Earthquake-Struck Norcia Property Named Hotel of the Year

Less than a year after a strong earthquake rattled Norcia in the region of UmbriaPalazzo Seneca was the first hotel in Norcia to reopen after the earthquake, and has now been named 2017 Hotel of the Year by Virtuoso, a worldwide network of luxury travel professionals.

The central Italian town of less than 5,000 people saw its most important buildings and small businesses destroyed when a magnitude 6.6 earthquake struck on October 30, 2016. Its cathedral and basilica were flattened, artisans such as prosciutto makers lost their shops, and thousands of residents were left homeless.

Run by brothers Federico and Vincenzo Bianconi, the luxurious Palazzo Seneca reopened in April 2017. The four-star hotel was built as a stone palace in the 16th century and had received seismic reinforcements prior to the earthquake. Inside, details of wood and leather complement the gray stone and white plaster walls, and no two of the 24 rooms are the same. For example, room 210 features a water room – rain falls from the ceiling – while another room has sweeping views from its double balconies.

Original details such as ceiling beams, terracotta and flagstone tiled floors, and a fireplace remain alongside the modern furnishings. Outside, a garden, Turkish baths, and sports center offer plenty of relaxation and leisure. The formal Vespasia restaurant onsite is located in the palace’s former stables, and features the prized ingredient of the region: truffles.

“The Bianconi family doesn’t just own a lovely hotel. They are beautiful people indeed, who care for others less fortunate, love the land where they were born, and take good care of this land,” said Julia Kostina of Renshaw Travel.

At a Las Vegas ceremony, Virtuoso presented the award to Palazzo Seneca as well as 10 other awards to hotels from around the world. Virtuoso Hotels and Resorts is a worldwide network of luxury travel professionals, and has been handing out the Best of the Best awards for 11 years. To name the winners, Virtuoso received input from more than 800 travel agency partners, more than 16,000 travel advisors.

“It’s a prize that excites us, makes us cry and gives us an incredible charge,” the Bianconi brothers told ANSA. “It is an acknowledgment for the love we have for our land, for the desire to always improve and to involve others in a path that is not just ours but our community’s. Our goal is to host knowing who we are and our values.” — Elaine Murphy