The VALNERINA is the most beautiful part of Umbria. Strictly translated as the “little valley of the Nera”, it effectively refers to the whole eastern part of the region, a self-contained area of high mountains, poor communications, steep wooded valleys, upland villages and vast stretches of barren nothingness. Wolves still roam the summit ridges and the area is a genuine “forgotten corner”, deserted farms everywhere bearing witness to a century of emigration.
Mountains nearby are 1500m high, with excellent walking, creeping up as you move east to about 2500m in the Monti Sibillini. It’s difficult to explore with any sort of plan (unless you stick to the Nera), and the best approach is to follow your nose, poking into small valleys, tracing high country lanes to remote hamlets.
More deliberately, you could make for Vallo di Nera, the most archetypal of the fortified villages that pop up along the Lower Nera. Medieval Triponzo is a natural focus of communications, little more than a quaint staging-post and fortified tower (and a better target than modernish Cerreto nearby). Monteleone is the only place of any size for miles, with a fine church, and popular with trippers.Read More
The Piano Grande
The Piano Grande
The eerie, expansive Piano Grande, 20km east of Norcia, is an extraordinary prairie ringed by bare, whaleback mountains and stretching, uninterrupted by tree, hedge or habitation, for miles and miles. A decade or so ago, it was all but unknown: now, in summer at least, it can be disconcertingly busy. It’s much photographed – especially in spring when it’s ablaze with wild flowers of every description – and was used by Zeffirelli as a setting for his Franciscan film Brother Sun, Sister Moon. The desperately isolated village of CASTELLUCCIO hangs above it at around 1400m, and although no longer the sole preserve of shepherds, it remains an unspoilt base and the ideal starting point for any number of straightforward mountain walks. To plan routes, get hold of the 1:50,000 Kompass map no. 666 or the more detailed 1:25,000 CAI maps (the latter are often available in Norcia’s or Castelluccio’s bars).