Welcome to the Valnerina: pristine mountain landscapes where the play of light in the woods alternates with the reflections of the sun on streams and rivers.
Start your journey at Preci, the castle on the slope: in this medieval village you can admire lovely palazzos built in the 16th and 17th centuries for wealthy surgeons. From 1200 to 1800 the area was famous for the expertise in ‘minor surgery', known as norcino, of families mainly from Preci who worked all over Europe. Popes, emperors and kings entrusted their lives to them. Many think that the Syrian monks who arrived here in the 5th century introduced the locals to this exacting science.
A collection of ancient medical treatises is preserved at the Abbey of San Eutizio. The Benedictine abbey sits on a high cliff not far from Preci and was founded to curb the influence of evil and pleasure-seeking that were attributed to this area; it was also home to a hospital and pharmacy.
After your visit, head to Cerreto di Spoleto, perched on a rocky outcrop. Only a few parts of the medieval defensive walls remain standing today, along with the 21 m high tower. Go to Piazza Pontano, with the facade of the Church of Santa Maria Annunziata on one side. Inside you will find interesting pieces from various eras and old paintings.
Now head into the heart of the Valnerina: Vallo di Nera sits on a hillock overlooking the valley carved by the Nera river. Many of the old watch towers have become homes. As you walk along the narrow streets and over steep stairs, don't forget to see the Church of Santa Maria, with its adjacent convent and cloister. It contains several old frescoes, in the area of the apse are those done by Cola di Pietro da Camerino and by Francesco di Antonio.
Then visit Sant'Anatolia di Narco, the town of hemp known for its ancient agricultural traditions, relics of which can be admired in the Museo della Canapa, or Hemp Museum. As you walk within the walls of this little town, make sure you stop to admire Palazzo Ducari, with the votive fresco depicting the Madonna and Child dated 1474.
After this fascinating, but perhaps tiring, tour, stop and get your energy back sampling a dish featuring the ‘king of the dinner table' typical of this area: black truffles.