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"Gubbio ? a city full of passion" Top 5 Page for this destination Italy Things to Do Tip by Trekki

Italy Things to Do: 1,466 reviews and 2,247 photos

  Gubbio's balestrieri, during Palio (May)
by Trekki
  • Gubbio's balestrieri, during Palio (May) - Italy
      Gubbio's balestrieri, during Palio (May)
    by Trekki
  • Fascinating sbandieratori performance - Italy
      Fascinating sbandieratori performance
    by Trekki
  • Piazza and Palazzo dei Consoli - Italy
      Piazza and Palazzo dei Consoli
    by Trekki
  • The famous ceri (in Basilica Sant'Ubaldo) - Italy
      The famous ceri (in Basilica Sant'Ubaldo)
    by Trekki
  • Gubbio's cathedral, on the slopes of the hill - Italy
      Gubbio's cathedral, on the slopes of the hill
    by Trekki

I love Gubbio! Even if I haven’t seen every Italian city but I am convinced that Gubbio must be one of the most authentic. It is definitely the one with the oldest proven roots because it was already inhabited before one even thought of the Romans. The Umbrians lived here in their Ikuvium already 4th century B.C. They had fascinating pagan rituals which are extensively described in the Eugubine Tables, a set of seven bronze tables with inscriptions (once it was nine, but the two who have been sent for translation to Venezia got lost). The inscriptions are in Umbrian language, four tables in Umbrian letters (which are said to be similar to the Etruscan one and is written from right to left) and two in Latin letters. One has both letterings. Some sources describe these tables as the Italian version of the Rosetta stone. The tables describe religious rituals of the Umbrians during their autonomous existance in Ikuvium from approx. 4th century BC. These rituals were often based on the flight of the birds, which was interpreted as will of the gods. While I was in Gubbio, a fascinating interpretation of the tables by local painter Giuseppe Gierut was exhibted in Palazzo dei Consoli. Most probably they are no longer exhibited but it seems that a book with his work is available. He even has a website with his artwork: Giuseppe Gierut’s interpretation of Eugubine Tables. The tables are exhibited in the Palazzo dei Consoli (the one in photo 2), entrance fee for the museum with tables and other artwork was 5 € (April 2008). It is well worth the visit, already the entrance hall is most amazing!

Piazza Grande is Gubbio’s main piazza, the one for most of the gatherings and festivals, a platform for the three main groups and their most spectacular performances: Sbandieratori (flag throwers), Balestrieri (cross-bowers) and for the most famous Festival dei Ceri, which is held on May 15 every year. Even if you might not be in town for the Ceri festival, you might likely see one of the sbandieratori performances and you should not miss this!! They are a group of men of all ages, inlcuding kids, who have perfected their skills moving specially made flags in a very much harmonius way. I was lucky enough to see one of their performances on a grey day in April, but the piazza was full with spectators despite the cold weather. I could not stop clicking my camera and was most amazed by the passion and concentration these men have when moving their flags. Photos cannot tell how magic this is, but to my utmost delight I found four videos on youtube which are professional with music that knocks one off the feet, well, they certainly knock me off my feet, I get goosebums when I watch them. Please take the time and watch this flag throwers video, 4 minutes, with “1492” by Vangelis. Then there is father and son, dressing up and performing, 5 minutes with music by Ennio Morricone, one video featuring the cross-bowers, but also shows the flag throwers and the bell ringers in slow motion, 5 minutes with Gregorian chants. Also fascinating is the 3 minutes video The vioce of peace, which maybe is the best one to show what the flags stand for: peace and brotherliness, which the flag throwers stand for. To see more of these artists, please visit their website Sbandieratori, flag throwers or read more on Gubbio’s special website.

Gubbio is located at the slopes of Monte Ingino, thus it involves a lot of walking up and down but this is well worth it. Almost at the top of the hill is Basilica Sant’Ubaldo, devoted to Gubbio’s patron saint, the one who is featuring the Corsa dei Ceri. This festival is said to have its roots in pagan rituals (most probably fertility rituals) and is held in Gubbio since ages (it is not set up for the tourists!). Three wooden “ceri” (candles) with statues of Sant’ Ubaldo, San Giorgio and San Antonio on top, each of them weighs around 320 kg. Each is carried by ten ceraioli in a defined path through the city and finally uphill to the Basilica di Sant’ Ubaldo. Somehwere I’ve read that they need 8 minutes to race from the duomo to the basilica. If this is true it is the most amazing achievement, as typical hikers need approx. 35-40 minutes uphill…. The ceraioli belong to three different “sections”, their colours are different (blue, yellow and black), each of which protects one of the saints. To get an idea of this festival look at the photos in the website I’ve linked above.

Location of Gubbio on Google Maps.

Region: Umbria;
nearest airport: Ancona (Falconara, code AOI, 45 min by car) or Roma (FCO or CIA, 2 hours by car).

© Ingrid D., December 2009 (So please do not copy my text or photos without my permission.), very much updated since :-)

Address: Gubbio, in Umbria

Review Helpfulness: 4.5 out of 5 stars

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  • Updated Aug 13, 2013
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Comments (1)

  • Regina1965's Profile Photo
    Jun 15, 2013 at 10:53 AM

    Very interesting. Unfortunately 3 of the videos are closed.

    • Trekki's Profile Photo
      Jun 15, 2013 at 12:13 PM

      Oh dear :-( Thank you for telling me! It must be that the video owner took them away from youtube or (from my version of youtube) only allows access to some :-(

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