Gubbio Local Customs

  • Local Customs
    by toonsarah
  • Daniele
    Daniele
    by toonsarah
  • Local Customs
    by toonsarah

Most Recent Local Customs in Gubbio

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    Drummers and costumes, typical for festivals

    by Trekki Updated Aug 13, 2013

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    San Martino tamburini, opening of truffle fair
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    Gubbio’s societies are in perfect harmony when it comes to festivals. Sbandieratori for example perform during the Christmas Tree illumination, at the opening of the truffle fair, during Ceri festival and surely many more. The campanari ring il campanone during the many festivals and then there is the group of tamburini (drummers) and the one who appear in these marvellous historical costumes. These are of magnificent quality, often velvet and with marvellous stitched parts. My Italian teacher told me that these costumes are handmade according to historical patterns. Next time I try to find out more about them. And then the drummers. They are, according to ancient traditions, the ones who call the crowd to gather and announce events and festivals. As far as I could see, Gubbio has three groups of tamburini, each of them belonging to a special society. The Ceri tamburini are the ones who march and call during the Ceri festivals each are belonging to one of the three ceraioli families of Sant’Ubaldo, San Giorgio and San Antonio, easily to find out through the colours of drum and waistband and are otherwise dressed in white pants and red shirts. Gubbio’s Sbandieratori tamburini drum during sbanderatori performances and then there are the San Martino tamburini, the ones which were gathering the crowd at the opening of the truffle fair. And standing next to them when they drum is something I will also never forget! It shoots right into the heart.

    © Ingrid D., November 2009 (So please do not copy my text or photos without my permission.)

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    There is always room for a garden :-)

    by Trekki Updated Aug 13, 2013

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    Room for garden and green is everywhere :-)
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    With its extreme hillside location, there is not much room for a garden for most of the houses at the slope. But while I was walking up and down through Gubbio I was fascinated how inventive the locals are when it comes to a bit of green around their hoses and apartments. Little “bridges” connect houses and their tops have been transformed into terraces. These are not big, but enough to pull chairs and plants out in summer. I especially liked the one in my main photo and was dreaming to live there and spend half of the day out in my chair, enjoying the sun and the serene atmosphere. Haha, and listen to the bell…
    And… I know that I will do exactly this one day. Ok, maybe not exactly this one, but I will find my apartment with little balcony :-)

    © Ingrid D., November 2009 (So please do not copy my text or photos without my permission.)

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    Madonnas and frescoes everywhere

    by Trekki Updated Aug 13, 2013

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    Fresco by Ottaviano Nelli
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    Umbria is a holy country. Among one of the many striking sights are frescoes and saints literarily around every corner. And Gubbio is no exception. Of course Sant’Ubaldo has a special place in the hearts of Gubbio’s locals. But there are also many little shrines for other saints everywhere. When I wandered through the town and uphill to Basilica Sant’Ubaldo I always stopped and looked around to make sure that I didn’t miss any of them. Many of the frescoes did suffer over time or maybe due to the many earthquakes, Umbria and Gubbio has to face once in a while. Images of madonnas and saints are also very much present throughout Gubbio. Often they are embedded into the walls as little reliefs or paintings or frescoes, and sometimes there are little statues, and very often these are decorated with fresh flowers. Several frescoes have been painted by the local artist Ottaviano Nelli, such as the one in my main picture (at chiesa della SS Trinità, opposite of Porta Romana inside the city walls).

    © Ingrid D., November 2009 (So please do not copy my text or photos without my permission.)

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    Signs of the Guelphs in Gubbio

    by Trekki Updated Aug 13, 2013

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    Pinnacles at Palazzo dei Consoli
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    Ever since I saw swallow-tail pinnacles in Venezia, they fascinated me. And then I learned that they have a special meaning and stand for ghibelline (supporters of the emperors) buildings, while rectangular ones symbolise the presence of guelphs (supporters of the church). Gubbio was in favour of the ghibellines for a long time, but eventually guelphs took over for a period of time before they were thrown out of the town by ghibellines. But during the time of the guelphs, Palazzo dei Consoli has been built or planned, because it has the typical guelph pinnacles. Who likes to know more, here is something to read about the history of guelphs and ghibellines.

    © Ingrid D., February 2009 (So please do not copy my text or photos without my permission.)

