When I visited Gubbio in October 2009 the “Truffle fair” was about to be held. I was looking forward to it very much, thoughts of truffles materialised in my brain the whole time. But I was not at all prepared of what would await me. First of all it was fascinating to watch the hustle and bustle increasing daily. When I arrived on the Sunday before fair opening they had the huge tents already built up on the parking space at Piazza 40 Martiri. The next days they set up flags for the participating Italian regions and already then my gustative nerves became active and almost impatient. The following days the activity increased: it was like an overture which slowly gets stronger. And finally at the break of dawn of Friday, October 30, everyone in town seemed to be overly busy. I couldn’t wait that my lessons were finished so that I could walk around in town to see and feel this magic atmosphere. They have laid out a red carpet from the stairs to Piazza Grande down to Piazza 40 Martiri and decorated the sides with hollies. At approx. 5 p.m. I heard drums and knew that it would be soon that the sbandieratori (flag throwers) would appear and perform, something I was desperately longing to see. Then the drummers started to walk through town to collect, announce and call the people to gather at the scene. Their drums…the sound shot right into my heart, it is something very much bewitching and I could feel why drums are used to call people to gather. Then came several locals dressed in beautiful ancient costomes and finally it was time that the Sbandieratori descended and joined drummers. The Sbanderatori had their performance in front of Chiesa San Giovanni, and I was lucky enough to have got a place in the first row. It was even more amazing to watch them in this close distance because I could see their magnificent skills better and it was also fascinating to listen to the sounds of the flags when they were thrown into the air. I felt like a groupie, and to be honest, I am one :-)
I made several videos, but my video skills are not that much advanced. They are short though (the videos): drummers, parade of Sbandieratori, Sbandieratori performance 1 and Sbandieratori performance 2.
So much for this superb opening of the fair.
And then the truffle fair itself. As it turned out, it was not only about truffles but about delicious food in general. Walking around I felt like a little kid at Christmas. Or better I felt like a little kid walking through Italy. It was all there: Sardegna food stalls with their delicious pecorino sardo (for 400 g of good aged cheese I paid 8,50 €), Mirto (0,7 l for 8 €) and delicious torrone (I bought one with Mirto for 5 €), there was Sicilia with their famous marsipan fruits. There was of course Norcia and the delicious sausages and then to my utmost delight there were several stands from Italia’s south, Calabria, Basilicata and Campania. I fell in love, or better my gustative nerves did this, with one specific stand from Calabria where olives, onions and capers were sold. Not the tiny tasteless ones I can get at the supermarkets at “home” but real ones, big ones, marinated in different flavours. Since I like spicy tastes, I bought some of these big olives marinated with peperoncino (200 g for 5 €) and red onions of Tropea (200 g for 5 €). They let me taste all the different products and not for the first time I desperately wished to live here and be able to buy these delicacies daily. Cooking would be much more enjoyable with access to fresh and honest food which never sees any pesticide or fertiliser….
All in all I can say that a visit to Gubbio is worth anytime, but one of the best times to come is certainly end of October to visit this magnificent truffle and food fair: it is like walking through Italy. It is called Mostra mercato nazionale del tartufo bianco and is held during the last weekend of October, from Friday evening until the following Monday.
© Ingrid D., November 2009 (So please do not copy my text or photos without my permission.). Update December 2010: link exchange.
continue with next review => World's biggest Christmas Tree
For those interested in geology, Gubbio has an interesting sight to offer: Gola del Bottaccione, on the road to Scheggia. In 1980, US scientist Walter Alvarez and his father Luis have discovered a very high concentration of chemical element Iridium here in the boundary between Cretacious and Tertiary layers. This high concentration of Iridium and other elements of the Platinum group, found not only in Gubbio but in other parts of the world at this layer boundary, has finally lead to the assumption of a huge meteorite impact, which, with the resulting climate change, has lead to the extinction of the dinosaurs and other biological life 65 million years ago.
