Italy Cooking Vacations: Cooking and Hiking in the Umbrian Hills
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Cooking and Hiking in the Umbrian Hills
Norcia, Umbria

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About the location: The Umbrian countryside is unlike any other landscape in Italy. The gentle green Sibillini Mountains rise above wildflower meadows that stretch as far as the eye can see. Birds, including cuckoos and skylarks, serenade as visitors to the Sibillini National Park pass lakes and ancient villages. Flowers cover the mountainside and paths. This beautiful atmosphere will captivate as you explore the valleys, ancient woods, and ruins of abandoned castles on this exclusive hiking and cooking tour of Umbria.

Your accommodations for the week are located in an Umbrian palace, the lovely Palazzo Seneca in Norcia. The hotel dates back to the 16th century and has been recently restored by the Bianconi family to offer elegant rooms and amenities. The skilled restoration, with a particular attention to detail and history, along with the work of the best Umbrian craftsman, have made this palace a unique and worthwhile destination.

About the cooking classes: Norcia is a town known for its sausages, lentils, cheese, and truffles. Using seasonal and local ingredients from farms in the National Park of Sibillini, discover the secrets of Umbrian cuisine with Chef Emanuele. Your two cooking classes will take place in either the well-equipped kitchen of Vespasia Restaurant or the original house of the Bianconi family, who have been in the hospitality industry for more than 160 years. Chef Emanuele leads your cooking classes. Prior to joining Ristorante Vespasia, he worked in a number of prestigious restaurants — including Restaurant St. Hubertus, Arnolfo Ristorante, and Restaurant Mosaic — with 2* Michelin chefs. He's a strong believer in using local, seasonal ingredients when creating his classical Umbrian dishes. (For our other Norcia cooking vacation, see A Food Lover's Paradise in Norcia).

About your hiking guide: Francesco Capozucca was born in Norcia, the heart of Sibillini National Park. His passion for nature and these mountains started when he was a child and his father took him on long walks, looking for mushrooms and watching animals. As he grew, his passion became a desire to seek out new paths, conquer new peaks, and discover every mystery of the legendary mountains. Since 2006, Capozucca has worked as a professional hiking guide in Sibillini National Park and other mountains of central Appennine.

Cooking and Hiking in the Umbrian Hills Itinerary

Day 1 - Sunday

  • Transfer from Rome Fiumicino Airport to Palazzo Seneca in Norcia.
  • This afternoon, enjoy a welcome drink and a short presentation on your cooking course.
  • Enjoy a dinner at Ristorante Vespasia of Palazzo Seneca.
  • Overnight.

Day 2 - Monday

  • After breakfast, your introduction to Umbrian cooking gets underway with your first cooking class with Chef Emanuele.
  • Lunch based on your efforts.
  • In the afternoon, experience a black truffle hunt. (In the months of May and September, another activity may be substituted).
  • Dinner tonight will be at Enoteca Granaro restaurant.
  • Overnight.

Day 3 - Tuesday

  • Breakfast.
  • Begin your first hiking excursion on the old way of Benedictines with your guide (we suggest taking a packed lunch with you). Start in Norcia, the place where Saint Benedict was born and where the ancient oak trees create a green tunnel. Once outside the plateau of Norcia, the splendid valley of Catoriana will open up before you. The comfortable, ancient path then winds down the mountain slope, and you will pass through cultivated land and typical villages, including interesting little churches and ruins of abandoned castles. You will pass over a Roman bridge before culminating your hike at the old Saint Eutizio’s Abbey, which is rich in history and charming for its simplicity.
  • Dinner at Ristorante Vespasia in Palazzo Seneca.
  • Overnight.

Day 4 - Wednesday

  • After breakfast, depart for an excursion to legendary Assisi, the city of Saint Francis (with guided visit).
  • Lunch on your own.
  • Afterwards, it’s on to the famous town of Montefalco, land of the Sagrantino red wine, where you will visit a local winery and taste wonderful wines.
  • Return to Palazzo Seneca and dinner at Granaro del Monte.
  • Overnight.

Day 5 - Thursday

  • Following breakfast, begin your second cooking class.
  • Lunch based on your efforts.
  • In the afternoon, visit the town of Spoleto.
  • Return to the hotel. Ristorante Vespasia for dinner.
  • Overnight.

Day 6 - Friday

  • Breakfast.
  • Start your second hike in Castelluccio, a little village in the National Park of Sibillini. You’ll gently descend from Castelluccio’s plateaus to the “Pian Piccolo” and walk through endless wildflower meadows at the foot of one of the most beautiful Sibillini mountains. After passing a beautiful lake, climb through the woods full of beech trees. The return hike will take you along the ridge between Sibillini and Laga Mountains, which offer breathtaking views of the Umbrian countryside below. Late lunch on your own, perhaps in one of the little villages.
  • Your farewell dinner in Ristorante Vespasia.
  • Overnight.

Day 7 - Saturday

  • Breakfast and then final farewells before transferring to Rome’s Fiumicino Airport.