Cooking & Walking in Umbria

Norcia, Italy

Code: NCLGC

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Activity types:

  • Central location
  • Food & drink
  • Hills & moorland
  • Indoors

Level

  • Easier
More information

Difficulty indicator

Difficulty is measured on many factors such as distance, ascent/descent, terrain, weather and more. There's no magic formula, but from our experience we use yellow for easy, orange for medium and red for hard. Challenger holidays require a high level of fitness and stamina.

More about difficulty levels

From £849.00 - 7 nights

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Prices are per person

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Holiday overview

Norcia is a region of gastronomic delight. The hotel is renowned for its culinary expertise, with the Bianconi family recognised by the most important national and international guidebooks on fine cuisine.

You will have the opportunity to become a great chef with this cooking course, taking advantage of modern cooking facilities and chefs with vast experience.

Highlights include:

  • Cookery school covering antipasto, pasta, main dishes and desserts
  • Walk in the Sibillini National Park
  • Stay in the beautiful walled town of Norcia
  • Enjoy excellent local cuisine in our historic hotel's award-winning restaurant

Great Reasons to Join Us:

  • Great value: all prices include half-board ensuite accommodation, four cooking sessions, services of an HF Holidays leader and any local transport
  • Expert leader: discover the traditions and landscape of this area of Italy with our knowledgeable leader
  • Accommodation: enjoy high-quality accommodation and excellent food at the charming family-run hotel in Norcia
  • Sociability: we pride ourselves on the sociable atmosphere of our holidays; cook together, walk together, eat together and relax together

Accommodation

The 3-star Hotel Grotta Azzurra was originally a granary, dating from the 16th century. You can still see the original vaulted roofs of the grain stores on the ground floor in the lounge and restaurant. The building has been a hotel since 1850 and is one of the four hotels in the town owned by the Bianconi family. Federico and his brother Vincenzo, his mother Anna and father Carlo all work very hard to keep their guests happy. The hotel sits in a narrow side street, just 10m from Norcia’s central square. The ground floor is dominated by the ‘Granaro del Monte’ restaurant which is extremely popular with both visitors and locals and has an excellent reputation.

Hotel Salicone is a partner hotel of the Grotta Azzurra, just a few minutes’ walk away and has more spacious bedrooms which can be booked at a supplement. This hotel also hosts our family holidays and all guests of HF Holidays can use its facilities, which include swimming pools and a gym.

Bedrooms

There are 46 comfortable en-suite bedrooms, all with TV, telephone, hairdryer and air conditioning. As this is a historic building, the bedrooms are all unique and vary widely in their size and shape.

 

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Facilities

Guests staying at the Hotel Grotta Azzurra can use the range of sports facilities available at the Hotel Salicone which is located less than 10 minutes’ walk away outside the town walls.

There is also a small Wellness Centre across the road at the Hotel Seneca Palazzo which is available to our guests.

 

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Food

Our holidays at Hotel Grotta Azzurra are on a Half Board basis and include breakfast and evening meal.

Breakfast

Hotel Grotta Azzurra serves a simple buffet breakfast, as is very common in Italy: cereals, juice, yoghurt, breads and home-made cake, salami, cheese, tea, coffee and chocolate.

Evening meal

Dinner is served in the Granaro del Monte restaurant and is one of the highlights of this holiday. The restaurant with its vaulted stone ceilings, tapestries and open fires has a charming medieval ambience. The open fire in one of the dining rooms doubles as a barbecue where the chefs can be seen cooking many of the meat dishes. It is a 4-course dinner and each evening features local speciality dishes. In particular Norcia is famous for its cured hams and salami, and these are often offered as starters. Vegetarians are well catered for and the restaurant staff are happy to help anyone with special dietary requirements.

One evening a week, our guests dine at the Vespasia Restaurant, located at the 4* Palazzo Seneca Hotel, also owned by the Bianconi Family. This restaurant has recently been awarded a Michelin Star.

There is also a well-stocked bar serving beer, wine and spirits.

Lunch (payable locally)

You can buy picnic lunches from the hotel (order the evening before). Ingredients for a picnic lunch can be also bought in the nearby local shops or from the supermarket on the outskirts of town; your leaders will advise you of the options.

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Evening

The friendly atmosphere of our holidays continues into the evening.

Enjoy a glass of wine or local beer before hearing about the next day's activities. The focus of your evening will be a leisurely meal. Your leader will also be checking out for any local events going on nearby, or you may like to relax in a local bar with a drink and chat with your fellow guests.  One evening we take our guests to a local museum where you learn some of the fascinating history of this region.

