Berkshire Choral Festival

A Medieval hill town in scenic Umbria

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September 6-14, 2014

The tiny Umbrian village of Scheggino, the site of a Berkshire Choral Festival singing week in 2010, is back by popular demand. This pretty town on the Nera River is a lovely destination in itself, but it’s also a quiet center from which to explore the region known as “the green heart of Italy,” noted for its diverse landscapes, traditional cuisine, and influence on high culture.

A castle, a church, a river, and plenty of truffles

With a population of less than 500, Scheggino (Skeh-JEE-noh) is a quiet, intimate place in a region that is already less touristed than other parts of Italy. The town, which, like many in Umbria, climbs a hillside (there lots of stairs here), originated with the castle that sits halfway up its rocky backdrop. Dominating the characteristic stone buildings is the 13th-century Church of St. Nicholas—one of two concert venues—noted for its frescoes.

Thanks to its location on banks of the Nera River, Scheggino developed a unique food culture heavy on trout and prawns, in contrast to the pork that prevails in the rest of the valley. The cuisine is also graced by truffles—the surrounding scrub and oak woods are famous for them. There’s even a truffle museum in town.

If you’d like to explore the countryside, you can begin on foot: several walking trails lead out of the village, both along the river and out into the hills on both sides of the valley.

Explore!

You’ll have afternoons and one full day off midweek to rest your voice and discover the region. Optional tours will be available. Of note:

Assisi. Famous as the birthplace of St. Francis of Assisi, this World Heritage site is 40 minutes away. The spiritual center is among the most visited pilgrimage sites in all of Christendom.

Farmhouses. The valley in which Scheggino is nestled is full of olive and grape vineyards—and farmhouses. Many of them are remarkable examples of medieval architecture. Just look, or stay: some serve as inns.

Parks. Umbria has seven protected natural areas with a range of terrains for walking and hiking.

Spoleto. A 15-minute drive from Scheggino, Spoleto is most famous for its longstanding annual summer music and opera festival. But there’s plenty more to see there. The Church of San Salvatore, dating from the fourth century, is thought by some to be the most remarkable church in Italy.

Concert venues: Trevi and Scheggino

Friday night, you’ll perform at Chiesa di San Francesco in nearby Trevi, another classic but larger hill town (about 8,500 residents) that commands some of the best views in Umbria.

Saturday night, you’ll perform in the Church of St. Nicholas, in the heart of Scheggino. This church dates back to the 13th century. Its frescoes are attributed to the 15th-century painter Giovanni di Pietra, a Spaniard known as Lo Spagna in Italy, who was active in the region for much of his life.