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).
Note that there’s no public transport into the area (save for one bus in and out on a Thursday, market day in Norcia), though you might try your luck at catching lifts in high season.