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 View of Gubbio

Gubbio

The City of the Ceri

Historical Overview

The ancient city of Gubbio, known as Ikuvium or Iguvium, founded by the Umbrians at the foot of Mount Ingino, was one of the most important centers of ancient Umbria. During Augustus' division in the 1st century BC, Umbria was limited to the west by the Tiber and extended eastward to the Adriatic. The precious Iguvine Tablets (3rd - 1st century BC), seven bronze tablets inscribed in the Umbrian language with extensive descriptions of religious rites and indications about the city's organization, are the most important testimony of the ancient Umbrians. Discovered in 1444 by a peasant woman near the Roman Theater, they were later acquired by the Municipality in 1456 through a notarial deed and are now preserved in the Palazzo dei Consoli.

In 90 BC, it became a Roman municipality, but as early as the 3rd century BC, Gubbio had entered into agreements with Rome for the supply of military contingents. Its proximity to the Apennine pass of Scheggia and to the Flaminia road that crosses it certainly contributed to its fortune. From the 5th century onwards, it suffered occupations and destructions (Goths, Byzantines, Lombards), and in the 12th century, freeing itself from the bishop's authority, it established a municipal self-government. From 1262 to 1350, it experienced a long period of peace and prosperity, with significant urban development including the walls and the imposing Municipal Palaces.

In 1384, after thirty years of bitter internal struggles with the Church, it was occupied by the Montefeltro of Urbino, and Urbino's domination continued until 1631 with the Della Rovere. It was a golden period for the city, which flourished culturally and artistically. Economic and political decline began again with the new submission to the Papal State. In 1860, shortly after annexation to the Kingdom of Italy, Gubbio was incorporated into Umbria.

Strolling Among Churches, Medieval Palaces, Panoramic Terraces, and Curious Traditions

Originally the site of the medieval market, Piazza Quaranta Martiri serves as the entrance to the historic center of the city, surrounded by limestone buildings. Here, a garden offers the first panoramic view of the village, which extends on the slopes of Mount Ingino. Numerous churches overlook this square, including the 13th-century Church of San Francesco, built on the lands of the Spadalonga family, which welcomed and clothed St. Francis after he left his paternal home. Not far from the square, you can then enter the archaeological area, where you can see the remains of the Roman Theater and the Antiquarium, dating back to the 2nd-1st century BC, considered one of the largest of its time with the ability to accommodate up to 6,000 spectators.

From the lower part of the city, you can climb to reach Piazza Grande, an imposing elevated terrace, where the most important buildings overlook, such as the Palazzo dei Consoli, symbol of the city, founded in 1332, now home to the Civic Museum and the Municipal Art Gallery, which houses the famous Eugubine Tables, as well as interesting collections, including ceramics, with splendid examples of artifacts made with the "Eugubine lustre" technique. From the terrace of Piazza Grande, you can enjoy a magnificent panoramic view of the surrounding countryside, which opens up on one of its sides.

About two hundred meters from the square, along via dei Consoli, you reach the Fountain of the Bargello, located in front of the 14th-century palace of the same name, which has made Gubbio known as the "city of fools". It is said that by turning three times around the 16th-century fountain and getting wet with its water, one can obtain the "fool's license", a particular parchment that can be requested from the Maggio Eugubino Association or in the souvenir shops nearby. A true ritual, dating back to the 19th century, inspired by the "birate", the turns still made by the Ceri in Piazza Grande during the famous May 15th Festival.

Another site of interest in the historic center is the Cathedral of Gubbio, the Cathedral dedicated to San Mariano and San Giacomo, built between the 13th and 14th centuries predominantly in Gothic style. Here, opposite, you can also visit the elegant Ducal Palace, a unique example of Renaissance architecture in the village, built thanks to the Duke of Urbino Federico da Montefeltro in 1470, where you can admire, among other ancient and contemporary paintings and a rooftop garden with a panorama, a replica of Federico's studiolo with a suggestive wooden structure, the original of which is now at the Metropolitan Museum in New York.

The historic center of Gubbio is a real concentration of vitality, with several places where you can taste the excellences of traditional peasant cuisine. You can enjoy everything from the renowned truffles to brustengo or crescia, tasty local focaccias stuffed with cheeses and cured meats, accompanied by salads of countryside herbs. And don't miss the friccò, a stew of mixed meats (chicken, rabbit, and lamb) enriched with aromatic herbs and anchovies.

Exploring the Surroundings

Just outside the medieval center, you can immerse yourself in nature by reaching the Gola del Bottaccione, a river valley created by the erosive action of the Carmignano stream between Mount Ingino and Mount Foce, whose rocks have an important geological and historiographical value associated with the extinction of dinosaurs. Here, you can walk along a path passing through the suggestive medieval aqueduct, which from 1300 until the early twentieth century brought water to Gubbio. You have the opportunity to admire among the unspoiled countryside and the watercourse also the Hermitage of Sant'Ambrogio, perched on the slopes of the mountain and built in the 14th century near a prehistoric citadel with cyclopean walls.

Outside the medieval center, another site of great interest is the Basilica of Sant'Ubaldo, the patron saint of Gubbio. It can be reached by a walk of about 2 km and 300 meters uphill, by mountain bike, or by taking a cable car. Here, the relics of the Saint are preserved, along with the large and renowned Ceri.

Events in Gubbio

The most important historical event in Gubbio is undoubtedly the Festa dei Ceri, one of the oldest Italian folk festivals, which has been repeated every year since 1165, on May 15th, in honor of Saint Ubaldo. An event that attracts visitors from all over the world for the powerful emotions it evokes. And again, according to medieval traditions, to fully experience the spirit of Gubbio, during the Easter period, don't miss the suggestive Procession of the Dead Christ, which dates back to the distant 13th century. During the Christmas season, instead, you can admire an unprecedented spectacle thanks to the Largest Christmas Tree in the World.

How to Get There

The village can be reached by car via the A14 Adriatica Motorway exiting at Fano if coming from Northern Italy or exiting at Ancona – Nord if coming from Southern Italy. Alternatively, you can choose the A1 del Sole Motorway with exits at Arezzo if coming from Northern Italy, or at Orte if coming from Southern Italy. Gubbio can also be reached by train with the Rome – Ancona railway line, or the Florence – Terontola – Perugia line, getting off at the "Fossato di Vico-Gubbio" station.

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Images from Gubbio