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Canyoning in Umbria, Valnerina

Hurl yourself onto sheets of glistening water or white-water torrents or climb down rock faces and dive into the river. Experience the canyoning in Umbria!

80€ Per person
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Rent an e-bike in Cascia

Rent an e-bike in Cascia and explore the many paths and trails in total freedom!

60€ Per person
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Spa in Cascia, a day of pure relaxation

Enjoy a whole day just for you and relax in this terrific Spa in Cascia, surrounded by nature

55€ Per person
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The ring of the ‘Monte Patino’ mountain

Trekking in the Sibillini mountain range, from the valley of a thousand colours to the top of Monte Patino

from 90€ Per person
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Trekking around mount Veletta and Castelluccio di Norcia

Trekking around Monte Veletta, on the hills above Castelluccio di Norcia

from 75€ Per person
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Trekking to Rasiglia and Verchiano, along the ancient road

A circular trekking excursion to discover Rasiglia, one of the most beautiful places in Umbria.

from 90€ Per person
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Discover Preci

Discover Preci with us 

Nestled among the lush green woods of the Castoriana valley, with its streams of clear running water and white limestone rock formations, stands the small medieval village of Preci, perched on a hill at some 956 metres above sea level.

The first documented traces of Preci date back to 1232, the year in which the inhabited centre consisted of a small number of houses grouped around a Benedictine oratory, which lends its name to the village: from the Latin word ‘preces’ meaning prayer. Shortly after its foundation, a protective wall was built around the small settlement and the ancient portal, the arco di Finocchioli, is still visible today. For a few years, Preci remained under the jurisdiction of the city of Spoleto and then passed under the control of Norcia in 1276. The inhabitants of the small village can’t have been very happy under Norcia’s rule because the village was destroyed by the Norcian army in 1528 after a revolt. The rebels were barred from the city and forced into exile at Castelluccio. Just a few years later, via the intercession of Pope Paul III, Preci was rebuilt in 1533, after official reconciliation with Norcia. From that moment on, the small village experienced a period of prosperity and growth, until 1817 when it was elevated to the rank of municipality in the papal state under Pope Pius VIII.

Although it is a small urban outpost in the vast expanse of the Parco dei Monti Sibillini (Park of the Sibillini Mountains), Preci owes its worldwide fame to the Scuola Chirurgica (Surgical School) that was founded here and developed for about four hundred years (from 12th-16th centuries). The surrounding vegetation, which is rich in medicinal plants, was exploited from ancient times onwards by the hermit-monks who settled in the valley, the most famous being Sant’Eutizio. The Abbey dedicated to his memory is near Preci, which was the cradle of surgical expertise in the area. In 1215 the Lateran Council forbade the monks from devoting themselves to the surgical practices in which they excelled, so the monks who were custodians of a unique branch of knowledge and expertise handed down over many centuries, decided to transmit all their knowledge to the inhabitants of the nearby villages. Figures such as Durante and Cesare Scacchi and Orazio Cattani provided their professional services not only in Umbria but throughout the whole of Italy and even beyond Italy’s borders (Cesare cured the cataracts of the English Queen, Elizabeth of Tudor, and Orazio was the doctor at the court of the Sultan of Constantinople). The expertise of Preci’s surgeons was focused essentially in three fields: the removal of cataracts, inguinal hernias and kidney stones, the latter with a 90% success rate. The historical events related to the Surgical School and numerous medical instruments are now on display at the Abbey’s museum, one of the area’s unmissable highlights.

So, while Preci is a small outpost in the Apennines, it’s an important resource not only for Umbria but for the whole of Italy. The international fame of its surgeons and the devotion of its hermit-monks attract numerous tourists and devoted pilgrims every year.

Alongside prayer, museums, nature and history, as in the case of almost any rural village in Umbria, Preci offers all the genuine, delicious local specialities you’d expect. The cuisine’s main attractions are its trout and ham. If you’re in the area between late June and early July, don’t miss ‘Pane, prosciutto and Fantasia’ (Bread, ham and ‘whatever-you-fancy’), an event that fills the village streets with stands offering typical local and Umbrian foodstuffs and displays of traditional handicrafts: from cheese and bread-making to pork-processing, basket weaving and blacksmithing.

