I was Painting Piano Grande for the first time in September 2004. I’d seen spectacular photographs of colourful flowers growing in this vast plateau in the Sibillini mountains and hoped to capture them in watercolour. Of course it was completely the wrong time of year! I needed to return in late spring, early summer.
In May we decided to see if Piano Grande could be a day trip for our Painting Holiday Guests. We’d booked two nights at Agriturismo “Il Casale degli Amici” just outside of Norcia. We found it was well located, just a few minutes drive from Norcia and 45 minutes drive from Castelluccio.
Norcia, Castelluccio and Piano Grande
Nothing could prepare us for the devastation we saw in Norcia. Susan and I were woken from our sleep when the earthquake struck just after 3:30am on the 24th August 2016. We were staying more than 50 miles away near Chiesa del Carmine. The epicentre was south east of Norcia and left 297 dead from the villages of Accumoli, Amatrice and Arquato del Tronto. We’d heard that Norcia had been hit by another earthquake on the 30th October 2016 and the damage was plain to see.
When we walked into Norcia, renowned for shops selling amazing local produce, we could see many that had closed down. A young man selling wild boar salamis and cheeses welcomed us to try them. They were delicious and a few minutes later we’d made a significant purchase!
It was so sad to see scaffolding surrounding the devastated church and many other buildings effected by the earthquakes. I remember writing about the shop signage below on a previous blog post. Tragically it is now closed.
Painting Piano Grande
After an amazing evening meal at “Il Casale degli Amici” and a great nights sleep, we set off for Piano Grande. The drive took us a little longer than usual because of damage to the roads. Several sets of traffic lights where the road was one lane held us up. The drive was spectacular, taking us through the rain clouds into bright sunshine where we were looking down onto the clouds.
We had to wait until noon to actually drive down into Piano Grande and Castelluccio because the road was closed for workmen repairing the road. This was not a problem for me. Painting Piano Grande was on my radar! Even though we’d seen poppies growing around Orvieto and Montefalco on our way, it was still too early here.
I had plenty of time to capture the few patches of snow on the Sibillini Mountains surrounding Piano Grande and the vast plateau where wonderful lentils are grown in the summer. When the road opened we had an hour to drive into Castelluccio which is sadly now a ghost town because of the earthquake. It’s going to take a while for Castelluccio to become inhabited again. It’s such a place of outstanding beauty I pray that it receives all the help it needs become a tourist destination, along with Norcia too.