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Itinerary

Day 1: Arrival day

Day 2: The Piano Grande

Today we travel by bus into the Sibillini mountains. Our transport drops us near the Perugia refuge at a viewpoint which gives us breathtaking vistas over mountains and flat bottomed valleys. In the distance is our objective, the village of Castelluccio. From our viewpoint we descend east to pick up a ridge, the Collina Carbonara, which allows us to descend gently into the Dogana valley. This gives us access to the Pian Piccolo (the little plain) and our lunch stop beneath some of the most majestic of these mountains. After lunch we head through the Bonanno Valley to emerge into the full glory of the Piano Grande. Our objective of Castelluccio is now somewhat closer and a further three and a half kilometres of walking through the Piano should see us taking coffee or ice cream in the Albergo La Taverna. Castelluccio is a unique mountain village and well worth an hour’s exploration. 7 miles (11km); 525ft (160m) of ascent and 650ft (200m) of descent.

Day 3: Cookery school In the morning we will have an introduction to Italian antipasto. Demonstrations will include smoked trout salad and lonzino, pecorino and mushroom salad, as well as specialist soups of the area based on lentils and spelt. In the afternoon the second session will cover pasta dishes with more time for individual preparation examples, which may include pappardelle alla norcina or tagliatelle con prosciutto di norcia and lemon. Monday late afternoon there will be a visit to a local chocolate factory.

Day 4: This morning’s cooking session is an introduction to Italian main courses, using the local meat and fish to demonstrate preparation and cooking techniques, with the opportunity to taste each dish. In the afternoon we’ll go to Montefalco where we’ll visit a wine cellar and an olive press mill, with the opportunity to sample the produce.

Day 5: Your free day to enjoy Norcia; visit Spoleto or Assisi or simply relax and enjoy the host of leisure facilities available at the sister hotel.

Day 6: Villages of the Castoriana Valley

We start the day by taking the bus to Forca d’Ancarano, to the north of Norcia. From here we join a footpath that will pass through the attractive hilltop villages of Pie la Rocca, Capo del Colle, Campi Vecchio and Acquaro. There will be time to linger en route, particularly at Campi Vecchio. The undulating path insinuates its way through hills and past the wayside churches of San Salvatore and Madonna della Croce until it finally descends to the abbey of St Eutizio. 6 miles (10km); 800ft (245m) of ascent and 1,850ft (565m) of descent

Day 7: Start the day with your final cookery session with a theme of Italian desserts and then in the afternoon the highlight of the week; join the locals for an afternoon of truffle hunting. 

Day 8: Departure day

Please note that the dishes mentioned are an example and will depend on the season and availability of local ingredients.

Local area

An introduction to the area

Norcia is a delightful, small walled town of immense charm. Within the town walls the buildings have hardly been altered for many centuries. After entering through the main gate, a long straight road leads straight to Piazza di San Benedetto, the central square which is surrounded by the basilica, town hall and fortress.  The town is set in a green bowl below the tranquil green Apennines, surrounded by excellent walking country.  Nearby is the Piano Grande, a huge plain rich in wild flowers.  This area is surrounded by rolling hills and Monte Vettore (summit: 8,121ft/ 2,476m). 

Local Highlights

Norcia - Norcia is an interesting town in its own right that warrants further exploration. There are many hidden corners to discover on a wander through the narrow backstreets, or watch the world go by from one of the pavement cafés in the central square. The town has a good range of shops that are unique displaying black truffle products and meat products including boar. HF Holidays’ guests also have full use the swimming pool or tennis courts that can be found at the Hotel Salicone, on the outside of the village, There is a wellness centre across the road at a sister hotel (Hotel Palazzo Seneca) available to guests of HF Holidays.

Activities - For the more active, horse riding, rafting, mountain biking and paragliding are all available locally. These can all be booked at the ‘Norcia Slow Village’ shop on the main street. This is owned by the Bianconi family who also run the hotel.

Assisi - If there are sufficient guests interested then your Leaders will arrange a mini-bus or coach for an excursion to Assisi. This beautiful city, dominated by its Basilica, is famous as the birthplace of St Francis. The Basilica consists of the upper church which is the setting of the world famous Giotto cycle of frescoes on the life of Francis, the lower church with its frescoes by Lorenzetti, and below that the crypt containing the tomb of St Francis.

Spoleto - Lesser known, but perhaps even more enchanting than Assisi, is the beautiful walled town of Spoleto. A visit here can be a quieter day out and public transport can be used from Norcia.

