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Norcia ham
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The art of pork butchery

A journey into the heart of the culinary tradition of the Valnerina.

Amidst the purity of the air and the abundance of aromatic herbs that characterize the area between Norcia, Preci and Spoleto, a fascinating tradition emerges: norcineria.

Understood as pork processing, this culinary art finds its roots in ancient times, but its origins are shrouded in mystery. Some speculate that this tradition was introduced to the Valnerina by a Jewish community after the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D.: unable to eat pork for religious reasons, they had to preserve it for commercial purposes.

What is known for certain is the renowned quality of the meat, due to the presence in the area of lush oak forests and abundant acorns, which constitute the pigs' favorite food. This natural diet has imparted a richness of flavor to the pig meat. In addition, the territory's dry climate has always been a valuable ally for meat preservation, favoring ideal curing processes.

Thus, since the 13th century, butchers in the Valnerina, particularly those in Norcia, have honed their skills in the art of cutting, salting and stuffing pork. This tradition, handed down from generation to generation, has allowed them to take pork mastery beyond regional borders.

Their talent was also perfected thanks to the Precian Surgical School, founded by the Benedictine monks of St. Eutizio Abbey in Preci and recognized by the Church in 1215. This institution had as its main purpose the preservation of ancient medical knowledge and contributed to the evolution of surgical techniques through the introduction of innovative instruments. As is well known, pig anatomy was used in the past by physicians to practice dissections and surgical practices, contributing to the development of the art of pork butchery.

Let's discover together all the specialties of the places of this tradition.

Step 1

The temple of Umbrian Norcineria is Norcia, which "gives" its name to the ancient tradition in Valnerina. The village, where St. Benedict Patron of Europe was born, developed around the statue dedicated to the Patron Saint and the Basilica where, according to the tradition, the twin Saints Benedict and Scolastica were born. After the 2016 earthquake the village is under reconstruction.

Among the most esteemed products that can be purchased in shops or tasted in local restaurants, there are Fiaschette del Prete (finely ground salami) and Norcia ham, which in 1998 gained the IGP certification.
Besides, the truffled wild boar salami, the mule balls (which take their name from their shape that look like the testicles of the mule, with a spiced lard in the middle to melt on hot bruschetta) and the “ciauscolo”, a spreadable salami made by grinding shoulder, loin, ham, bacon and spices, deserve to be tasted.

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Step 2

About 20 km far from Norcia you reach the small village of Preci with the complex of the Abbey of Saint Eutizio, of ancient origins, currently undergoing restoration as well as other structures in the area. The religious monument, dominated by spectacular caves carved into the rock in which Saints Eutizio and Fiorenzo lived in retreat, for several centuries was the inspiration for all the activities in Valnerina. In this place surrounded by nature and history, it is a pleasure to taste local products such as capocollo, pancetta and coppa.

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Step 3

Than you reach Spoleto, about 43 km far from Preci, a famous and elegant dukedom, one of those established in Italy by the Longobards, where the Duomo, the Towers Bridge and the Albornoz Fortress stand out.

After a walk along the characteristic streets of the centre, take a gastronomic stop to taste the porchetta, the most famous in Umbria, together with the one made in Costano (a hamlet of Bastia Umbra). Another delicious salami is corallina: with a long shape reminding coral branches, it is produced with selected parts of pork shoulder cleaned of excess fat and tendons, with the addition of small hand-cut lardons. In the local tradition, it is enjoyed for breakfast on Easter day with cheese pizza.

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