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Norcia is a small town to the south-east of the Umbria region of central Italy.
Norcia is a typical medieval town, surrounded by defensive walls that are still largely intact. It is most interesting in the narrow winding streets that lead to the Piazza San Benedetto.This piazza is the centre of Norcia old town and it is here that you can see the Church of Saint Benedict.
Church of Saint Benedict
This church was built over an earlier Roman building in the 13th century, but has been restored several times since following earthquakes.
The façade of the church has a gothic portal and several sculptures that adorn the lunettes, which contain statues of St. Benedict and St. Scholastica. The bell tower is supported by the polygonal apse.
The church interior now has a Latin cross form but we can still see various elements of the original Gothic style, such as the pointed arch.
On the altars there are some notable paintings, such as the "Resurrection of Lazarus", by Michelangelo Carducci (a local painter, 1515 - about 1574). On the left you can see "St. Benedict and Totila", painted by Filippo Napoletano in 1621 or 1623.
Other monuments in Norcia
To the right of the church is the Loggia dei Mercanti. This loggia was built in 1570 With the consent of the Abbot and Celestine monks to be the marketplace and centre of social life in Norcia.
"Every year during the Benedectine holidays, from the balcony of the town of Norcia the sound of trumpets announced the local market. (...) The market lasted four days (March 20-23) and it was 'free', because it was exempt from duty on livestock and goods. Unsold goods were subject to a tax".
To the left of the basilica you can see the 14th century Palazzo Comunale, restored several times. There is a terrace in top of the porch, added in the nineteenth century.
Another interesting building in Norcia is the Sertoriana Hall, decorated with paintings depicting "The Four Parts of the World" and the Cappella dei Priori, with further decorations added in the 18th century and also the Shrine of St. Benedict, by Giovanni Antonio da Norcia from 1450.
In the same room there is a precious illuminated old manuscript from the fifteenth century, called the 'Franceschina*' and written by Giacomo Oddi.
* The Franceschina or 'Mirror of spiritual edification', was written in the Umbrian dialect around 1480 and is attributed to Fra’ Giacomo Oddi.
Of these 'Franceschina' there are three other examples: the code of Perugia-Monteripido, in the Biblioteca Augusta of Perugia, the Code in Santa Maria degli Angeli and the Code Monteluce-Portiuncula in San Erminio in Perugia.
On the opposite side of Piazza San Benedetto is the Castellina, a small fortress with four-sided towers. It was built in 1554 by Pope Julius III (1487-1555) to control the surrounding territory, to a design of Jacopo Barozzi da Vignola (1507-1573).
The Castellina is now the Civic Museum and houses a rich collection of paintings, among which we highlight a painting by Antonio da Faenza (1457 circa-1535), called “Tavola dei Terziari” and attributed to Antonio da Faenza by Berenson (1932), and a "Risen Christ," by Nicola di Ulisse (1410 circa-1477 circa), signed ‘Opus Nicolai’.
More Norcia places to visit
The artistic and architectural heritage of Norcia is very impressive and in addition to the buildings already described we should also mention the Church of the Crucifix (renovated in the 18th century and with a 16th century stone portal); the Church of Our Lady of Sorrows, which houses a painting of the Madonna painted in the 18th century; and the Church of San Lorenzo, the oldest church in Norcia.
Among the civic (non-religious) buildings those of particular interest to visitors are the Fusconi Palace and the Passerini palace, of the 18th century and which holds a statue of Quintius Sertorius (126-73 BC), native of Norcia and famous for his exploits in Spain.
Attractions close to Norcia
Outside the city you can also visit the church of St. Scholastica, located in the Parco Nazionale dei Monti Sibillini.
In addition, the Nera River Valley is well worth a visit. This place is famous for its nature trail and also for the abundance of truffles - this is a good region to taste the local truffle dishes such as spaghetti with truffles, the frittata with truffles, or truffle salad and trout.
Another famous local product is the Norcineria, a local salami.
If you don't enjoy truffles, other local specialities include lasagne, and the most famous dish in the region - olives stuffed with meat, breaded and fried.
See also history of Norcia.
You can find more local travel ideas in the Umbria guide.