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    THE meeting point in Gubbio

    by Trekki Updated Aug 13, 2013

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    Orologio in Gubbio, the one and only meeting point

    There was a time way in the past when not everyone had a clock (let alone computers and internet, haha). Bells to tell the time was one thing for everyone but another is one or more huge clocks at town centres or in town wall gatetowers, like the one in Speyer, Germany. This way any visitor who approached the town could see what time it was already from the distance. Gubbio has also such a clock, albeit not that big as the one in Speyer or in Venezia La Serenissima. But it is located in the centre of the lower town, at Piazza Quaranti Martiri where Via della Repubblica leads uphill to Palazzo dei Consoli. It is simply referred to as “L’Orologio” (the clock) and it is the meeting point for locals. So if you plan to meet up with a local and he or she tells you let’s meet at l’orologio, this is exactly where you are supposed to go to.

    Update, April 2012:
    Much to my delight, in Gubbio's electronic newspaper, I have read that the clock will be restored. I always felt a bit sorry for the clock because it looks very much worn out (since I know it). But thanks to Trebino, a company in Genova, it will be looking nice again. I smiled when I read the news because the same company watches over the mechanism of my beloved Campanone. The clock will be back in time for 2012's Festa di Ceri, May 15.

    © Ingrid D., November 2009 (So please do not copy my text or photos without my permission.)

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    Separate entrance doors, NOT only for dead

    by Trekki Updated Aug 13, 2013

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    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 simply assumed that 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, after I walked around in town more, and after opening my eyes and using my common sense I am sure that this “door for deads” term 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 arched windows and doors. 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 I started to think about it when I visited Palazzo Bargello. The entrance is in the basement, through the wide ground level door where a kind of reception is located and some explications about Gubbio and its history. When I paid my entrance fee the girl lead me outside again through the other, more narrow elevated door. I went upstairs and arrived in the huge rooms of first and second floor. And then I was 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. To protect the owners who would always be above someone who wanted 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.

    In the meantime I asked the locals and they confirmed that my assumptions were correct. These doors are not meant to be *only* for the dead. The term "doors of the dead" has a background though. When an inhabitant died, it was most of the times in one of the upper floor. He or she had to be brought out of the house. But the narrow and steep stairs made it difficult to move the stretcher. Thus dents left and right on top of the stairs were meant to rest the stretcher with the body of a deceased person after it was carried through the streets. The reason why some of these doors are walled up now is also simple: the entrance to the upper floors from the outside is no longer needed; it is inside the basement floor.

    © Ingrid D., December 2009, update Feb 2012 (So please do not copy my text or photos without my permission.)

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    Luigi Barbi's artwork everywhere in Gubbio

    by Trekki Updated Aug 13, 2013

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    Iron horse lashes at Palazzo dei Consoli
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    Already during my first visit to Gubbio in April 2008 I was fascinated by these metal rings at Palazzo dei Consoli. I thought that they are old and meant to lash horses while the owners were doing business or discussions inside the Palazzo. Yes, that’s certainly true but more fascinating is that they are still being forged. I realised this when I looked at some of them a bit closer. Mainly the ones at Palazzo Bargello are of newer date and the symbols have cute shapes. Not only there is one with cinque colli (photo 3), Gubbio’s symbol but there are roosters (photo 2), a funny dog or sheep (photo 4) and fabulous animals, mostly looking like dragons (photo 5). Thanks to my Italian teacher Edvige Galasso I had the chance to met Gubbio’s blacksmith Luigi Barbi in his smithy and saw many of his other artwork. He still forges beds and house decorations and said horse lashes. And since he is member of Gubbio’s Società Balestieri it is logical that Palazzo Bargello, seat of the society, has a whole set of the horse lashes at the walls. In addition, he does marvellous iron works on the balestre, the cross-bows.

    Update, May 2010:
    Thank you dear Luigi, Edi and Daniele for your wonderful idea of a late birthday surprise! Now I have my own griffone at home, hand made by Luigi :-)

    © Ingrid D., December 2009 (So please do not copy my text or photos without my permission.)

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    Old measuring sign at Palazzo dei Consoli

    by Trekki Updated Aug 13, 2013

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    Measurement device at Palazzo dei Consoli
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    Old measuring systems have a certain fascination for me. So I was delighted to see the one at Palazzo dei Consoli. It is similar to the one in Speyer and should most probably means 12 inches in length. Obviously there was another longer one next to it, but the iron bar is no longer there.

