The Grotta Azzurra offered many good reasons to make it our hotel of choice in Norcia, but the one that comes to mind immediately is its long-standing tradition of family hospitality and the renowned regional cuisine of its restaurant, the Granaro del Monte. Hotel Grotta Azzurra is located in the very heart of Norcia, a short stroll from the very lovely Piazza S. Benedetto. Browsing in the nearby shops where the famed Norcini pork specialties are displayed and sold is an inviting pastime.
As a hotel that has grown and changed with the times, from a six-room “ostaria” to a 46-room hotel, it has managed to maintain its home-like atmosphere with all the quirks and charms one would expect as a guest in a big Italian family home. Today’s fourth and fifth generations of the Bianconi family, who have run the inn for 150 years, exude genuine Italian warmth and sociability in an atmosphere that is both lively and relaxed. From wine and food lovers to nature lovers and trekkers, from young soccer teams to older tourists, we were all made to feel part of a large, diverse family, treated to generous helpings of friendliness, Norcia’s local lure and extraordinary cooking. And yes, even the spirited chatter and clatter from the restaurant below that filled our room in the evening did not dampen our enthusiasm. Rather, it served to whet our appetites for our own dinner at their table.
The Granaro del Monte Restaurant is considered a national culinary monument. I was in agreement from the very first savory bite. What makes their cooking so extraordinary? Ordinary, wholesome ingredients prepared with a love and respect for the land that produces them – Norcia! The Black Truffle is king, but a meal would not be complete without sampling Norcia’s lamb and cured pork specialties, the lentils of Castelluccio, the spelt, the cheeses… Picture the sheep as they graze in the flower-filled meadow of Castelluccio, the cheeses made from the sheep’s milk, the honey of a thousand wildflowers. These are the elements that are used to recreate traditional dishes following ageless recipes, held dear by the Bianconi family and presented daily to their guests.
All images and reviews copyright 2015 by Ginda Simpson
Hotel Grotta Azzurra
Via Alfieri, 12, 06046 Norcia ~ Umbria, Italy
View of Chiesa S. Margherita from the Hotel Grotta Azzurra~ Original watercolor painting by Ginda Simpson