This layer is visible from the street, but there is also a small hiking path for closer viewing. It is approx. 1 km north of Gubbio, easily to reach by walking.
From November 25, 2010 until April 2011, Palazzo dei Consoli hosts an exhibition about dinosaurs in context with the discovery of this “Iridium Anomaly”. The full exhibition, called Il Pianeta che cambia (The changing planet), which was set up with the help of American Museum of National History (New York) can be visited in Perugia, Palazzo Baldeschi from October 2010 until June 2011. Additional information on Gubbio’s special website.
Gola dei Bottaccione on Google Maps
© Ingrid D., December 2010 (So please do not copy my text or photos without my permission.)
continue with next review => Abbazia San Verecondo, 20 min south of Gubbio
Although this little church is not inside of the city walls, it is well worth a visit! It also has connections to San Francesco (St. Francis), because when he lived in Gubbio, it was here where he and his followers met, albeit it was still deep in the forest these days. And it is said that it was the place where the saint did tame the wolf. A nice statue reminds of this nearby. The church isn’t always open, but when I went there in May 2010 (approx. 11 a.m.) it was open for visitors. There is no entrance fee but it is nice to leave a small donation in the box. The inside is amazing. Although most of the frescoes on the wall are no longer complete, the remaining ones have been beautifully restored. The vault is also magnificently painted. Frescoes date back to 15th and 16th century.
During Christmas time, from December 7 on, the meadows around the little church will also be decorated with a presepe (nativity).
Stay outside the city walls and drive/walk east through Via Matteotti and Viale della Rimembranza. Turn south (right) into Via della Vittorina and you’ll reach the church after 100 metres.
Chiesa Santa Maria Vittorina on Google Maps.
© Ingrid D., December 2010; transfer from off-path to to-do and text revamp (So please do not copy my text or photos without my permission.)
continue with next review => Gubbio and the dinosaurs :-)
Almost everyone connects the famous saint San Francesco (St. Francis) to Assisi. Busses carry thousands of visitors and pilgrims every month to Assisi to see the famous basilica, the frescoes, his tomb, the town. But outside of Italy not many people know that not only Assisi but also Gubbio was a station in the saint’s life. Legend says that when San Francesco abandoned his former life as the son of a rich textile merchant and was thrown out of Assisi by his father, he went to Gubbio and received shelter and refuge by Spadalonga family, also textile merchants. It is said that the family gave him the brown habit, to date the characteristic dress of San Francesco monks. Spadalonga family lived where later, in 14th century, the basilica San Francesco was built: at Piazza Quaranta Martiri. Parts of their former house had been integrated into the church’s sacristy. A little relief (see photo) on the door to the sacristy is now showing this handing over of the habit.
But it was not only receiving the habit what made San Francesco’s life in Gubbio famous for the Italians and especially the Eugubini. It was also the wolf whom the saint has tamed. Legend has it that once after a bad farming year, a ferocious she-wolf frightened the locals. The wolf killed farm animals and also some people. San Francesco went into the woods, found the animal, talked to her and convinced her that it would be better to live in peace with the locals instead of frightening them to death. The end of the story was that the wolf accepted to be friendly from now on and the locals fed her and were no longer afraid of her. There are many interpretations about this wolf taming. Some say that it symbolised the winning of friendliness over sin, ferocity and avidity, some say it was a man who was possessed by the devil and others say that it was a prostitute (the word lupa at the little church of SM Vittorina might lead to this). But then in 19th century, when parts of the houses near the little church San Francesco della Pace (Chiesa dei Muratori) were renovated, the people found a skeleton of a wolf, buried under a stone. The stone is part of the altar in this church now.