    Other old measurement standards are in Dornoch (Scotland), cloth size (by Joan, @scotishvisitor), Heidelberg, pretzel size (by Christine), Venezia, fish scale and Norcia, measuring grain.

    © Ingrid D., November 2009 (So please do not copy my text or photos without my permission.)

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    You will always know what time it is :-)

    by Trekki Updated Aug 13, 2013

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    Palazzo dei Consoli, torretta
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    One of the fascinating traditions in Gubbio, apart from the societies, are the bells. No, now I do not refer to il Campanone, but to the bells which announce the time. Anytime they ring it is obvious which time it is. At 4:45 p.m. (16:45) for example they will chime with three high pitched tones announcing 3x15 minutes, followed by sixteen low pitched tones for 4 o’clock. In practice this means that the bells chime every fifteen minutes. I have yet to find out which one rings the hours (although I am sure that it is the Campanone itself) but the quarter of the hours are being rung by la Mezzana, the one in Palazzo dei Consoli’s torretta (note that it is not called campanile), the bell which faces the valley.

    Oh, consequently this means that everyone with a light sleep MUST bring earplugs. The bells are ringing in Gubbio literally since ages and will do so until the world collapses. No need to scream like this idiot tourist did in Mezzema, Liguria. No one will ever stop Gubbio's bells ringing because of a stupid tourist complaints. Which is good. These silly tourists should stay at home since they never ever get to the point of different countries – different customs.

    Somehow I seem to have a secret bond with the bell(s). Most of the time when I am in Gubbio I won't bother to look at my wrist watch but wait until I hear the bells. And once I sat in the garden of Federica's place, chatting with her, when we wanted to know what time it is. I said something like "Campanone, suona" (Campanone, ring) ... and it rang the time only seconds after!

    © Ingrid D., December 2009 (So please do not copy my text or photos without my permission.)

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    I Maestri del Silenzio, my heroes :)

    by Trekki Updated Aug 13, 2013

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    Noting down the campanari attendance
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    I already wrote about the regular ringing of il Campanone, the big bell on top of Palazzo dei Consoli in my to-do section. This is now about the campanari, the society of masters of the bells. Ringing il Campanone is an age old tradition in Gubbio and has more than a pure religious meaning (if any). It always meant to announce important dates for the city and festivals, which becomes obvious in the Campanari schedule. Emphasis is of course given to the Ceri festivals in honour of Sant’Ubaldo, the patron saint, and the two tournaments of Gubbio’s balestrieri. But another important date is October 30, which signifies the fusion or casting of the actual Campanone.

    Piero Luigi Menichetti wrote in Storia di Gubbio (1987):
    “The voice of this giant bell is, for non Eugubinians, harmonious, beautiful, limpid, interesting. But for the people of Gubbio it is much more. It is the voice of their native land: it stirrs the heart, exites emotion and makes eyes glisten – it is the voice of the soul of the city!”
    which describes best what the bell means for the locals.

    The room where the campanari meet is fantastic. It has a secret entrance in Palazzo dei Consoli and on the vaulted ceiling the dates and names of previous ringings are written. Today this is done in a book. Many pictures, drawings, models cover the walls and of course ceri brocche (jugs) on the little shelf. These are of the San Giorgio group, obviously one of the campanari (Luigi Barbi, the blacksmith, to be precise) is Sangrigoriano. And of course it is the place where they celebrate other events, such as New Year 2010 :-). When I was up there with Edvige, my Italian teacher, it was the November 4 ringing at noon (in memory of the end of WWI for Italy). One of the campanari came with his little son and later it turned out that the son was born one year ago, exactly at the noon ringing! Of course this was reason enough to open a bottle of bubbly and eat fave dei morti, the delicious cookies. And I bet that this little boy will be member of the Campagnia dei Campanari della torretta del Palazzo dei Consoli della città Gubbio (the full name of the society) when he is grown up.

    I was lucky enough that the society has published a book, a piece of art to be precise (both format, photos and font), at the occasion of the 234th birthday of the Campanone, 2003. It is called I Maestri del Silenzio, is available at Foto Libri in Gubbio, Corsa Garibaldi, and comes with a DVD with most fascinating recording and texts. Why am I not at all surprised that Giampaolo Pauselli (the one who was responsible for the four videos I like all the time) also made most of the recordings? Fascinating slow motion and close ups. No need to mention that, since I bought it, I watched it about more than 500 times.

