Preserving the Umbrian Heritage at Vespasia Restaurant of Palazzo Seneca in Norcia

Within the historic walls of Palazzo Seneca, a noble residence steeped in 16th-century charm, lies Vespasia, the only Michelin-starred restaurant of Norcia which was earned in 2014. Located in the heart of Norcia's historic center, just a stone's throw from the iconic San Benedetto Square and the bustling main street, Vespasia takes guests on a captivating gastronomic journey.

Originally the residence of the esteemed Seneca family, renowned artisans who catered to prestigious Vatican clientele, Palazzo Seneca later transformed into a haven for weary travelers crossing the Apennines. As Hotel della Posta, it welcomed travelers seeking respite and exceptional dining experiences amidst its historic ambiance.

In the late nineties, the Bianconi family acquired the property and embarked on an ambitious seven-year renovation project, restoring every facet of the palazzo with meticulous attention to detail. For over a century and a half, the Bianconi family has been synonymous with hospitality, passing down a legacy of passion and dedication from one generation to the next. Brothers Vincenzo and Federico Bianconi, the present generation, envisioned a sanctuary where local traditions could converge with haute cuisine and sustainable practices. Thus, Palazzo Seneca was born, a testament to their love for their territory and a commitment to preserving its heritage. 

The entrance to Vespasia Restaurant is a portal to culinary indulgence, marked by a grand dark iron gate that leads guests through a stone passage flanked by Palazzo Seneca and the ancient walls of a monastery. Upon entering, visitors are greeted by a captivating sight: terracotta columns supporting a magnificent wooden ceiling adorned with tiles, illuminated by modern chandeliers that cast a warm glow throughout the space. The ambiance is further enhanced by plush leather sofas and armchairs, expertly crafted by skilled Umbrian artisans, inviting guests to relax and savor the moment.

The Chefs

At the heart of Vespasia Restaurant are Chefs Fabio Cappiello and Fumiko Sakai. Together, they form a dynamic duo where their shared passion for gastronomy and commitment to excellence shine through in every dish. As they continue to push the boundaries of Italian cuisine, they invite diners on a journey of discovery that celebrates the flavors of Norcia and the artistry of two talents with diverse backgrounds. Teaming up, they bring a unique blend of Japanese precision and Italian flair to the Michelin-starred restaurant. Together, they craft innovative dishes that showcase the bounty of Norcia's local ingredients while honoring the region's culinary heritage.

Over his 15-year tenure with the Bianconi family, Fabio Cappiello's dedication and talent earned him the trust and respect of his colleagues. He was embraced by the Bianconi family as a young apprentice from Puglia, providing him with comprehensive training and nurturing his growth both professionally and personally. Despite not being native to Umbria, he developed a deep connection to the land, feeling as though it were his own. His ascent at Vespasia Restaurant marked a pivotal moment in his career, where he continues to showcase his expertise and creativity in the kitchen. His intimate understanding of Norcia's culinary heritage, locally sourced ingredients, and traditional recipes is evident in every dish he creates. From haute cuisine events in Italy to culinary adventures in Asia, Fabio's culinary prowess knows no bounds.

Hailing from Japan, Fumiko Sakai embarked on her culinary odyssey in Italy over two decades ago, immersing herself in the rich traditions of the country. Prior to joining Vespasia Restaurant, she honed her skills in several acclaimed establishments, including collaborations with renowned chefs such as Gennaro Esposito at Torre del Saracino. This invaluable experience provided her with a deep understanding of Italian cuisine and a mastery of culinary techniques that she brings to the kitchen at Vespasia.


At Vespasia Restaurant, guests are treated to an unparalleled dining experience that celebrates the rich flavors of Norcia and pays homage to its storied past. Whether indulging in signature dishes crafted with the finest local ingredients or exploring the extensive wine selection curated to complement every palate, a meal at Vespasia is an unforgettable journey through the spirit of Umbrian flavors. To ensure the sustainability of the Vespasia project and in alignment with the restaurant's Ethical Manifesto, guests are kindly requested to book their dinner and select their menu by 8pm the day prior.

Choose from five exquisite Tasting Menus for dinner, each offering a distinct culinary experience. The Vespasia Tasting (€160) presents an eight-course culinary odyssey featuring a fusion of fish and meat, highlighted by their signature dish, Nursino Ramen, a dish marrying mushrooms and ham consommé. Meanwhile, the Menu Terra (€112) delights meat enthusiasts with a five-course exploration of land-based flavors, while the Menu Acqua (€112) invites diners to indulge in a five-course seafood creativity. For vegetarian patrons, the Menu Orto (€94) offers a five-course menu celebrating the bounty of the garden. Lastly, the Plate of Good Memories (€30) offers a singular dish evoking the essence of Umbrian traditions.

The Story of Palazzo Seneca

Palazzo Seneca holds the distinction of being the first hotel in Norcia and among the pioneering establishments in Umbria, opening its doors to guests in the early 1900s. Despite undergoing various transformations over the years, the palazzo has preserved its authentic charm, particularly evident in the vaulted rooms on the ground floor, characteristic of its original design. Inside the palazzo, visitors are greeted by a grand stone fireplace, a relic from the 16th century, adorned with the family crest—a symbol of their guild affiliations—featuring a bar with a resting compass and three roses beneath it.

The resilience of Palazzo Seneca was tested in 1997 when a devastating earthquake struck the region. However, through meticulous restoration efforts, the palazzo was rejuvenated and reopened in June 2008, reaffirming its status as one of Norcia's most treasured landmarks. Notably, the restoration project prioritized seismic safety measures, ensuring that the palazzo meets rigorous standards set forth by the Civil Protection Agency.

In the wake of subsequent seismic events, including the earthquake that rocked central Italy in August 2016, Palazzo Seneca emerged unscathed, having successfully passed comprehensive assessments conducted by expert technicians and engineers. The esteemed Relais & Châteaux Palazzo Seneca was declared "fully habitable," underscoring its steadfast resilience and unwavering commitment to guest safety and comfort.


Address: Via Cesare Battisti 10, 06046 Norcia (PG), Italy
Tel: +39 0743 817434