The best time to visit Gubbio
This is a good question. It very much depends on the personal choice and travel style. Everyone who is interested in ancient festivals must come in May, especially between May 15 and June 2. This is the time when Festa dei Ceri, the two other Ceri festivals (for the youth = Ceri Mezzani and for the kids = Ceri Piccoli) and Palio della Balestra are being held. It is the time when Gubbio is all over decorated with the flags of the three Ceri families (Sant’Ubaldo, San Giorgio, San Antonio) and when everyone is celebrating. The atmosphere is very much contagious. But it is also the time when reservations should be made well in advance, especially during May 15. Although in 2010 rooms were still available, but more in the upmarket hotels.
Autumn is another perfect time for a visit. It is the time of the alternative chocolate fair Altrocioccolato and of course the truffle fair (see to do section). And the colours…. breathtaking!! Maybe my photos (2009) give a small glimpse in how magnificent Gubbio can be in October. I even postponed my lessons to 5 pm so that I could get full advantage of the golden light hours from approx. 3 p.m. on. I swear that there can only be one town on the planet which deserves to be called Golden City, and that is Gubbio. When the sunlight is low and shines on the stone buildings it looks like everything is being covered with gold. And several days when I walked across Piazza Quaranta Martiri to my teacher’s house, the trees send golden leaves across the air. I felt like in heaven – it “rained” gold.
And of course I can highly recommend the whole December and Christmas season. The big Christmas Tree (see general section) is being illuminated on December 7 until January 10. Life size terracotta statues are used to create Medieval sceneries in the streets of quartiere San Martino and also around chiesa Vittorina outside of the city walls. Maria Immacolata (December 8) is an important holiday in Italia and it is celebrated in Gubbio with four ringings of the bell Il Campanone (December 5, 6, 7 and 8).
All other months are equally interesting because Gubbio has a lot of events anytime of the year. In summer are the summer festivals with Life in Gubbio, theatre and opera in Teatro Romano, in winter theatre plays and opera move into the theatre in town (in San Martino), the special exhibitions in Palazzo Ducale and Palazzo dei Consoli change regularly. I am always astonished of the many events whenever I read the news on Gubbio’s special website Associazione Eugubini nel Mondo. It is hard to pick the best time. However, my travel time will always be May and December up to the point where I won’t need to travel anymore but live there for the rest of my life.
But no matter which month you chose for your travel, make sure to book your bed early enough!
© Ingrid D., November 2009 (just in case, RickS or others come along and think they can steal texts), update July 2010. Since recently there is a webcam of Gubbio which refreshes every 10 minutes. In addition, they display actual and past weather with temperatures, humidity, pressure, wind and rainfall.
Quartiere San Pietro
San Pietro is the southern quarter of Gubbio’s old town with the rose as its symbol. The main church is San Pietro, located in the south of town. This is a huge church and from the photos I saw it must be beautiful inside with a big wooden carved organ and three naves. A church with more than one nave is quite unusual in Gubbio’s old town, as for the churches at the hill slopes it would have been too much of an architectural challenge. But since San Pietro is located in a rather flat part of Gubbio, side naves were possible to build. Attached to the church is a convent, rather big as well. Oh and the post office is located in San Pietro.
© Ingrid D., December 2009 (just in case, RS or others come along and think they can steal texts).
Separate entrance doors, NOT only for dead
After my first visit to Gubbio (April 2008) I wrote about these special doors with entrance at higher elevation than street level and described them as “doors of the dead”. Haha, it seems that I swallowed what others including reknown guidebooks wrote but didn’t use my brain to think about it. Well, yes, it surely sounds more mystical and I don’t know who brought this up originally. But now, after my second visit, much more walking around town and opening my eyes I am sure that this “door for deads” is a hoax. I am far from having properly understood the special building styles in Gubbio but am now sure that these elevated doors have their roots in the trading and selling business. The merchants’ shops and stables were at street level, easily to recognise by their round and broad, almost half circle arches. But to separate the living rooms above shops and stables, given the steep ground, separated stairs were leading upstairs. I realised this, or at least it started me to think about it, when I visited Palazzo Bargello. The entrance is through the wide ground level door where a kind of reception is located and some explications about Gubbio and its history. But when I paid my entrance fee the girl lead me outside again through the other, more narrow elevated door and upstairs I arrived in the huge rooms of first and second floor. Yes, I am sure that the narrow doors have always been nothing else but the separate entrances to the living quarters in a town which is so much built on a steep hill. And to protect the owners who would always stand above someone who wants to enter. Even if some of the ground level doors look narrow now, almost anytime through the bricks it is obvious that they were once broader.
