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Norcia, Italy: Our Visit to ‘Pork Town’

By - October 15, 2013 (Updated: October 25, 2018)

This entry is part 2 of 3 in the series Exploring Umbria.
THIS POST MAY CONTAIN COMPENSATED LINKS. FIND MORE INFO IN MY DISCLAIMER.
Visiting Norcia, 'Pork Town' Umbria

Visiting Norcia, ‘Pork Town’ Umbria

Italy is a gastronomic paradise with regions dedicated to wine, cheese, truffles and hundreds of other regional products. But when Andrew learned of a town dedicated to wild boar, there was no stopping him. We were on our way to Norcia, Umbria – better known to us as ‘Pork Town.’

I blame the in-flight magazine. While flying from Brussels (Charleroi) to Perugia, Andrew spotted a blurb about Norcia, a town in Umbria famous for wild boar sausage. I knew a day-trip was already brewing in his pork-obsessed brain.

I also blame Michelle, who encouraged us to take a road-trip from Spello. She warned us of mounted-boar-head lined streets and shops filled with local pork products. There was no escape.

I’ve never been a huge pork fan. To me, thoughts of pork conjure up memories of Shake-and-Bake covered pork chops and bright pink ham steaks, neither of which were childhood favourites.

I will (grudgingly) admit to changing my anti-pork persuasions after sampling the cured meats available across Europe: salty Parma ham, spicy Spanish chorizo, rich Serrano and Iberico, and even our own hams and sausages from the Belgian Ardennes.

So, while not as ecstatic about an Italian town devoted to pork, I was secretly eager to check it out, as well. (Just don’t tell Andrew. I’ll lose all credibility.)

Stepping inside the Norcia city walls, it didn’t take long to determine the town’s main export. Just as Michelle had warned, there were plenty of trophies of man’s triumph over the wild boar.

It's easy to see Norcia is famous for Wild Boar

It’s easy to see Norcia is famous for Wild Boar

Every other shop along the main street was dedicated to all things pork: sausages, hams, terrines, pâtés. If it could be made from a pig, it was available.

But, luckily for me, it wasn’t all pork. The shops also stocked other regional goodies: risotto rice, olive oils, vinegars, and all things truffle.

One of the few 'pork-free' views in Norcia

One of the few ‘pork-free’ views in Norcia

Of course we picked up a few treats to bring home, but we wanted to sample the porky-goodness in its home town. Trip advisor’s rave reviews lead us to Il Cenacolo.

Teeny tiny Il Cenacolo

Teeny tiny Il Cenacolo

This tiny restaurant is as authentic as it gets. There are a whopping four tables inside and you can see the kitchen happenings right from your seat.

It’s also a no frills kind of place. You grab a placemat, a paper plate and some recyclable plastic cutlery and fill out your menu paper. Luckily the server (we think she was the chef’s wife) gave us a hand. The menu changes from day to day but includes fresh, rustic, regional food.

Order up! Pick up your own food at Il Cenacolo's kitchen window

Order up! Pick up your own food at Il Cenacolo’s kitchen window

When your food is ready, the chef calls you to pick it up from the little window and you dig in.

We started with a sampler plate of the local cured meats (of course) and cheese. It deserved the hype. Andrew was moaning with pleasure.

A boy in his happy place - surrounded by rustic food and plenty of pork

A boy in his happy place – surrounded by rustic food and plenty of pork

Next up were two deceptively simple pastas: creamy, cheesy goodness for me, and asparagus and bacon for Andrew. Perfection.

I was pleasantly full by this point but Andrew was ready to go one more round. He was in his happy place.

Despite the simple looking restaurant and food, this was one of the best meals we’ve had in a long time. It was a good reminder that fantastic food doesn’t need to be fancy.

Was Norcia worth the road-trip? Definitely!  Even I can admit to enjoying our trip to ‘Pork Town,’ Umbria.

For more great restaurants around the world, check out our Restaurant Review page.

Read more from this series...

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Alison Cornford-Matheson
Alison Cornford-Matheson is a Canadian travel writer, author, and photographer. She is the founder of Cheeseweb.eu, a website dedicated to slow and sustainable travel, off-the-beaten-path destinations, and cultural awareness through travel. She and her husband, Andrew, are the founders of RockFort Media, committed to helping entrepreneurs tell their stories online. Alison has visited over 45 countries and, after living in Belgium for 11 years, now lives full-time in a Bigfoot motorhome named Yeti with Andrew and their well-travelled cat.
Alison Cornford-Matheson
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