Another World on the Edge of Umbria
Bar none, Piano Grande is my favorite place in Umbria. Nestled within the Sibillini National Park’s almost on the border with le Marche, the great plain an extraordinary treasure in a region filled with great things to discover.
The climb up from the valley of Norcia is exhilarating but does not compare with the view once you’ve reached the top of the mountain. Parking the car just shy of one of the mountain crests, one walks up the hill a short distance for incomparable views. You are so high at that point, that the temperature has dropped about 10 degrees Celsius. (I don’t recommend shorts and tell everyone to bring a sweater.) This walk around what seems like the top of the world, is exhilarating I really don’t want to leave. The stunning hills, where it is not uncommon to still see snow in the deep crevices in July, surround what is left of the high mountain lake that has long since drained away. On most visits, as you descend, you will be delighted to find roaming cows and wild horses (and a donkey or two). They can be seen grazing on the hillsides their clanging bells echoing from nearby hills.
On the plain below this amazing vantage point, you will be treated to spectacular displays of wild flowers from April till July so it is worth a springtime or summer excursion. There you can find sheep herded by real shepherds, some honest to goodness cowboys offering horseback riding, and, although I’ve never tried it, para sailing is available for the more adventurous.
Nestled on a high hill at the far end of the plain surrounded by rocky fields that miraculously produce the tiniest, most flavorful lentils, for which the town is justly famous, sits the town of Castelluccio. Prior to the 2016 earthquakes that destroyed 85% of the town, the rustic town had a population hovering around 60 in the summer and about 12 in winter. At 1452 meters (4764 feet), is the highest inhabited village in the Apennines.
Bbeing a frazione of Norcia below, Castelluccio offers quite a wide variety of dried meats and cheeses in its newly built shops. Today, despite it being one of the saddest places in Umbria, I think it is important to visit and support it. Every time I go I stock up on their famous lentils, farro, guanciale, and other prodotti tipici.
The majestic mountains —mesmerizing in any season — poke in and out of the billowing clouds making it always a spectacular place to visit. I certainly make sure to visit as often as I can just to enjoy the ever changing natural beauty of the place. It is always a pleasure to take guests on this adventure and they, in turn, are never disappointed.
PARKING: Please visit Norcia and help support the community. Maybe having lunch there or buying somethings like prosciutto, salami, pecorino, chocolate.
If you’ve parked where I suggested for Norcia, just go a bit farther around the wall and make a left at the next intersection. Follow the signs for Casteluccio. Piano Grande is on the way.
On your handheld, click View larger map for directions. This GPS marker is just past the “Belvedere” which is where you should stop, walk up to the top of the hill, and enjoy the magnificent view.