Valnerina – a land imbued with mysticism, as the legend of the Sibyl and the fairies of the Sibylline mountains would have us believe. Its spirituality is still tangible in places like Cascia, home to the sanctuary of Santa Rita (a pilgrimage destination), and Norcia, the birthplace of Saint Benedict (Father of Western monasticism) and Saint Scholastica. The landscape follows the winding course of the river Nera and is dominated by wild nature, impervious mountains, impenetrable gorges, sudden plains and pristine areas with the occasional bridge, mill, church, castle or viewing tower. In Valnerina, nature, art, history and traditions are alternated with one another. The area is also renowned for its excellent food, particularly in Norcia, capital of the Valley and awarded the Orange Flag by the Italian Touring Club, and in the picturesque village of Scheggino, where the highly prized truffle can be found.

Norcia and Scheggino

Alas, part of Norcia’s architectural beauty vanished with the 2016 earthquake. However, its history and charm have remained unchanged. Enclosed by 14th-century walls, it has retained a medieval urban layout that is centered around Piazza S. Benedetto, where the buildings from different eras and styles include the 12th-century Palazzo Comunale, the 13th-14th-century Basilica of San Benedetto (of which only the facade remains), and the 16th-century Castellina fortress, home to the Civic-Diocesan Museum, where works by local painters and sculptures have been transferred and are being restored.

Scheggino, a village considered to the most beautiful in the Valnerina, is located around 35km from Norcia, but with strong economic and territorial ties to the town. Scheggino lives in symbiosis with the river Nera: the waters lap up against the houses and an artificial channel, that used to power a mill, divides the village. The village is dominated by the ruins of a triangular castle with a high tower, dating back to the 13th and 14th centuries. The 13th-century church of San Nicolò was completely rebuilt at the end of the 1500s and preserves exquisite Spanish frescoes in its apse. Just outside the village, the Valcasana springs are a large natural garden where water flows peacefully between holm oaks, Aleppo pines and boxwood trees.

Urbani Truffles

The success story of the Urbani, a family of entrepreneurs, began and continues in Scheggino. Back in 1852, the family started exporting fresh truffles from Valnerina to Carprentas in France. In no time at all, they started exporting throughout France and then to Germany, Switzerland and simultaneously, to other regions in Italy. The secret behind the success of Urbani truffles was not only in the fertility of the land where they were found, but also in the method with which they were preserved. At the end of the 19th century, the “Ditta Urbani”, as Prof. Francesco Francolini wrote in 1913, “knew how to seal the glass jars using a proprietary seal that eliminated the inconvenience of closing them with mastic”, which was an inefficient way of preserving truffles.

In the early 20th century, Carlo Urbani (the third generation of the family) and his wife Olga took their truffle-growing expertise overseas, triumphantly conquering the American market. The passion for the product and the profession, handed down from father to son, has now reached the sixth generation of the family and continues to maintain the high quality of the Made in Italy brand. The company is now a leader in the global truffle market. It has 14 Italian and foreign offices, 6 brands and 300 employees, having produced 700 reference products, 80% of which it exports to 75 countries. Olga Urbani’s tireless research into the heritage and history of the company and the family resulted in the creation of the Urbani Truffle Museum in 2012. It is located inside the company’s first production facility, founded by Paolo Urbani at the end of the 19th century in his home in Scheggino. The museum is dedicated to the memory of Paolo Urbani and preserves handwritten invoices, telegrams, letters from members of the family who moved to the United States in order to promote the culture of truffles, plus period photographs, machinery and tools. Olga Urbani is also the creator of the Accademia del Tartufo, which is a gastronomic technological center, a laboratory for research, discovery and experimentation, a cooking school, a space for international culinary events and a place for discussing and promoting truffle culture.

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