Discover What to see in Preci 

The small village of Preci, surrounded by dense trees and shrubs – with an abundance of medicinal plants that have been used since ancient times by inhabitants and monks – and nestled amongst woods, springs and a rocky limestone formations, is one of the many attractions of the ‘Parco dei monti Sibillini’ (Park of the Sibillini Mountains). Perched on the hills of the Apennines, the inhabited centre is a web of steep and narrow streets that sometimes have as much as an 8% gradient and that all lead to the main square, the heart of the village. It won’t take long to explore the attractions of this lovely little architectural jewel, in all its 16th-century splendour. Your tour should start from the central pizza with its Palazzo Comunale, the symbol of civil power, not far from the Chiesa di Santa Maria della Pietà, built by the monks of the Abbazia di Sant’Eutizio in the 13th century and a symbol of religious power. To the west, not far from the centre, lies the neighbourhood of Scacchi, named after the brothers Durante and Cesari Scacchi, outstanding exponents of Preci’s famous Surgical School. Walking along the street of the same name, you’ll reach the Chiesa di Santa Caterina, which has sadly been very badly damaged by earthquakes. Now very different in shape to its original form, it houses the Museo della Scuola Chirurgica. (Surgical School museum). At this point, the small village will have revealed almost all its wonders but if you make your way to the southern end of the village, you’ll see the well-conserved old city-wall entrance called the arco di Finocchioli. Once you have passed the threshold, you’ll have left the village itself and then find yourself in the perfect spot to admire the beautiful panorama of the Castoriana valley.

Not far from the town of Preci, on a rocky white limestone outcrop that looks out over the Castoriana valley, stands one of the oldest monastic complexes in Italy.

The origins of the Abbey date back to the 5th – 6th century, a period when the Apennine valleys become the refuge of monks from the East who retreated to the local rocky climbs to dedicate themselves to a life of poverty, contemplation and asceticism. Initially small communities made up of a few individuals living in meagre huts, they laid the foundations for the birth of the Benedictine rule ‘ora et labora’ (pray and work).

In his ‘Dialogorum’, Saint Gregory the Great tells the story of the venerable St. Spes, a Syrian monk who, having arrived in Italy in the 5th century, founded a small oratory dedicated to the Virgin Mary near a rich water source that still irrigates the surrounding land. The monk led the monastic community for about forty years until his death in 510. At that point, one of his most devoted and virtuous disciples was entrusted to continue his late master’s work. Sant’Eutizio moved to the small oratory, carving into the rock (today surmounted by the bell tower) the cell he used as a retreat for prayer, together with his companion St. Fiorenzo, also a disciple of St. Spes.

After the death of Sant’Eutizio in 536, a monastery was built in his memory as champion of the development and expansion of the small community. Dedicating themselves to agriculture, breeding, harnessing the woods’ resources and the spiritual guidance of the area’s inhabitants, the monks secured considerable donations, increased their economic and political influence in the valley and became highly educated. They established the renowned Scuola Chirurgica (Surgical School), suppressed in 1215 by a decree of the Lateran Council which prohibited the monks from exercising their profession.

Fearing that the expertise they had acquired over centuries would be lost, the monks readily shared their knowledge with the inhabitants of the neighbouring villages, thereby preserving the surgical know-how.

In 1180 some restoration and extension work was carried out, cited in an inscription found on the entrance portal’s lunette. The works began under abbot Theodino I and ended in 1236 under Theodino II. Over subsequent centuries, the monastery fell into a state of neglect, was taken over by the Municipality of Norcia from the 14th to the 15th centuries and was occupied for some time by the Benedictines until a brief revival in the 17th century when, at the behest of Abbot Crescenzi, the beautiful bell tower was built, perched above the rocky outcrop housing the cell of the Saints Eutizio and Fiorenzo.

In 1950, the Abbey was completely abandoned and restored only a few decades later, at the end of the twentieth century, thanks to the commitment of the young parish priest Don Fabrizio Proietti, who was granted permission to settle there and who offered hospitality in exchange for help to restore the abandoned complex.

Today the abbey still hosts a small community of monks but is open to pilgrims and devotees who want to pray in a very special place. The small Romanesque-style church has a beautiful circular rose window with symbols of the four evangelists on each side. Inside and below the presbytery, there is a crypt with an urn containing the remains of Saint Eutizio, while the upper floor of the Abbey houses the Museo della Scuola Chirurgica (Surgical School Museum) and is definitely worth a visit.

On the slopes of Monte Morricone, at more than 900 metres above sea level, stands the tiny village of Collescille – now inhabited by only three families –, also referred to in ancient documents as ‘Toccalomò’.