    © Ingrid D., November 2009, updates Feb 2012 (So please do not copy my text or photos without my permission.)

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    Fascinating flag throwers’ skills

    by Trekki Updated Aug 13, 2013

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    Andrea B., Sbandieratore di Gubbio
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    When I was in Gubbio for the first time in April 2008, I was extremely lucky to see one of the flag throwers’ performances. I was on my way uphill to the cathedral when I suddenly heard some drums. Very much curious I almost raced downhill to find out that there was a huge crowd on Piazza Grande (which was deserted one hour ago, during my visit in Palazzo dei Consoli’s museum). In the middle of the piazza, a very much colourful group of men in ancient dresses were throwing flags. But not only throwing them into the air, but they were doing all kinds of artistic movements like throwing them to their partners, jumping with the flags and juggling with them. Even the kids have their appearance! And they are already fantastic performers!

    The tradition of flag throwing is quite old. Already in 1435, Gubbio had people whose profession it was to throw or wave flags during religious or local events. The group, which is performing this artistic skill today, is existing since 1969. Their goal is not only to practise this skill, but also to demonstrate their strong bond to the land and their city. If you look close, you can see that many of the flags have Umbrian letters embroided (the ones which have been carved into the Iguvine Tables) – a clear devotion and manifestation to their hometown and their very old origin.

    When you are in Gubbio, ask at the tourist office if the Sbandieratori (flag throwers) have an appearance during your visit and make sure to go and watch it! Describing this is one thing, but watching the accuracy of their skills and the fun these guys have, together with the drums is something special.That’s why I ask you to have a look at the three videos in youtube, which Giampaolo Pauselli has put together. They are all made in this fascinating slow motion with many close ups and the perfect music.
    Sbandieratori video, 4 minutes, with “1492” by Vangelis,
    The vioce of peace, 3 minutes, which maybe is the best one to show what the flags stand for: peace and brotherliness, which the flag throwers stand for,
    father and son, dressing up and performing, 5 minutes with music by Ennio Morricone; the boy is Matteo Menichetti and one of the boys who perform during the sbandieratori manifestations.
    (Unfortunately, the latter one cannot be watched from German accounts due to terrorism by German greedy GEMA and their inability to come to peace with Youtube).

    Update, after my second visit in Oct/Nov 2009:
    Thanks to my dear Italian teacher Edvige I had the chance to meet Andrea B. of Gubbio’s Sbandieratori. He showed me their sanctum, the place where the flags are being kept in between the performances and explained us a lot about the meanings of the flags’ designs. Of course there are the ones for the four quartiere; the actual ones are white with red rim and red quartiere symbol in the middle (in the videos they are sometimes the other way around, these are the older ones). Then there are sixteen flags with Iguvine letters (designed by Oscar Piatelli), of course one with the Campanone, four ones in modern design with the three colours of Ceri festival, yellow, blue and black, one flag with the symbol of peace, one for Gubbio (with cinque colli symbol), one for Gubbio as a city in Europe (all in blue with the yellow stars and Palazzo dei Consoli), the flag of Umbria, one for Olympia, one with the symbol of the Medieval rondell headress and one with the letters DUX FE for Federico da Montefeltro. More about the various symbols is nicely shown in a fascinating video. The flags all are made of silk or silk like material, very soft and very light but the handle is rather heavy, so an additional thanks to Andrea for having held the four up so patiently until I made my photo! Andrea Baffoni is the one who often carries the standard (flag), also in April when I saw them performing for my first time. And his cute little son Stefano is very proud following his father’s tradition and is one of the kids who performs.
    Grazie mille Andrea for your time, especially since it was almost lunch time!!

    To see more of these artists, please visit their website Sbandieratori, flag throwers, which has impressively improved since mid 2011, or read more on Gubbio’s special website.

    © Ingrid D., November 2009, updates Feb 2012 (So please do not copy my text or photos without my permission.)