Next time I will find out more :-) For sure!
© Ingrid D., December 2009 (just in case, RS or others come along and think they can steal texts).
Road trip through the hidden valleys :)
The landscape around Gubbio is marvellous. I often think that it has something of a hidden valley north of Umbria’s centre. For those who come to Gubbio by car, I can highly recommend two tours through this marvellous part of the of Appenine mountains. Especially the tour via Pietralunga is one I like most. The road winds up through thick forest with the occasional house in the clearings. At the highest point of this road the forest gets thinner and opens a magnificent view to the east, many small other hidden valleys, all seemingly farmland, given the dotted houses and livestock. Very peaceful. I was so captured with the views that I completely forgot to take photos..... Shortly after this, the old village of Pietralunga comes in sight, very romantic with its setting on a hilltop. The village is completely walled and dates back to Roman times. It is said that a lot of remains of Roman villas are left in this part of Umbria. The road to the south continues through forest and another valley and passes another hilltop village: Montone, which is also on the list of Borghi più belli (beautiful villages). The road continues further on to Umbertide and from there back to Gubbio (Strada statale, SS219).
Montone on Google Maps,
Pietralunga on Google Maps.
The other tour is into the valley parallel to Gubbio, the valley of Monte Cucco. The villages of Scheggia, Costacciaro and Sigillo are located on SS3 (road from approx. Urbino to Foligno). Costacciaro is not only a cute small walled old village but also entry point for the marvellous hiking and hang glider paradise and into the caves of Monte Cucco. CENS (Centro Nazionale di Speleologia, Speleological or cave research centre) offers excursions to the latter.
Costacciaro on Google Maps
© Ingrid D., December 2010 (just in case, RickS or others come along and think they can steal texts).
Chiesa dei Muratori, a significant church
Later I will describe that Gubbio was a very important station in San Francesco’s life. Not only the basilica San Francesco at Piazza Quaranta Martiri and the little church Santa Maria della Vittorina in Gubbio’s southern outskirts tell about this. And then there is the story of the wolf the saint has tamed. The little church San Francesco della Pace was built on the site where this wolf had peacefully lived and died. Even if this is a legend, during renovations in 19th century a wolf skeleton was found here under a stone. The skeleton is now preserved in this little church and the stone serves as altar. But San Francesco della Pace is not only the church for the wolf, it is seat of the Università dei Muratori, the society of stonemansons, and the place where the statues of the three saints Sant’Ubaldo, San Grigorio and Sant'Antonio are being kept between the famous Ceri race and can be seen through the window. This is the place where church service is held in the morning of Ceri festival’s 15th of May. The church is not open to the public, but everyone can peek inside at the end of the Ceri days (May 15th, second last Sunday of May and June 2nd). It is here where the Ceri races end, when the statues of the saints are being brough back to town into a very atmospheric procession. In May 2010 when I was in Gubbio for all three Ceri festivals, I always took part of this evening procession. It was always very moving, especially the moment when the carriers of the saints moved around the corner and walked upstairs to the church. The little bells on top of the church were ringing and I could almost hear the bells welcoming the saints back home. But in case you would like to attend these evening masses after Ceri, please keep in mind that these days are the most important days in the locals’ life. Don’t insult them by being rude or pushing to get inside of the church. Thanks!!
The church is being called Chiesa dei Muratori today. Old guidebooks and maps might still show it under the old name, San Francesco della Pace. The coloured textiles on the balcony are only displayed during Ceri time. The three colours are prominent: blue for San Giorgio, yellow for Sant'Ubaldo and black for Sant'Antonio.
San Francesco della Pace (Chiesa dei Muratori) on Google Maps.
© Ingrid D., December 2010 (just in case, RS or others come along and think they can steal texts).