Black White

Castelluccio di Norcia


Place: Castelluccio di Norcia (PG)
Period: Jun 29th 2011 -> Jul 2nd 2011
Characteristics: landscapes, nature, macro, astronomy
Hints: flowering between June and July (check Castelluccio website); long summer days are good for walks (but pay attention to the warm); don't trust the weather forecasts 100% (this is mountain!)


Camera: Nikon D5000
Lenses: Nikkor AF-S DX 18-105mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR, Sigma 10-20mm f/4-5.6 EX DC HSM
Filters: CIR-PL Hoya HD 67mm, CIR-PL Hoya HD 77mm
Other: Tripod Manfrotto 7301YB, Backpack Lowepro Fastpack 100, Backpack Lowepro Vertex 100 AW

After visiting Castelluccio last year we decided to go back again this year. This time the goal was not to reach the lakes of Pilato, hidden in the mountains at the foot of Mount Vettore, but simply to admire the colors that cover the plateau at the time of flowering. Of course, this might seem a lot less challenging than a long walk in the mountains with a thousand meters in altitude. However, the flowering period is not easily predictable.

Castelluccio di Norcia is located in the middle of a great highland, whose main areas are called Pian Grande, Pian Piccolo and Pian Perduto. For those who do not know it Castelluccio is famous for the cultivation of lentil, which is sown after the snowmelt to be collected between July and August. Although the lentil flowers are white during blossom a number of wild species including poppies and cyclamen bloom as well and let the plateau cover of different colors within a few weeks.

The village does not offer many facilities to spend the night, and given the unpredictability of flowering, weather conditions, and the need to book early, it is easy to understand the difficulty of hitting the right time. On Castelluccio di Norcia website, at this address, you can find photos of the past years blooms and get an idea of the current flowering state having a look at the webcam.

We have made a good choice: coming from Gualdo, here is what we could see from Mount Prata.

The colors are not always the same, but typically the fields become initially yellow, then red and finally blue. In some cases, however, you can see all these colors together, as you can see right below, and maybe you could discover some orchid that spots the vast carpet of flowers.

Obviously this explosion of nature attracts many photographers and tourists, who unfortunately do not hesitate to go into the fields just to take some shots at the foot of the country. Remember that the lentil is the main source of income for those who live in this area and still choose to do the hard work of the farmer. The fields are not fenced: sometimes there is a simple sign, some others almost invisible wire, others again there is nothing at all, so be careful!

Castelluccio is often chosen as a destination for a day trip, even just for a lunch surrounded by the beautiful scenery, but I think that only spending a few days in Castelluccio you can truly appreciate everything it offers. A day trip is not sufficient to savor the atmosphere. Visiting the narrow alleys of the town it seems to take a dip in the past since very little has changed here. Outside the handful of bars you can see groups of old people who spend there the whole day, and return home only at dusk, perhaps mounting on a Vespa. The few facilities (in a few days you will visit all of them) serve a menu based on the excellent local products.

However, only in the evening you will realize how the country is isolated, the silence is absolute, almost no light pollution and if the sky is clear and there is a new moon, remember that you are at about 1500 meters and a glance at the sky can reveal wonderful surprises.

Below you can see a photo I took last year in August. Only after looking at it at home I realized how lucky I was to be in that particularly good situation (exactly the new moon and clear sky), and I immediately asked myself what I could see if instead of staying in the village, where I took the photo, I had gone down into the plain, surrounded by darkness.

This year we tried, bearing a torch, but unfortunately the weather conditions were not as favorable.

Yes, sometimes we are kissed by luck and do not even realize it, others we think we can control everything but it is not so... Surely it is good to learn a little about the places we visit (if you are reading this you are already doing it :-)), but it is not always easy to find everything you need.

Sleeping in Castelluccio can be a good solution if you plan to do some walk around. There are any king of walks, from those without any vertical drop in the middle of the plain to the very challenging ones which lead you to the lakes of Pilate or to the top of Mount Vettore. Among the latter, I recommend the path we did in August last year (maybe in the future I will spend some more words about it and I will publish some pictures). For now I anticipate that this route starts roght below Castelluccio and leads first to Capanna Ghezzi, then to Forca Viola. From here you can continue following the tops until Forca di Presta, where you can go down to the lakes and then up again to Forca Viola, after passing along the scree on the left. From Forca Viola the path is the same as the first leg. This tour is very scenic and much less crowded than the classic ascent from Forca di Presta. Consider that the complete tour takes about 7 hours without any break, but you have to adapt the duration to your pace and your needs (we took much more). If you have any question about that write me.

If you do not like long and tiring walks and you prefer something quieter, you can take a tour in the Pian Grande to see the Inghiottitoio, go into Val di Canatra, take a walk close to Forca Canapine to reach the Pantani, where you can see a multitude of grazing animals. These tours are by no means difficult and are accessible to anyone. I advice to buy some sandwiches for lunch in some of the small village shops.

If you really do not want you to move away more than a kilometer from the village then you can just go out early in the morning and see the carpet of clouds that often covers the plateau and which is passing away as the sun rises and warms the air. Below you can get an idea of the landscape...

But this is not yet everything, because you can also admire the beautiful sunsets over the mountains sitting on the square at the foot of the country or the wonderful light that warms the colors of Pian Grande fields before the sun dips. And in case the weather is not good don't worry, the clouds can create beautiful light and shade effects, and after a shower get ready for a fantastic rainbow.

I do not proceed further, but I hope you are now tempted to visit this beautiful place: sometimes we go who knows where to find some kind of postcard views, but they are around the corner and we don't even know.

This is only a brief summary of what you can find in Castelluccio di Norcia (and I have not yet been there in the winter with snow...). Now I leave you to the photos I posted in the gallery.

- Jan 24, 2012 -

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