Famous Italian singer Angelo Branduardi has composed a marvellous CD in 2000, called L’Infinitamente Piccolo (The infinitesimally small). It is about San Francesco’s life. One of his songs is about Il Lupo de Gubbio in 2000. The lyrics are as follows:
Francesco a quel tempo in Gubbio viveva
e sulle vie del contado
apparve un lupo feroce
che uomini e bestie straziava
e di affrontarlo nessuno più ardiva
Di quella gente Francesco ebbe pena,
della loro umana paura,
prese il cammino cercando
il luogo dove il lupo viveva
ed arma con sé lui non portava.
Quando alla fine il lupo trovò
Quello incontro si fece, minaccioso,
Francesco lo fermò e levando la mano:
"Tu Frate Lupo, sei ladro e assassino,
su questa terra portasti paura.
Fra te e questa gente io metterò pace,
il male sarà perdonato
da loro per sempre avrai cibo
e mai più nella vita avrai fame
che più del lupo fa l'Inferno paura"
Raccontano che coì Francesco parlò
e su quella terra mise pace
e negli anni a venire del lupo
più nessuno patì.
"Tu Frate Lupo, sei ladro e assassino
ma più del lupo fa l'Inferno paura".
© Ingrid D., December 2010 (So please do not copy my text or photos without my permission.)
continue with next review => Chiesa Santa Maria Vittorina
Piazza Quaranta Martiri at the bottom of Gubbio is most likely where travellers to Gubbio will arrive. It is a wide and open space and filled with hustling and bustling life. Gubbio’s market is held here on Tuesdays. Small food stalls with delicious products are set up daily under the arcades. The dominating church is chiesa San Francesco and only after my second visit to Gubbio (Oct. 2009) I have been inside. It is indeed a very beautiful one with frescoes all over. And it also plays an important role in Gubbio’s history. When San Francesco came to Gubbio, he was invited by the wealthy Spadalonga family, a dynasty of wool traders. They gave him shelter and gave him clothes. So this is where he got the brown frock from. He always had a good relationship with this family and they donated of their storage room when San Francesco’s followers wanted to build a church in Gubbi after his death. The wall of this storage room is now part of the inside walls of chiesa San Francesco. Even if chiesa S.M. Vittorina is more related to him, chiesa San Francesco is the one which is devoted to him and his life with frescoes and stained glass windows. Next to the church is a cloister (Chiostro della Pace). But I could not find out how to get there. Next time for sure, because given the descriptions I have read it must be marvellous. And it should also have the sigillo della custodia Eugubina inside and the Francisoc library with more than 10000 books, some of which are of 13th century. Yes, I must find out how I can visit the library!
Next to San Francesco’s entrance portal is another statue of San Francesco and the wolf, by the way.
Another obvious building at the piazza is Loggia dei Tiratori, the long two-storey building with an open loggia on the first floor. In the past it was the house of Gubbio’s weavers’ guild. After dyeing the fabrics, they were stretched to a defined size and dried here (the fabrics, haha, not the weavers…). At Loggia dei Tiratori’s eastern wall is a huge beautiful old clock, but that’s a story for the local customs section.
Piazza Quaranta Martiri has its name in memory of the brutal massacre, the brainsick German SS nazis were responsible for on April 22, 1944: they picked fourty (quaranta) locals and executed them….The memorial is outside the city walls and when I come again I will lay flowers. I am also grateful to all the people I met in Gubbio for their hospitality and friendliness. This means very much to me given my actual nationality.
Loggia dei Tiratori on Google Maps.
© Ingrid D., February 2009, updates in December 2010 (So please do not copy my text or photos without my permission.)
continue with next review => have a pizza snack, under the loggia's arcades
The beautiful and simple chiesa San Giovanni Battista is located between Piazza Quaranti Martiri and Palazzo dei Consoli with a magic view up to the palazzo and the belltower with the big bell Campanone. The church is nice inside although very plain. I couldn’t take pictures though since it was always something going on when I was indide (a wedding, and services). It is the church of quartiere San Giuliano and also for the people of Sant’Andrea. During May a marvellous big flag with the falcon, symbol of San Giuliano, decorates the piazza in front of the church (main photo). The bells of San Giovanni are also rung manually at specific events, such as the celebration of the Madonna on May 24. Thanks again to Luigi Barbi, who has invited me to join him, his nephew and Claudio M. when they went upstairs to ring the bell that evening. On November 6, 2010, I missed to join them, when they were also ringing the bell on the occasion of the church service which was held for Società dei Balestrieri. It was their celebration of the end of their active year, Giornata dei Balestrieri.