Shops & facilities

The town has a good range of facilities including banks, a small hospital and shops, and even its own theatre. There is a small supermarket selling some packed lunch ingredients (just off the main square) but a larger supermarket (Co-op) is situated outside the town walls.         

Travel

‘With flight’ holidays

For flight times and prices please see the Dates & Prices tab.

We offer flights from Gatwick and Manchester (regional flight supplement £90) to Rome.

If you book a ‘with flight’ holiday with us, we automatically include transfers between the airport and the hotel. The coach transfer to Norcia takes 3 hours.

Independent travellers

All our overseas holidays can also be booked without a flight. This is ideal if you are travelling from overseas, or prefer to make your own arrangements from your local airport. If you choose this option the transfer to the hotel is not included.

HF Holidays can help you to reach the hotel in the following ways:

HF Holidays’ transfer coach from Rome Fiumicino airport. These are timed to meet the HF Holidays’ flights (provisional HF Holidays’ flight times can be found on the dates and prices tab or call 020 8732 1220). Cost per single journey is £29.50. Please note that HF Holidays is not responsible for your onward travel if you fail to meet the transfer coach under any circumstance. 

Our Airport Taxi service operates at this resort, offering quick and easy transfers for guests booking their own flights. All prices are per taxi for single journeys, allowing you to mix and match different transfer options. Transfers must be pre-booked. Please call 020 8732 1220 for more details.

From Rome airport by taxi transfer £200 per taxi single journey

Leaders

Leader to be announced

We don't have the information on the leader for this holiday at the moment. As soon as we do we will publish it here.

Reviews

Date & Rating Customer Review HF Holidays says
21 May 2016, 11:12 a.m.

Service rating:

+

Product rating:

+

Service review:

Good organisation and staff very friendly and helpful on booking.

Product review:

Reasonable but too much time in between cooking sessions
14 May 2016, 11:52 a.m.

Service rating:

+

Product rating:

+

Service review:

Sometimes difficult to get an answer to a phone call at your call centre

Product review:

Mostly good but poor in parts. Three of the included excursions were a waste of time- a chocolate factory that was not producing chocolate during our visit, an olive press not producing oil because it was the wrong time of year and a truffle hunt that was just a joke! Hotel restaurants were full of noisy school children in the evenings. Coach for return journey to airport did not have seat belts. If these were addressed I could have given an excellent.
10 May 2016, 7:45 a.m.

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+

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My first time with HF. The office staff were friendly and helpful.

Product review:

Norcia is an atmospheric and compact town- easy to negotiate and with very pretty squares, churches, museum and a plethora of Norcerias selling hams, salamis truffles and cheeses.
The hotel was friendly and the owners generous spirited. However,the rooms on the fourth floor are very tired and certainly need a bit of upgrading. There are no comfortable chairs to sit and read We also had no individual control over heating which resulted in several overly hot nights for us all.
The suppers were plentiful and sociable, albeit not always good. At times the dining facilities were full to bursting with school children of all ages which clearly compromised the standard of food leaving the kitchen- too many guests for a consistent standard. As a group we were a bit disappointed not to eat with Italians as we were not in the advertised dining room and most evenings we were eating alone.
The walking was lovely with lots of undulations and amazing vistas and wild flowers. Our leader was knowledgeable on flora and fauna which was rather special.
The cooking was a bit disappointing; more assembling of pre-prepared ingredients and a lot of demonstration. On reflection it was perhaps because the group came together around a long table to chop, slice etc and as there was only a small kitchen and one area for cooking the chefs made the dishes whilst we watched. Maybe though, this needs to be made clear.
With a bit of tweaking it could have been excellent and I will certainly book with HF again.
10 May 2016, 6:59 a.m.

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+

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Generally well-organised, using good hotels, and manages to attract like-minded people who enjoy the same sort of holiday and gel well together.

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Very interesting region to visit. Hotel owners extremely hospitable, food great. Cooking days are great fun, if not very technical. Norcia is a lovely walled town with a fascinating history, including parts of Roman streets underground, that you can access from the museums.
20 Oct 2015, 12:15 p.m.

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No review provided

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For some unknown admin reason, I was not on the Leader' list when I arrived at the airport! Nonetheless, I was made to feel very welome.
25 Oct 2014, 12:51 p.m.

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the overall organisation and value for money was very good

Product review:

Great additional activities throughout the week. I particularly enjoyed the truffle hunting.
24 Oct 2014, 10:29 a.m.

