It has been so hot here in Umbria recently that we are doing everything we can do cool down, including taking a quick trip to one of my favorite places in the mountains, Castelluccio. One of the most famous centerpieces of the area is the Piano Grande, a huge 16 square kilometer plain surrounded by the barren Sibillini mountain range that once was a glacier lake. This entire area falls in the Parco Nazionale dei Monti Sibillini, one of the most recently established Italian national parks, which is divided between Le Marche and Umbria. The Piano Grande attracts tourists from across the globe every spring and summer when the plains are covered in a breathtaking abundance of wildflowers called the fioritura. This area is also responsible for growing Umbria’s famous lentils, Lenticchie di Castellucio, which are named for the small village that overlooks the plains.
As well as enjoying the cooler temperatures by being at a much higher altitude, we try and make a couple of trips to this area a few times a year just to see the changes in the wildflowers that cause the fields to change in color month to month. Although we’ve been to this area perhaps 7 or 8 times in the past, we’ve always just missed the appearance of the poppies that turn many of the fields a vibrant red. This trip however, by luck, we were there at the perfect time and the fields were absolutely glorious. Apparently everyone else but us must know that this was the week to visit the Piano Grande to see the poppies because the area was so congested with people and cars it was almost impossible to park. Never have I ever seen even half that many people in Castelluccio on any of our previous trips. We had a lovely day despite the crowds and traffic jams however, and I must say that it is truly inspiring to see such wonderful natural beauty up close and personal. Just walking through the vibrant colored fields of flowers surrounded by majestic mountain tops cannot help but put a smile on your face and make you truly appreciate nature’s artistry and the beauty of Umbria.