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    La Balestra – part of the soul of Gubbio

    by Trekki Updated Aug 13, 2013

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    Balestra with symbol of quartiere Sant Andrea
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    When I think back to November 4, 2009, when I met so many Eugubini of three of Gubbio’s important societies, the one with balestriere Daniele A. was the one which had most impact on me. The words I have on my homepage, a quote of Albert Einstein will always come to my mind when I think of this time:
    The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the source of all true art and science. He to whom this emotion is a stranger, who can no longer pause to wonder and stand rapt in awe, is as good as dead: his eyes are closed.
    or in Italian:
    La cosa più bella che possiamo sperimentare è il mistero; esso è la sorgente di tutta la vera arte e la vera scienza. Chi non riesce a provare questa emozione e non sa stupirsi di niente, e come se fosse morto: i suoi occhi sono chiusi.

    During this afternoon at the training range of Gubbio’s balestrieri I learned so much about this tradition and, thanks to the best Christmas present ever, I have learned even more since 2011 and am now proud member of La Gloriosa Società Balestrieri della Città di Gubbio. Grazie mille, Daniele!!

    The balestrieri take their ancient tradition very serious and still perform according to the old codex which was set up 500 years ago. This includes a very peaceful identification with their art and skills, in a way similar to the spiritual and philosophic principles of my former (Aikikai) Aikido practices, especially when we practiced with the wooden stick and sword. It is concentration and being one with the “instrument” (I can’t find a better word now).

    Already the balestre (crossbows) are pieces of art. Although the functionality is almost the same for the balestre (except the trigger which can be above or below the bow body) the woodwork design is based on the ideas, philosophies, values of the individual balestiere. When Daniele A. showed us his balestre we could see that he is of Gubbio’s quartiere Sant’Andrea, since the plume symbol is carved on one side (main photo). The other side has an emblem which symbolises the ancient tradition of crossbowing: an old Medieval town with wall and tower and the tasso (target) and arrow (photo 3). The back end of the body has a stylised lion head with additional lion head carvings at the side. His second balestra is not carved but has inlay work: Palazzo dei Consoli on one side and all four quartiere unified (see photo in the quartiere description). And of course, Gubbio’s symbol, cinque colli is there, as metal decoration for the joints. Ah, speaking of the metalwork: the balestre have also griffons most probably made by Gubbio’s blacksmith Luigi Barbi (see photo).

    The arrows are also handmade. They are 48 cm long, made of light wood with a heavy iron arrowhead. Consequently the centre of gravity is rather in the front of the arrow, that’s why they have to be shot in a parabolic curve to reach the target. Decoration of the arrows is also optional, Daniele Angeloni sees his as symbol of a bird in the flight and paints little dots for eyes next to the beak, the arrowhead.

    I think, the words, Donatella Pauselli has chosen for the video about Palio della Balestra describe the meaning of a balestra best:
    ##The balestrieri have the faith that the arrow, like an invisible path, passes on the path of the ancient soul into the heart of man today.##
    (Thank you again, dear Edvige, for having provided me with the key to your beautiful language, so that I could understand many parts of the texts, although it will still be a long way for me to go).

    Maybe I should mention that I dream of learning this ancient tradition, but I am wise enough to understand that this is out of any discussion, since it is a tradition performed exclusively by men. So I will stick to my Aikido staff to practice inner peace and concentration.
    Update, June 11, 2012:
    sometimes, dreams come true. Although I can't call it learning! But on Sunday, June 10, 2012, I was allowed to try shooting the balestra on their training ground: Dreams come true. My first shoot was a mess, because I missed one important advice. But the second, after I have listened carefully to the advice of the master, Gianpiero Bicchielli, was not that bad!!!

    © Ingrid D., November 2009 (So please do not copy my text or photos without my permission.)

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    Palio della Balestra: bell ringing

    by toonsarah Updated Jun 15, 2013

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    Ingrid had warned us that when the Palio appeared to be over, we should still wait in the Piazza Grande for the final activity that would mark the end, the ringing of il Camponone, the great bell in the tower of the Palazzo dei Consoli. Ingrid has written an excellent local customs tip that describes this in a lot of detail, including the way the campanari or bell-ringers use their feet to move the huge bell, and the other bells that sit in the tower and are rung alongside it. These latter are very old and do sound wonderful, but it is the big bell, il Camponone itself, that has the most special and unique sound. I especially liked how the campanari pause it in its movement, creating moments of tension when you wonder when the next sound will come. And in re-reading Ingrid’s tip just now, as I write my own, I found out something rather special - il Camponone and I share a birthday!

