Virtuoso, the luxury travel network, recently named Palazzo Seneca in Norcia, Italy, Hotel of the Year for 2017. If you’ve already seen the main sights of Italy, Palazzo Seneca is the perfect place for you to journey off the beaten path and experience the incredible region of Umbria.
You’ll be treated like family in this renovated Umbrian palace as the Bianconi family and their staff welcome you into their home. We recently visited Palazzo Seneca, a Relais & Châteaux property, for the reopening of Norcia and their Michelin-starred restaurant, Vespasia.
An overwhelmed Federico Bianconi, one of the owners, declared upon winning: “Mamma mia… We considered it already a victory having the nomination for our Palazzo Seneca next to four luxury tourism giants. This is a dream come true for us and for all of the Norcia community badly tested by the 2016 earthquake. The solidarity of many friends, the strength of our employees, and the sense of social responsibility to the community have enabled us to overcome yet another test, a proof of love for this land along with the art of hospitality which my family has been handed down from generation to generation since 1850. Awards such as the Best of the Best Award can only give us even more determination and courage to carry forward the ‘mission’ of ambassadors of Norcia with its invaluable natural and culinary heritage world known. Palazzo Seneca tells 167 years of history. The uniqueness lies in close connection with the territory and the community that give value to the structure, together with guests’ experiences.”
We had a few more questions for Federico (pictured above) after the announcement.
What was your or the family’s reaction to winning?
A storm of emotion between incredible result and proud to be there. Crying and smiles. Our efforts are visible to everyone. The power to restart of a small community looking for a better future.
Where did you get the design inspiration for Palazzo Seneca?
Before we found the right architect, we changed five times. We prepared a book with all the information about what we love and what didn’t want inside our property. With my brother, Vincenzo, we provided information about a place where we love to spend our vacation, with hospitality, elegance, sense of the place, and care about authenticity of the destination and sustainability.
What about Palazzo Seneca are you most proud of?
About our faithful staff and new members who join our vision of hospitality in Norcia. The respect of our philosophy in every detail: interior design, hospitality, cuisine, experience the destination, and care about the local community
Sandy Cutrone, Founder and President of European Connection, a Virtuoso preferred customized tour operator, has visited Norcia several times, and has 40 plus years of luxury travel experience, specializing in Italy.
Regarding the importance of Palazzo Seneca, Sandy said, “Umbria is an area that over my many years of being in the industry—40 plus—was always a highlight of an Italian trip, however, most people when you speak about Umbria, will think about two cities—either Perugia or Assisi—and will have had some experiences traveling to those two cities. But over the years, the city of Norcia was hardly known, except for some religious groups . . . that were familiar with the fact that it was the birthplace of Saint Benedict and his twin sister Scholastica. One of the reasons why it is now a featured Virtuoso property is because we had no hotel of a five-star nature anywhere in the vicinity of Norcia previous to [Palazzo Seneca] becoming part of the group. We focus on, not only the fact that there is a wonderful hotel there with an absolutely outstanding restaurant, but also that there are so many activities that can be done from there, particularly for the clients that are most interested in the gastronomic aspects of a trip to Italy.”
According to Sandy, “Norcia is not going to be a destination for a first time or maybe even second time visitor to Italy . . . but we can work out an itinerary that would give [a repeat visitor] the opportunity to do something more off the beaten path which very often [ends up] being their favorite part of the trip.” In addition to the food and wine aspect, the activities that can be done around Norcia are a highlight. You can do everything from white water rafting to truffle hunting in the countryside. Sandy encourages clients to spend a minimum of three nights to take advantage of all the activities.
One of Sandy’s most recent visits was last fall when their group took over the entire hotel. The group had visited Italy many times, but had never visited Norcia. The stay at Palazzo Seneca become the highlight of their entire trip!
“One of the reactions that we got from the travelers was the warmth and hospitality of the owners of Palazzo Seneca and their staff. It’s something that needs to be experienced to even realize what you mean. But you go there, and you become a member of the family. And everyone is there to please you and surprise you every moment of your stay.”
We agree with Sandy that you could visit for a week and still not be able to experience all that it has to offer! For more information on what you can do, check out our guide to Norcia. We can’t wait to return.