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Piano Grande

Breathtaking Views in Umbria

I’m listening to the car radio and on comes “Una Storia Importante” by Eros Ramazzotti. The first lines of the song “quante scuse ho inventato io” remind me of the many excuses I used to make for not having the time to get out there and experience the evocativeness of the Italian landscape in all its moods and colors.



Gradually everything changed. Personally, I wanted to see more of the places that friends had told me about and so decided that it was time to embark on my own journey. My travels have given me many remarkable experiences, but one of my most memorable moments was discovering the Piano Grande, near Norcia in Eastern Umbria.


Castelluccio di Norcia, Umbria. Ph. Franco Antolini on flickr (flic.kr/p/cNyPQA)


I had heard of the eerie and desolate Piano Grande (a huge karstic basin that was once a glacial lake), which is surrounded and dominated by the dark, craggy peaks and the barren slopes of the Sibillini Mountains, but I wasn’t quite prepared for what was in store for me.

Nature in this corner of Italy, unquestionably offers one of the most spectacular sights imaginable. The scenery and the silence up here are exhilarating no matter what time of year you visit. And although attractive during the winter months (providing it is accessible), the Piano Grande is best experienced during late spring and early summer when the incredible source of plant biodiversity explodes into a Technicolor sea of red, yellow, blue and purple. But you have to be quick because this multicolored spectacle doesn’t last for long.


Piano Grande in Summer. Ph. Franco Vannini on flickr (flic.kr/p/J72byV)



The plain is dominated by Monte Vettore and punctuated at its northern end by the remote village of Castelluccio with its crumbling, empty ancient streets, which seem to echo with the ghostly voices of an all but forgotten generation.

The mountains surrounding Castelluccio attract hang gliders, skiers and trekkers, but down in the meadows beneath Monte Vettore and far away from the noise and chaos of city life is where you will find a world of silent mystery and immense beauty.


Castelluccio di Norcia. Ph. Enrico Pighetti on flickr (flic.kr/p/CksvHn)



During late spring is also when the lentil fields blossom. Castelluccio lentils have been awarded the I.G.T (Indicazione Geografiche Tipiche) and are famous for their delicate taste and tiny size.


piano grande umbriaSummer in Castelluccio, Piano Grande. Ph. Antonio Cinotti on flickr (flic.kr/p/ojb71q)


I really enjoy the natural beauty of the Piano Grande. I guess that the scenic treasures contained in this extraordinary landscape are what inspired Franco Zeffirelli to feature Piano Grande in his film about San Francesco.



For me, images of the basin that comes to life in burst of beauty are now firmly embedded in my mind. Tante scuse ho inventato io!


By Charles L. Joseph

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