"A place apart" Top 5 Page for this destination Gubbio by toonsarah
Gubbio Travel Guide: 142 reviews and 552 photos
The Palio della Balestra, to give it its full name, is the festival of the crossbow fighters, and is a centuries-old tradition. It is full of colour and pageantry, but at its heart is a contest of skill and strength between the crossbow men of Gubbio and those of Sansepolcro. It lasts the best part of a day, and all the town seems to participate in one way or another. What I loved was the way in which the event is clearly embedded in the hearts and souls of the people. This is no tourist gimmick – indeed, very few visitors seemed to be here. This takes place each year because it has taken place each year; history is not just the past here, it is the present too, and will be the future.
Gradually over the next few days Gubbio crept further under my skin. The wonderful views from each of the many levels of its hillside location; the bells ringing the quarter hours; the cobbled streets and medieval houses seeming barely untouched by the centuries; the food, the people, the scents, sights and sounds of a place that seemed to be a little set apart from the world even while also being almost at the very heart of it.
Gubbio looks inward on itself, not outwards.
I heard too about the other traditions and beliefs, in particular the Festa dei Ceri and the saints venerated on that day (to one of which, each Gubbio native has a special devotion). I grew to recognise the meanings of the different flags that hung from each window, and to find my way among the narrow streets and up the steep stairs.
On my last evening I went alone up to the Piazza Grande with my camera and tried to capture Gubbio’s magic. The photos aren’t perfect, but they speak to me of a special place and will, I am sure, lure me back one day.
Perhaps the most surprising thing of all about Gubbio is the fact that so few people know about it. Apart from the small group of VTers who gathered there for the Palio meeting I saw almost no other tourists, or at least no others from outside Italy. In some ways this is part of its charm, of course. But it deserves to be better known, and one VTer, Trekki, aka Ingrid, is doing her best to ensure that it becomes so. It is to her, and her wonderful VT page about the town, that I own my own discovery of this special place, and to her that I dedicate this more humble attempt at bringing it to people’s attention.
You will see many references to Ingrid in my tips, as we travelled and explored together. It is with her permission that my page borrows heavily from hers. There is no better source of information about Gubbio, in English at least, so at times I have been reliant on her thorough research to fill the gaps in my memory of what I saw and what she told me about what I was seeing. It is tedious for both reader and writer to hyperlink every time (although I have done to for some of the most comprehensive and fascinating of her tips), so follow the link above if you want to explore her page about Gubbio further – as I hope you will. There you will learn about her pasion for the town, and also the honour accorded her, to be a member of the Societá dei Balestrieri and play an active part in the Palio each year.
As this is rather a large page, I suggest that those who wish to read all of it follow my suggested order through the links provided, starting with my journey to Gubbio.
- Pros:Magical atmosphere, wonderful medieval architecture and a very special way of life
- Cons:Not as easy as some Italian towns to get to - but on reflection, that could just be a pro!
- In a nutshell:The past is very close here, but this is a living town, not a museum
I travelled to Gubbio by air, train and car. The first part of this journey was a flight from London Heathrow to Rome’s... more travel advice
I stayed here on the recommendation of Ingrid, and found it just as she had described – a friendly welcome, a beautiful... more travel advice
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