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Service review:

We loved every thing about our cooking holiday with H. F. except for one thing which is the same thing I mentioned last time we booked. We asks for a room with a double bed and again we were in a cute room with two single beds which we thought was just what the hotel had until we discovered there was rooms with double beds and single people were in them. You said last time you have no control over the room allocation but someone must let them know what people would prefer.

Product review:

It would have been better for us with no visits to wine and chocolate places and more cooking such as making some of the sauces for the pasta.
24 Oct 2014, 7:53 a.m.

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Service review:

This was my first HF holiday. Booking was efficient and courteous. My only problem was no Newcastle flights, Early flights from Gatwick and lack of return flights to Ncl on Saturday created extra cost and stress when travelling alone, as I had transfers and overnight stays to add. All other travellers on the holiday were from the South or abroad, which is telling!

Product review:

Excellent value for money. Great variety of activities. Leader worked above and beyond to ensure our enjoyment. Hotel staff were welcoming and friendly. Nothing was too much trouble, As long as guests are aware in advance of the small rooms, they are no problem.
19 May 2014, 1:40 p.m.

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No review provided

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Well organised
19 May 2014, 12:53 p.m.

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No review provided

Product review:

I would have preferred to pay more for better accommodation ie better bedrooms, lounge facilities. The guide was lovely but I prefer guides that are paid and who would stay for the season in the same area and have better knowledge of the region, the language and the culture

Read more reviews from feefo

Dates & Prices

Date Description Nights Brochure price Book
29 Apr 2017 NCLGC - Cooking & Walking Umbria
(Travel included)

Flight - Outbound

Jet 2

  • Depart: 29 Apr 2017, 7:15 a.m.
  • Arrive: 29 Apr 2017, 11:10 a.m.
  • Depart from: Manchester International
  • Arrive at: Rome Fiumicino

Flight - Return

Jet 2

  • Depart: 6 May 2017, 12:10 p.m.
  • Arrive: 6 May 2017, 2:15 p.m.
  • Depart from: Rome Fiumicino
  • Arrive at: Manchester International
7 £1,049.00 Book Now
29 Apr 2017 NCLGC - Cooking & Walking Umbria
(Travel included)

Flight - Outbound

BRITISH AIRWAYS

  • Depart: 29 Apr 2017, 8:30 a.m.
  • Arrive: 29 Apr 2017, 11:55 a.m.
  • Depart from: London Heathrow
  • Arrive at: Rome Fiumicino

Flight - Return

BRITISH AIRWAYS

  • Depart: 6 May 2017, 12:55 p.m.
  • Arrive: 6 May 2017, 2:50 p.m.
  • Depart from: Rome Fiumicino
  • Arrive at: London Heathrow
7 £1,049.00 Book Now
29 Apr 2017 NCLGC - Cooking & Walking Umbria 7 £849.00 Book Now
7 Oct 2017 NCLGC - Cooking & Walking Umbria
(Travel included)

Flight - Outbound

BRITISH AIRWAYS

  • Depart: 7 Oct 2017, 8:30 a.m.
  • Arrive: 7 Oct 2017, 11:55 a.m.
  • Depart from: London Heathrow
  • Arrive at: Rome Fiumicino

Flight - Return

BRITISH AIRWAYS

  • Depart: 14 Oct 2017, 12:55 p.m.
  • Arrive: 14 Oct 2017, 2:50 p.m.
  • Depart from: Rome Fiumicino
  • Arrive at: London Heathrow
7 £1,049.00 Book Now
7 Oct 2017 NCLGC - Cooking & Walking Umbria
(Travel included)

Flight - Outbound

Jet 2

  • Depart: 7 Oct 2017, 7:15 a.m.
  • Arrive: 7 Oct 2017, 11:10 a.m.
  • Depart from: Manchester International
  • Arrive at: Rome Fiumicino

Flight - Return

Jet 2

  • Depart: 14 Oct 2017, 12:10 p.m.
  • Arrive: 14 Oct 2017, 2:15 p.m.
  • Depart from: Rome Fiumicino
  • Arrive at: Manchester International
7 £1,049.00 Book Now
7 Oct 2017 NCLGC - Cooking & Walking Umbria 7 £849.00 Book Now

Prices are per person

Information

  • Double room for sole occupancy: £12 per night (2016), £14 per night (2017)
  • All transport to walks is included in the price of the holiday
  • Non-member associate fee: (2016) £5 per person; (2017) £10 per person