But in addition to be one of Gubbio’s churches it also became famous throughout whole Italy because it is “Don Matteo’s church”. Many of us “oldies” will surely remember Terence Hill as a star of the good and funny spaghetti westerns together with Bud Spencer. But he is Italian (born in Venezia La Serenissima, by the way) and returned to his homecountry some time ago. Since 2000, he is famous for being Don Matteo in the series aired by Italian RAI channel. I was told that Gubbio is nowadays quite well known in Italy mainly through this series. On Terence Hill’s website is a section about these series (click on the link given at the bottom left). And if you are lucky, you might see some filming during the autumn months. When I was in Gubbio in May 2011 I was lucky and saw them taking a lot of scenes at Piazza Grande. Terence Hill looks just like he did when I was young :-) See photo 3.
Chiesa San Giovanni Battista on Google Maps.
© Ingrid D., November 2009. updates December 2010 (So please do not copy my text or photos without my permission.)
continue with next review => Loggia dei Tiratori and Piazza 40 Martiri
This park is perfect for a relaxed afternoon and even more so in autumn when all the leaves turn golden. It is called Parque Ranghiasci and was once laid out for Marquess Francesco Ranghiasci Brancaleoni, a noble man of Gubbio (19th century). Originally it was meant to be a connection for carriages from the city’s northwestern parts to Palazzo Ducale, since it must have been a nightmare to direct these uphill otherwise. Nowadays it is an English garden with zigzag alleys, several classicism buildings and medieval ruins, parts of the city wall and its towers and huge trees. In summer these trees must provide excellent shade. The park has two entrances. One is in Gubbio’s northwest, quartiere San Martino to be precise. Near this entrance is also an interesting building (photo 5): Palazzo Capitano del Popolo (peoples’ captain’s palace). It is of typical Eugubini architecture, huge arches at the entrance level and arched windows in the upper floor, most probably also with these characteristic window seats as in Palazzo dei Consoli and Palazzo Bargello. Nowadays it hosts a small museum, Museo della Tortura (torture museum). Though I haven’t been inside yet (next time, haha). The other entrance is at Via della Cattedrale, the tiny road which leads from near Palazzo Bargello and Fontana dei Matti to Palazzo Ducale. The park is open daily, but…. sorry, I honestly forgot to note down the opening times. There was a sign, I remember….
Parque Ranghiasci on Google Maps.
© Ingrid D., December 2009 (So please do not copy my text or photos without my permission.)
continue with next review => city walls and gates
Later I will describe that Gubbio was a very important station in San Francesco’s life. 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 famous story of the wolf the saint has tamed. The little church San Francesco della Pace (chiesa dei Muratori) was built on the site where this wolf had peacefully lived after his encounter with San Francesco and died. Although 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. It is also 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 church where service is being held in the morning of Ceri festival, 15th of May.
The church is not open to the public, but everyone can peek inside at the end of the three Ceri days (May 15th, second last Sunday of May and June 2nd). It is here where the Ceri races end: in the evenings when the statues of the saints are being brought back to town during a very atmospheric procession. In May 2010 when I was in Gubbio for all three Ceri festivals, I always participated in these evening processions. It was always very moving, especially the moment when the carriers of the saints turned around the corner at Corso Garibaldi 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 in my main photo are only displayed during Ceri time. The three colours are prominent: blue for San Giorgio, yellow for Sant'Ubaldo and black for Sant'Antonio and the symbol of muratori in the middle.
