An ancient Sabine city, Nursia was conquered by the Romans and became an important municipium. It was a free commune in the 11th century, and when it passed to the Catholic Church in the 1400s it was granted considerable autonomy. Saint Benedict was born circa 480 AD. And even though the town was destroyed more than once by earthquakes (in 1703, 1730, and 1859) many works of art and historical memories connected to the life of the founder of the Benedictine Order can be found.
ART, CULTURE, ENVIRONMENT
The town is divided into wards and has a 17th-18th century urban structure. Norcia is proud of its historical and artistic heritage that makes it one of the most important art cities in Umbria. On the main square are visible the oldest and most important buildings in Norcia. In the middle of the square is the statute of San Benedetto; while framing the square is the Castellina, the monumental fortress designed by Vignola in 1554 and today home of the Museo Civico e Diocesano, civil and religious museum; the Palazzo Comunale,Town Hall, with its double loggia; the Basilica di San Benedetto, erected on 1st-century Roman remains, with a Gothic facade from the 14th century, and in the crypt can be seen the ruins of a Roman building that according to tradition was the paternal home of Saints Scholastica and Benedict; and the Portico delle Misure, the measuring porch, built in the 1500s as a covered cereals market.
Close by the square is the Concattedrale di S. Maria Argentea from the 16th century with an altar done by F. Duquesnoy (1640). Also to be seen in the town is the complesso di S. Francesco from the 14th century, today housing the Auditorium, the municipal library and the Historical Archives; the Palazzo dei Cavalieri di Malta, the Knights of Malta palace, presently the Museo dell'Arte Contadina, farm life museum; and the church of Sant'Agostino built in the 14th century. Of great interest are the Tempietto, the most original and best preserved historical building in the town was constructed in 1354 by the Norcia-born Vanni della Tuccia; the church of San Giovanni, one of the oldest in Norcia, featuring a beautiful wooden ceiling and Renaissance altar from 1649; the Oratorio di S. Agostinuccio with an elegant wooden ceiling and Baroque altar; the church of Madonna Addolorata, that displays the miraculous image of the Madonna painted on canvas in the 18th century; the del Crocifisso church abutting onto the city walls at the highest point of the town; and the church of San Lorenzo, the oldest in Norcia.
Norcia is situated at the centre of the Sibylline Mountains National Park: the town is surrounded by mountains of more than 2000 mt, a day-trippers and skiers paradise. Between the mountains, on large flat amphitheatres are raised prized crops (most famous are the lentils from the plain of Castelluccio) and a wide variety and quantity of animals (such as hogs for the production of Norcia's renowned delicatessen products). Not far from the town, on the wide open plains of Castelluciio, can be found the European School of Free Flight; the many trails in the National Park are perfect for hikes, horse riding and mule treks; the Sordo and Corno rivers offer rafting and canyoning, while the striking rock faces, the Karst grottoes and the gorges that are characteristic of the whole Valnerina area are ideal for free-climbing and speleology. Places in the vicinity that merit a visit are: the winter sports and day trip centre, Forca Canapine (20 km from Norcia, at 1541 metres); the Castelluccio high plains (Pian Perduto, Piano Piccolo and Piano Grande, a large Karst basin that in Spring is covered with beautiful alpine flowers; Monte Porche (2235 metres) with a striking panorama onto the Sibylline Mountains and the Abruzzo Mountains; Monte Vettore (2476 metres), with Lago di Pilato lake and the Grotta della Sibilla, Sybil's Grotto; and the Necropoli della pianura di Santa Scolastica with findings from the Iron Age to Roman times.