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Cured pork and artisanal cheeses aren’t all Norcia has to offer: there are the three varieties of black truffle, plus Chianina beef, Fario trout from the Nera river, and lamb from farms in the National Park of the Sibillini Mountains. Truffles are harvested, usually with dogs, in three seasons: from December to the first half of March there is Tuber Melanosporum Vittadinis, while Tuber Aestivum is found from June through August and Tuber Uncinatum from October to December.
The winter truffles are the most desired and expensive – Flavio offers diners a choice between Aestium and Melanospurum Vittadinis with his handmade tagliolini. He also serves truffles with roasted lamb from the Sibillini. During the Truffle Festival in February, the whole town is infused with the earthy scent of the rough black jewels, which are weighed and sold to visitors from kiosks along streets lined with dozens of Norcineria, the ubiquitous butcher shops hung with prosciutto and salami.
Twenty miles away, at more than 5,000 feet, is the Piano Grande di Castelluccio, a vast pastured plateau (15 sq miles) rimmed by a circle of mountains. The plain bursts into spectacular bloom in late June when the lentils and other beans flower. (The incredible Festa della Fiorita is 3rd and 4th sunday in June!) Castelluccio lentils are protected by European Union PGI status; the area also produces farro (spelt) and Roveja peas, which are prized by Umbrian cooks, including Chef Flavio.
Who goes to Norcia? Those cognoscenti who prize the Norcineria meats and the other specialty foods available here, along with Europeans who trek and cross country ski the national park. More and more international travelers began discovering this foodie paradise after the completion of the 4-kilometer tunnel through the mountains, making Norcia just half an hour from Spoleto.
Sharri writes about food, wine and international travel from Umbria, where she and her husband grow olives. In addition to articles, she writes a blog,
UmbriaBella. Her app, Olive Oil IQ is a portable encyclopedia for foodies and culinary travelers (iTunes & Android). Follow her on Twitter: @umbriabella and @oliveoiliq. Facebook: www.facebook.com/UmbriaBella, and www.facebook.com/oliveoiliq