San Francesco della Pace (Chiesa dei Muratori) on Google Maps.
© Ingrid D., December 2010 (So please do not copy my text or photos without my permission.)
continue with next review => separate entrance doors at the houses
Italians express their religious beliefs in many ways. One of these is the detailed attention to nativities, or presepe in Italian. I saw photos of beautiful ones in several cities like Roma and Orvieto and of course know how famous Napoli is for their “cribs” (mental note to self: try and visit Napoli in pre-Christmas time!).
Gubbio’s locals, especially the ones of quartiere San Martino, also held this tradition of displaying nativity scenes very high. Emphasis is given to scenes, because they not only show baby Jesus, Maria and Joseph but also every day life in the streets (that’s why crib is not the proper word). The ones in Gubbio are made with life size terracotta figures, dressed in medieval clothes and shown in medieval sceneries. You can see a butcher who is at work, or a cheese seller, women with babies chatting, fresh bread (well, paper maché) and market stalls. Have a look at a youtube video about presepe in Gubbio’s quartiere San Martino (7 min, music by Angelo Branduardi) to see what I mean. Or watch this video with an even more suggestive music background (I think it is Enya). These lifesize nativities are put up from early December until January 7.
But for all those who cannot come to Gubbio during Christmas time, one big nativity scene is built in a room inside the cloisters of Sant’ Agostino church just outside of the city walls. It is really beautifully made: the figures approx. 15-20 cm, with landscape scenery, houses, people at work, shepherds, a little waterfall, pastures and even a volcano which puffs little clouds. I also liked that they simulate day and night: during “night”, the lights are lit in the houses and stars appear on the sky behind the volcano. But be careful when you step into the room. It is dark inside although the button for lightening the scenery is easy to find. Once pressed, it lasts for approx. 10 minutes (or 3x day and night). There is no entrance fee but it would be nice to leave a donation in the box. It shall be open all day long. I didn’t see any opening signs and was there around 3 p.m.
Presepe Permanente on Google Maps.
© Ingrid D., February 2009 (So please do not copy my text or photos without my permission.)
continue with next review => chiesa dei Muratori
The church next to Porta Romana in Gubbio's east is also well worth a visit. Sant’Agostino is a church of the order which was founded by St. Augustine of Hippone, a northern African priest of 4/5th century. According to what I have read about him on Wikipedia, he was famous but also quite controversal. For more than 30 years until his death he was bishop in Annaba, Algeria, formerly called Hippo Regius, then Hippone (thus his name). The church is rather simple but decorated with marvellous frescoes, many of them although no longer in place in the main nave. But the artist is quite known in Gubbio: Ottaviano Nelli and his students have painted the interior in 15th century. I liked the little ornament at the entrance door (photo 4) and learned later that the pierced heart is one of St. Augustine’s attributes. Oh, and especially Richie might like him, because St. Augustine is patron of the brewers :-)
The church is open daily and can be visited, ecept during church service.
Chiesa Sant’Agostino on Google Maps.
© Ingrid D., December 2009 (So please do not copy my text or photos without my permission.). Update: April 2010: correct name of St. Augustine - thanks Jean-Louis :-)
continue with next review => permanent nativity scene around the corner
Porta Romana is one of Gubbio’s remaining six gate towers. It is located in the east, near the funivia, which brings people up to Monte Ingino, and next to chiesa San Agostino which is outside of the walls.
Porta Romana is privately owned and I have read that the owners have set up a small but excellent museum, Museo Maiolica a Lustro (for an overview with opening ours and prices, but the museum itself has no website), with a big collection of Maestro Giorgio’s maiolica art. Mastro Giorgio, Giorgio di Pietro Andreoli, is the famous local maiolica artist. His artwork is exhibited in Palazzo dei Consoli and also in British Museum and Kensington Museum, London, Louvre, Paris and Kunstgewerbemuseum, Berlin. He was also famous for altarpieces of terracotta and to my utmost delight I learned that one of his masterpieces is exhibited in Liebighaus, Frankfurt, which is just around the corner from where I actually live but which I have never visited so far. Oh ignorant me… I was also not yet in the maiolica museum, even though I have visited Gubbio so many times. The entrance is easy to find, it is inside the city walls, on the right hand side of the gate tower.
