Places To Visit In Italy... Norcia
Places to visit in Italy..
In December 2011 my boyfriend and I visited Italy for a combined city/countryside trip. We stayed 4 days in Rome but there is so much information about Rome that I'm going to tell you about a place called Norcia that we visited for the last 4 days of our vacation.
Norcia is a small historical town located approximately 180km North East of Rome in the province of Perugia.
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To be honest, we were undecided as to where to spend the last 4 days of our vacation for a long time after having booked our flights. Lake Garda had been our original plan however on later investigation we discovered that it was a longer distance to drive from Rome than we'd thought and unfortunately having only 4 days we had to pick another destination.
In the end we sat down together with a google map of Italy in front of us. One large green area stood out and this happened to be the Parco Nacionale dei Monti Sibillini. We google imaged the place and the pictures looked stunning. Finding accomodation in this area, however, was difficult. We tried a few of the main hotel websites; nothing had any accommodation close enough until we went on booking.com and found a nice 3* hotel in a town called Norcia.
This turned out to be the perfect place for us to stay! The drive from Rome to Norcia was stunning, especially the second half of the journey when we began to wind up into the mountains. All along the way were walled communes which are so typical of this area. Some of them looked quite mysterious, nestled into a hill-side, sometimes sitting just above a wall of mist that was hanging in the valley. They often looked darkened and dank by the damp weather that's typical of late December in the mountains of Italy but this only added to their beauty in my eyes.
We were happy to find that Norcia was very Christmassy when we arrived! We parked up just outside and walked through the archway which is the main entrance. The narrow, paved streets were decorated by strings of Christmas lights. Drizzly and about 10 degrees colder than it had been in Rome, it was the perfect romantic, step-back-in-time place to stay. Many of the shop windows contained lovely displays and were quite inviting. There were a few delicatessens selling the most beautiful hams and cheeses..
We eventually found our hotel - Hotel Grotta Azzura - and were really happy. I'd definitely recommend it to anyone who visits Norcia. It sits right in the middle of the town on the main street. For a 3* hotel, I found it much better than the 4* that we'd stayed in in Rome. Beautifully decorated in traditional decor, with really polite and friendly staff and great amenities! Although it wasn't on-site, we were able to use the leisure centre at it's sister hotel a few hundred yards down the road, a very nice place to go on a dark evening to relax and wind-down after a busy day of sight-seeing.
From Norcia you can drive to a beautiful little village called Castel Lucio which is perched on a hilltop. Definitely worth a visit, it affords stunning 360 views of the surrounding plains and mountains. On the day that we drove there we left the hotel in fair weather conditions. By the time we'd climbed the nearest mountain in our car the weather had changed dramatically, the winds picked up drastically and it started sleeting. By the time we reached Castel Lucio it was properly snowing and began to stick. Our car started wheel spinning when we entered the village so we parked up and tried to find somewhere warm to wait out the weather, which we we sincerely hoped was a passing shower! As it was mid December all but one of the few little shops were closed. We were so relieved to be able to go in and have a lovely thick Italian hot chocolate!
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