    I made a short video to capture the sound of this ringing, and the unusual techniques of the campanari. Unfortunately I did what I would do when taking a still photo of such a tower, and turned my camera to frame it vertically. This is not really a good idea for a video as it makes the picture so much smaller, but I hope you get the idea nevertheless! I didn’t take any stills, but I have captured one from the video although it doesn’t really do the spectacle justice – and of course has no sound!

    With the bells still ringing in our ears, we made our way slowly down from the piazza. The Palio della Balestra was over for another year. We were to have one last encounter with the Gubbio team however, as the procession passed us on its way back to the Palazzo del Bargello. Less formal now, members of the team stopped to talk occasionally to friends passed along the way, and musicians straggled along behind, chatting with each other now rather than playing. It was a lovely glimpse of the camaraderie that exists between all these different groups that together hold dear to and promulgate the traditions of Gubbio.

    ~~ next tip: what happens if the weather is bad?

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    Palio della Balestra: announcement of victor

    by toonsarah Updated Jul 4, 2012

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    Announcing the winners
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    While the crowd had been thrilling to the skills of the sbandieratori, an important process was taking place in a secret room of the Palazzo dei Consoli. Each arrow was being carefully removed from the target, one by one, starting with those furthest away from the centre. The last three were the most important, determining who would be announced as having finished in those places this year. Of course, to make this possible, each arrow must be unique so that it can be linked to the owner who fired it. Their initials will be marked somewhere on the shaft, and maybe also a symbol that means something special to them.

    When the decision was made, it was time to announce it to the waiting crowd. There were fanfares and drums, and then the names were announced, in reverse order. Of course, the majority of those waiting with baited breath wanted to hear that Gubbio had been successful – and they were not disappointed. It was declared that third place and first place went to balestrieri from the home town, while second place was taken by one from Sansepolcro. It seemed to me that this was a great result. Sansepolcro could be proud to have been placed in the top three, but the glory went to the hosts and to our adopted home for the weekend!

    When the winner came forwards to take the flag (the Palio that gives the festival its name) we saw that he was one of the oldest contestants – the second oldest, I learned later. His name is Gianpiero Bicchielli, and this is the fourth time he has won (twice now here in Gubbio, and twice in Sansepolcro, where the “away leg” is held each September). He is a former maestro d’arme (master of arms) of the society and clearly revered for his skill and experience.

    With the announcement made, the Palio was nearly over. The two teams, their musicians, flag-throwers and accompanying costumed townspeople assembled in front of the Palazzo dei Console, music filled the air, and gradually they all left, again in procession, with the music fading into the distance and the Piazza Grande seeming suddenly very large again, and empty. It seemed that this was the end, but one special tradition remained – the ringing of il Camponone.

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    Palio della Balestra: the contest

    by toonsarah Updated Jul 4, 2012

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    Daniele
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    The two teams, from Gubbio and Sansepolcro, which contested the Palio each consisted of 40 balestrieri or crossbowmen. Each man had only one shot in which to get his arrow as close as possible to the centre of the target. As last year’s winner, Gubbio's Daniele had the honour of firing first. The remaining 79 followed, in groups of four, two from each town. Some arrows missed the target, but most were (to my inexperienced eyes) impressively close – impressive particularly because, as Ingrid writes in her tip about the crossbows, the arrows are much heavier at the head (which is made of iron) and have to be shot in a parabolic curve.

    But the target is small and the arrows were many. As more and more of the 80 hit it, some of those that had been shot earlier on were knocked out of their holes and fell to the ground. I found myself wondering whether shooting first was such an honour after all – maybe it is rather a way of ensuring that last year’s winner, however accurate his shooting, is unlikely to repeat the feat.

    Each shot followed the same rhythm. A few moments of intense concentration, the string pulled back, the arrow released ... a whoosh of sound as it flew through the air, a gentle thud as it embedded itself in the target (or occasional clunk as iron point met stony ground), and a cheer and ripple of applause from the engrossed audience.

    When all 80 had taken their turn, the target, laden with arrows, was lifted down from its place on the wall of the Palazzo del Podesta and taken away to be examined in the secret room under the Palazzo dei Consoli so that the winner could be determined. Although, as you will see in photo 4, many of the contestants had already attempted to make their own determination.

    While we waited for the moment when the winner would be announced, we were treated to an amazing display of skill by the sbandieratori (flag throwers) of Gubbio, having already watched their Sansepolcro counterparts in action before the contest. For me, these demonstrations were probably the highlight of the whole event, and deserve to be described in full.

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