I also like the gate tower itself. At the inner city wall side it shows three coats of arms: the one of Gubbio with inscription Agobio, the Medieval name of Gubbio and Cinque Colli, then the one of Gubbio’s quartiere Sant’Andrea, which ends here at Porta Romana and finally one with inscription Beccherie, which means butchers’ shop. I have asked several inhabitants of Sant’Andrea but no one really knows why there is this reference to the butchers. On the other hand, I am sure that butchers lived here. Many Santantoniari, which belong to the family of Sant’Antonio, live in quartiere Sant’Andrea, and Sant’Antonio is the saint of countrymen and landowners. It might be that butchers also belong to this group. And during May, when the whole city is over and over decorated with flags of the three ceri families, flags with exactly this sign hang on the windows of the houses in Via Dante, the road leading north from Porta Romana. These houses resemble the ones in this beccherie coat of arms.
Oh, I should mention two other interesting reliefs I found on the tower. One, a bit difficult to see because it blends into the stones, is of a little monk or priest (see photo), which might be a spolia, and the other one is on the outer walls: the cinque colli again.
Update, February 10, 2010:
Since I wanted to visit the museum in Frankfurt where Wikipedia mentioned an altapiece of Mastro Giorgio would be exhibited, I called the curator of Liebieghaus. She told me then that the altar is most probably from someone else, but once stood in San Domenico in Gubbio. I will check this and try and find out more about the altar next time I am in Gubbio. Another mystery to solve :-)
Porta Romana on Google Maps
© Ingrid D., Feb 2009, text revamp December 2010 (So please do not copy my text or photos without my permission.)
continue with next review => chiesa Sant'Agostino
In April 2008, my main intention to walk up to the basilica was to see the ceri. In between the festivals they are sitting in a side nave of this basilica, which is logical, because it is here where the ceraioli bring them at the end of their race. They sit there until the first Sunday in May when the ceraioli bring them down into Palazzo dei Consoli. There they are being kept until May 15, the day of the Festa dei Ceri.
The outside of the basilica looks very simple. Once it was a tiny church, chiesa San Gervasio, but after Sant’Ubaldo’s body was brought here end of 12th century, the church was expanded several times. Now it looks huge, but this is also a result of the complicated building style at the slope. The big entrance portal at the end of the stairs (photo 5) leads into a rather modern but beautiful looking courtyard (photo 4) with some remains of frescoes at the walls. Inside, the church is very light and airy and has only a couple of benches for the pilgrims. The centre of attention is the magnificent marble altar with inlays and decoration and on top a glass sarcophagus with the body of Sant’Ubaldo. In the favourite section I have described the very much important role, Sant’Ubaldo has for the locals and that despite he biologically died 850 years ago, his body is still there, not decayed. No one has an explanation for this phenomenon and it is said that even independent scientists have examined why his body is still in the condition he is today. He wasn’t and isn’t prepared in any way and his body is being taken out of the glass casket during special events. I am here quite often since my first visit in April 2008, and yes, I come up the hill to talk to him, to ask him for advice, because I have realised that he is still among the people who love him and he watches over them (or us). In August 2010, during the celebration of the year of his biological death 850 years ago, his body was taken from the pedestal and placed in front of the altar so that everyone could see him properly. There is a very moving video of the exhibition of his body, with a chorus singing his song O Lume della Fede and close up shots of his body.
Inside of the basilica, beautiful modern and colourful stained glass windows show scenes of Sant’Ubaldo’s life. And in the right side nave are the three ceri. They are indeed huge and anytime when I look at them I am most impressed of the size and could only guess the enormous effort of the ceraioli to carry them uphill during this race.
