally bowled over by Norcia. Initially I loved the look of the medieval walled city on a plateau in the Monti Sibillini mountains. Then I checked in at the Relais & Chateaux property – Palazzo Seneca – which is in a 16th century Umbrian palace with huge fireplaces, and many nooks & crannies to settle into to read, enjoy the fire or just relax. The hotel’s Ristorante Vespasia is an amazing dining experience. Amazing food and yet totally comfortable & cozy. Driving higher up in the mountains to visit the pig farm (as we do in our program in Norcia) offers stunning views of the walled city. Actually seeing the pigs respond to the farmer’s whistle (not unlike whistling for a dog) was another highlight. Tying the whole experience together are the amazing people who make you feel like part of the family and are completely welcoming.”
So if you’re looking for a special trip, look no further than Norcia, Umbria. We’ll also continue to share more of our favorite travel memories in our blog and social media, which we hope will inspire your travel in the new year!
What is your favorite small town in Europe? Share your favorite small town memories below!
By Liz Hall
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