An excursion into the Valnerina is a step back in time. Literally translated it means “Black Valley” named so for the river “Black” or Nera that runs through it’s deep canyon walls. While not a long distance from the Spoleto Valley, until just recently it was difficult to access. A trip required driving over the mountain into the deep ancient valley, a trip that was treacherous and nearly impossible in the winter.
This is one reason it is a step back in time, it had been isolated from the outside world for centuries, and visiting the valley literally is a visit to the medieval Umbrian past. The Valnerina is still connected to the heart of the ancient Umbri, and their sense of sacred place pulsates in the character of the valley, the delicately placed ancient villages, and the sacred shrines and monasteries to be found there.
Because it is on the road to Norcia, Grande Piano and Castelluccio, a visiting can be part of another excursion or an all day event including sightseeing and hiking. Now there is a tunnel from Spoleto that arrives in the heart of the valley in 15 minutes. The “black” river is famous for local trout, and there are a number of beautiful towns to explore where the alleys are quaint, the views are breathtaking, and the food is delicious. The Valnerina was one of the most important corridors of the network of Benedictine Monasteries, there are several located in the valley, but one of the most important and ancient is the Monastery of “San Pietro in Valle”, placed on a hillside overlooking the length of the valley. The church is a tribute to the Benedictine monks, artists and architects who constructed it, but more importantly it still tells the story of how ancient sacred place grow from ritual of the Umbrian people, temple, and finally church or monastery.