There is no entrance fee to the basilica; it is a pilgrim church. But it would be nice to leave a small donation in one of the boxes or light a candle. This is what I did with the wish that I would come back. And I did come back. And again and again.
Basilica Sant’Ubaldo on Google Maps
© Ingrid D., Feb. 2009, complete text revamp December 2010 (So please do not copy my text or photos without my permission.)
continue with next review => Porta Romana
Next to the cattedrale is one of Gubbio’s town gates, Porta Sant’Ubaldo. This is the start of the long path which leads uphill to Basilica Sant’Ubaldo. And it is the path that plays a major role in Gubbio’s most famous Festa dei Ceri: this is the path the three ceraioli groups take, or better run, to bring the ceri uphill to the basilica. It is definitely worth to walk uphill instead of taking the funicular, because only then it is possible to get an idea of the enormous power and skills of these guys, who run this distance in 10 minutes!! My god, even if I take out my exhaustion when I was in Gubbio first time and calculate the time I would have needed to walk uphill under normal conditions, I still would have needed approx. 40 minutes, but without any weight to carry, except backpack with water…. And these guys, each team (or cero) with 320 kg on their shoulders, run this distance in 8-10 minutes!! Look at this short video to get an idea and appreciate what they are doing during the festa!
The walk uphill is really nice. It provides marvellous views of Gubbio and the surroundings. When I walked up first time in April 2008, it was quite windy, but I was happy with it since I like windy weather. In summer it can be a bit strenuous, especially when it is hot, but the trees provide good shade. Half along the way is Fonte di Sant’Ubaldo (photo 4), where you can fill up your water bottle. Just before the stairs to the basilica is a little restaurant, but this opens in May. However, at the top of Funivia (see transport section) is another restaurant.
When you walk up the hill, watch out for the many wooden poles and the star. They are part of the world’s biggest Christmas tree and are permanently installed at the hill and on its top.
© Ingrid D., February 2009, text revamp December 2010 (So please do not copy my text or photos without my permission.)
continue with next review => funivia up to Basilica Sant'Ubaldo
Gubbio’s cathedral is a marvellous church, not only for the architectural challenge it was built with. High above the town with a very uneven and tiny piazza in front of the entrance, the façade is plain except the rose window and little statues of the four evangelists. The church was built on top or very near to an older church in 13th century and subsequently enlarged, however with one nave only due to the extreme hillside situation. It is dedicated to San Giacomo and San Mariano, two martyrs of early Christian age. Their relics are in a tomb in the main altar. The inside of the cathedral is amazing! It is very light, mainly because of the light coloured walls; otherwise not much light falls inside through the stained glass window in the apsis. The side walls are decorated with religious paintings of Renaissance period. But the best is the ceiling above the apsis: painted in blue and over and over decorated with stars. Photography is a bit of a challenge inside. It is allowed, albeit without flash. My first photos are a result of the ISO 1600 option in my camera. But the cathedral is also Sant’Ubaldo’s church. The windows tell about his life (photo 5) and deeds and the statue of Sant’Ubaldo, which is taken through town during the 17:00 procession of Festa dei Ceri, is standing here (photo 3).
Next to the cattedrale is the Cathedral Museum, which must be excellent, but somehow I always missed to go inside so far, although I saw the entrance. So don’t make the same mistake but go inside the museum, which is located in the rooms below the cathedral, a few steps down the piazza in front of the entrance. It houses not only marvellous religious art but also a big wooden wine barrel, Botte dei Canonici, with a capacity of 20.124 litres. It is smaller than the famous one in Heidelberg (with 220.017 litres), but… oh my, how I love these capacity comparisons…The vat is visible from the outside, in Via Federico da Montefeltro. It seems that it is custom to throw coins in there. And yes, my coins also lie there :-)
Duomo on Google Maps.