As it was the highest inhabited point in the whole valley and strategically well-positioned between Preci and Visso, Collescille carried out the important function of surveillance over the surrounding area from ancient times onwards. For this reason, it was even equipped with a tower – the Torre di Collescille – built on a square plan and made of blocks of stone and located in a crowning position in the village.

The aim of the tower was not to protect the village but rather the nearby Abbey of Sant’Eutizio, which for years was the most important economic, political and cultural hub in the entire Castoriana valley.

In 1259, the Abbot Theodino II donated the village of Collescille to Norcia, while at the same time divesting the Abbey of Sant’Eutizio of its temporal power. The tower and the village thereby lost their function and were gradually abandoned.

Located in the neighbourhood of Scacchi, a short distance from Preci’s central piazza, the Chiesa di Santa Caterina is perhaps the oldest in the village. Unfortunately, repeated renovations have almost completely changed its structure compared to the original. The Romanesque entrance portal is still intact, though, with a round arch decorated on both sides by small columns surmounted by lions, with bases and capitals decorated with floral motifs. There are numerous Gothic symbols on the architrave, certainly added in the 14th century with an interesting mixture of the two architectural styles.

The small bell tower – now without a bell – stands on the left side of the facade and was also added during the 14th century architectural alterations. It is decorated with columns with lions at the base, perhaps recycled from a previous building.

The church houses a beautiful baroque-style altar, flanked by a very damaged 16th century fresco. In the middle you can just about make out the church’s namesake, St. Caterina, and some barely legible written fragments.

Today the ancient religious building houses the Museo della Scuola Chirurgica di Preci (Museum of the Surgical School of Preci).

In the main square in the centre of Preci, not far from the Palazzo Comunale, stands the Church of Santa Maria della Pietà, also referred to as Pieve (Parish Church) due to the presence of a 16th-century baptismal font. The church was built in Romanesque style in the 13th century by the monks of the Abbey of Sant’Eutizio. It has two entrance portals: one is very sober and dates back to 1300, with a pointed arch and capitals in Gothic style, while the other entrance is on the left side, dates back to the following century (1400), and is decorated with numerous coats of arms on the wall. In ancient times this wall was joined via a portico, now no longer visible, to the nearby Casa della Comunità, thereby creating a space for municipal meetings. The bell tower that stands above the structure, with its large decorative clock, displays 18th-century architectural elements. The inside of the church has a simple stone floor and a single aisle embellished with chapels containing canvas and panel paintings as well as eight decorative altars. Don’t miss the ‘lipsanoteca’ (reliquary containing sacred relics) created by Angelucci and the canvas depicting the Holy Trinity painted in the 17th century by the local artist, Carocci. An earthquake in 1997 caused considerable damage to the structure, but incredibly, restoration work uncovered the remains of some 14th and 15th-century frescoes attributed generically to local artists referred to as ‘from the Valnerina’.

To the right of the Church stands an impressive War Memorial, built by the village in modern times in honour of the local fallen of the two World Wars.

A few kilometres from the town of Preci, on the right side of the Castle of Belforte, there’s a small valley – crossed by a narrow stream and the lovely ‘Lu Cuniuntu’ waterfalls – called Valloncello which extends to join with the wider and better-known Valle della Nera.

In ancient times, this atmospheric and isolated spot was a source of sulphurous waters that have since dried up following the area’s numerous earthquakes. Rich in medicinal plants such as gentian, centaurea and male fern, it is not far from the famous ‘scuola chirurgica preciana’ (Preci Surgical School). The peaceful and pleasant valley was chosen as the ideal place for the building of the lebbrosario di San Lazzaro (San Lazzaro leprosy hospital).

Tradition has it that it was St. Francis himself who went to the area to found the small church and hospital and often visited the sick there. According to documentary evidence, on 24th September 1218, the vast area was handed over to the monk Bono, rector of the nearby Benedictine church of S. Cataldo (now long gone) by a wealthy local feudal lord Razzardo di Roccapazza. Powerfully influenced by the preaching of Saint Francis, the gentleman conceded the vast piece of land for the building of a church and a hospital for lepers, reserving for himself merely the right to graze his cattle.

From then on, numerous patients and families were taken care of in this hospital, some remains still existing today in the inhabited centre of the village of San Lazzaro in Valloncello.

The leprosy hospital was only officially abolished in 1490, via a decree by Pope Innocent VIII, who thanked God for the by-then drastic reduction in leprosy cases.