© Ingrid D., February 2009, photo exchange December 2010 (So please do not copy my text or photos without my permission.)
continue with next review => walk up to Sant'Ubaldo's basilica
After a few minutes walk along Via della Cattedrale the outer buildings of Palazzo Ducale come into sight, some of which are partly still damaged from 1997’s earthquake. The entrance to the palazzo areal easy to see: the portcullis is open. Some fascinating frescoes, albeit partly damaged or otherwise gone, are inside the archway. And there is also a hole in the wall at a bit higher level (maybe from the earthquake) where the wooden beams and part of the wall construction can be seen. When I stepped out onto the terrace (photo 2) for the first time in April 2008 I found a magnificent view over Gubbio’s houses and the surroundings. Palazzo dei Consoli and its bell tower stick out like the symbol of the town. The small kiosk offers life saving snacks and caffè, but that is a story for the restaurant section.
On the way further uphill (only a few metres though) I saw the fascinating façade of Palazzo Ducale, realised in a kind of illusion painting, suggesting “diamonds” (photo 3). The palace can be visited, and only in August 2010 I managed to do just this, with a special guide: Marcello Minelli, patriarch of the Minelli family, who have a restoration business in Gubbio and who have made the replica of Federico da Montefeltro’s Studiolo. This magnificent wood inlay work was made for Palazzo Ducale in Gubbio in 15th century but was stolen in 18th century and was in private hands for a long time. Metropolitan Museum in New York purchased it 1939 and it is now on display there. In 2000, with the help of funds and organisations in Gubbio, the Minelli family begun with the reconstruction of Studiolo. In October 2009 the work was finished and Gubbio’s Studiolo officially opened for the public. So it was fascinating to walk into the room with Marcello and listen to his explanations of how difficult it was to find wood old enough for this work and how they created the three dimensional illusions, this work is so famous for. Photography isn’t allowed inside the palazzo, and even if I was allowed to take photos, I promised the staff not to publish these. But then, on the Met’s website the original Studiolo is described in many photos. And, local Danae Film Production made a short video Studiolo in Gubbio and a slightly longer explanatory video about Studiolo.
Update, Feb 2013: I just discovered that Minelli family has an own Youtube channel and has made a fantastic video about the studiolo and ist reproduction => here
But it is not only the Studiolo what makes a visit to Palazzo Ducale a must in Gubbio. It is their huge collection of artwork of Mastro Giorgio, the local ceramic artist who became famous for having invented the lustre technology. When I was in the Palazzo in August 2010, they also had a fascinating exhibition about Dante and his Divina Commedia. Again it was also Minelli family who made the showcase woodwork with amazing inlay work for the printed versions of Inferno, Purgatorio and Paradiso. In addition, as permanent exhibition or rather illusion: holographic techniques by Paolo Buroni bring Federico da Montefeltro back to his Palazzo in Gubbio. He talks to an angel and there is a holographic puzzle on the floor which is being activated when people walk over this part of the floor. To my delight I found that there is a short video about Famtasma di Montefeltro on youtube.
So yes, it is well worth to visit Palazzo Ducale and I am a bit ashamed that it took me two years to do this. On the other hand, I could not have had a better guide than Marcello Minelli. Grazie mille Marcello for your time and explanations!!
The Palazzo’s website (see website section) is still under construction in parts. But it already gives a good overview on their photo collection (Galleria), and also has some sketches of the palazzo’s architecture.
Opening hours, Palazzo Ducale:
Tuesday to Sunday, 8:30 a.m. – 7:30 p.m.
Entrance fee: 2 € for adults, 1 € for students (18-25 years), free for kids until 18 and adults over 65.
Palazzo Ducale on Google Maps
© Ingrid D., February 2009, complete revamp and photo exchange, December 2010 (So please do not copy my text or photos without my permission.)
continue with next review => short stop for caffè at the snack bar