The structure had a complex history, passing under the jurisdiction of various religious orders, from the monks of Sant’Eutizio in 1218 to the minor friars and to the order of the saints Maurizio and Lazzaro in 1572. In modern times, ownership passed to the Sorbello family in the mid-19th century, who then sold it to the Betti Massi family of Belforte and Poggio di Croce, who turned it into a residential building for farming purposes.

In the centre of the Guaita valley, a short distance from Collescille, stands the small Hermitage of San Fiorenzo at about 1100 metres above sea level, tucked away in the maple and hornbeam woods.

In his ‘Dialogorum’ manuscript, Gregory the Great tells the story of a young monk who devoted himself to the ascetic and contemplative life for many years in the company of the better-known Sant’Eutizio.

After the death of their spiritual father, St. Spes in the 5th century, Eutizio was called down into the valley to take over from the late master and he asked Fiorenzo to look after and pray in the sacred place they had shared for so long. Fiorenzo remained faithful to his promise, it seems, and continued living inside the meagre cells carved into the rock face, which can still be seen a short distance from the hermitage. It was only after the death of his beloved companion around 536, that Fiorenzo decided to leave the valley and follow another ascetic, St. Vincenzo, who lived outside the walls of Foligno, where he remained until his death in the mid-6th century.

The place was abandoned to the memory of the hermit-saint until the 10th century when a small hermitage with a chapel dedicated to San Fiorenzo was finally built next to the cells.

In modern times, this sacred but almost forgotten place has been brought back to life by another monk, a Pole called Taddeo (Tadeusz), who has chosen to follow in the footsteps of St. Fiorenzo and lives in absolute poverty in the small hermitage. He is committed to restoring the few abandoned rooms by providing hospitality to the many visitors who want to visit the place and meet him.

The small village of Belforte once stood at about 600 metres above sea level, in the upper Valnerina area, on the western side of the river Nera. A short distance from the famous Lebbrosario di San Lazzaro (Leprosy hospital), which is still well-conserved and open for visits, this little village is now reduced to ruins even if it retains some of its original features: the contours of the fortified village perched on the slope of the hill are, in fact, still visible.

Most of the buildings were damaged by the area’s numerous earthquakes, with the last and most destructive striking in 1997. The aftershocks also destroyed the little church of San Cristoforo and the adjoining sacristy.

In the countryside of Valnerina, not far from the Abbazia di Sant’Eutizio and the hermitage called Eremo di San Fiorenzo, stands the small Cappella di San Macario. Tradition has it that St. Macario was dedicated to the ascetic life and met the other two hermits who lived in the same area only once a week, on a Sunday.

The three celebrated the Eucharist together and shared a small meal before spending the whole day accompanying each other to their respective hermitages. The very simple little chapel is made of bricks and has a rectangular floor plan and a sloping roof. Its entrance is protected by a metal gate and inside there is a small altar decorated with a painting of the area’s three hermit-saints.

The festival of San Macario is celebrated in the hamlet of Preci on 2nd May.

Discover What to do in Preci 

Your tour of the village, while very interesting, won’t have worn you out so you’ll have the energy to visit the surrounding area and see the places connected to the area’s hermits. A visit to the beautiful Abbazia di Sant’Eutizio (Abbey of St. Eutizio) is an absolute must. It was the most important production and meeting point in the whole valley for centuries and the cradle of medical expertise for four hundred years (from the 12th – 16th centuries) and today it still houses the Museo dell’Abbazia. Divided into four rooms, the Museum illustrates the abbey’s historical events and exhibits a wide range of liturgical and sacred objects, together with the surgical instruments of Preci’s famous Surgical School. Apart from the most famous saint, Eutizio, his holy companions also left their mark in the area via places of worship linked to their names. They have now also become a focal point for pilgrims and tourists and should not be forgotten. By simply crossing the valley, you can easily visit the Eremo di San Fiorenzo (Hermitage of St. Fiorenzo), the Cappella di San Macario (Chapel of San Macario) and the Lebbrosario di San Lazzaro (St. Lazzaro Leprosy hospital).

If your curiosity has not yet been satiated by these prayer sites, you can press on to other secular sites: the Castello di Belforte and the Torre di Collescille, even if badly damaged by earthquakes, are still well worth seeing.

If you are a sports lover, you’ll find plenty of sports facilities, while if you prefer nature and adventure, then the Parco dei Monti Sibillini (Park of the Sibillini Mountains) offers a wide range of alternative activities from trekking to mountain biking and horse riding, meaning that you can sweat it out even in the valley’s lush green woods!

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