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
Visting Palazzo Bargello and seeing the history of Gubbio’s medieval crossbowing is exciting. But this is only one small part of the whole. If you are interested in this very old tradition then you should come to town end of May or in the middle of August. These are the days when Gubbio’s crossbowmen, the balestrieri, have their tournaments. The biggest is Palio della Balestra®, held every last Sunday in May, and the smaller, albeit more intimate in my opinion, is Torneo dei Quartieri on August 14.
Palio della Balestra® has its origin 550 years back in time. These days Federico da Montefeltro II of Urbino and his wife Battista Sforza came to Gubbio quite often. One official occasion was the market and event days held after the city’s celebration in honour to patron saint Sant’Ubaldo. This was the day when the protectors of the city, the glorious society of crossbowmen, held their annual Palio together with the ones of Toscana city of Sansepolcro to demonstrate their skills. Gubbio’s Societá dei Balestrieri possesses a document of May 16, 1461 where this is mentioned. And the Palio della Balestra® dates back to this day, which makes it the longest performing historical festival in Italy (also longer than the one in Siena). The day starts with the lecture of the banda, the document where the herald of town reads the invitation for official event to the townspeople. Andrea R., who does this nowadays, is an excellent herald and can throw you indeed back into the ancient days of the first Palio (listen if you like, I took a video of his announcement Magis cor vobis Ikuvium pandi, translates into "Gubbio welcomes you with open heart"). Around noon the first trial shootings take place on Piazza Grande and at 16:00 Gubbios balestrieri, their drummers, cavalieri and madonne start the historical procession, corteo storico, from Palazzo Bargello, the society’s seat (photo 5). They proceed through town and meet with the cortege of Sansepolcro’s balestrieri and at 16:45, all arrive on Piazza Grande where the rituals of exchanging gifts and blessing by the bishop are being executed. Of course, the campanari ring the Campanone on top of Palazzo dei Consoli. The whole event is accompanied by several performances of Gubbio’s sbandieratori, the flag throwers. And at the end, when each balestriere of Gubbio and Sansepolcro have finished their shootings, the target (called tasso), is being brought into a secluded room to determine the winners. This is indeed a complicated process, the arrows often have to been taken out with the help of pliers (photo 4).
The other contest, Torneo dei Quartieri, is more intimate, as I already mentioned. It is much more colourful because each of the four quarters arrive on Piazza Grande in their own historical processions. In between the shootings, many of Gubbio’s artists perform, such as the ballet, and solo dancers. In August 2010, the ballet performed Carmina Burana, very much emotional. I have made short videos (see my Gubbio videosection). The best though is the evening. Each quartiere helds a party, and what a party!! The band sings until late after midnight (at 1:30, when I left the party, they were still singing), and the atmosphere is magic! It was certainly the best festa ever I attended. I hope my videos bring this across, the ones which are labelled Sant’Andrea, “my” quartiere. There is a video about Torneo dei Quartieri (August 2010) on youtube.
There is much more to the crossbow contests in Gubbio, and this is why I have written more about it in the local customs section. At this point I want to thank the Glorious Società dei Balestrieri for everything they did to me, including having accepted me as a member. Thank you for everything! I honour this very highly!
The dates of the contests are:
Last Sunday in May: tournament between Gubio and Sansepolcro,
August 14: tournament between Gubbio’s quartieri
© Ingrid D., January 2011, text completely new written (So please do not copy my text or photos without my permission.)
continue with next review => the balestra, part of Gubbio's soul
The reason why I love Gubbio is because of the deep spirit of the locals, the ties to their land, town and history and how they live this all in their daily life. The socities of crossbowmen, flag throwers and ceraioli are excellent examples and then there are the campanari. These form the society of bell ringers for the bells on top of Palazzo dei Consoli. And different than for several other societies of bell ringers in Italy, Gubbio’s campanari ring their big bell, the Campanone, with their feet. The ringings follows a specific schedule throughout the year (see website at the bottom). These include not only the Italian holidays but also Gubbio specific events, like Festa dei Ceri, the Palio (crossbow contest) and of course the “birthday” or day when the actual Campanone was cast (October 30). The Campanone is indeed a big bell: with its 1966 tons it produces a marvellous, deep sound. The other two bells which are rung together with the Campanone are the slim la Piccola, the oldest bell, cast 1289, and la Mezzana (of 1678).
It is fascinating to watch these ringings. It all starts with the small bell, followed by a special melody of Mezzana and Piccola until the Campanone is being moved to ring. It takes a short while after the Campanone is being set into motion until the first sound; this is why the campanari are being called “maestri del silenzio”, masters of the silence. There is a short video about it => here.
And some more videos:
Campanone, December 8
Campanone, April 25
Up to now, I have listened to and watched the ringing of Campanone countless times. And I am always and will always be fascinated by its sound. It sits deep in my heart and... sometimes I even hear it when I am back in Germany. There is a certain magic with this bell. That is why I love it from the bottom of my heart. And that is why I will always hear it. The voice of Gubbio. The voice which tells the story of the town and the voice which calls the people when events happen.
© Ingrid D., December 2010 (So please do not copy my text or photos without my permission.). I changed the text and have transferred the former one to my album, dedicated to the Campanone and the campanari.
continue with next review => I maestri del silenzio, the bell ringers
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
Without doubt Piazza Grande (formerly Piazza della Signoria) is the very heart of Gubbio. It is here where the four quartieri almost meet in a cross shape: Sant'Andrea and San Pietro from the east and San Martino and San Giuliano from the west. The idea was not to favour any of these quarters thus build the town hall in the middle. Not that this would have been a piece of cake, given Gubbio’s very much hillside location. It was quite a challenging task in the beginning of 14th century, considering the piazza’s dimensions: 2230 sqm in total with Palazzo dei Consoli to the west and Palazzo del Podestà to the east. The piazza has something of a majestic and grand atmosphere. It is fascinating to watch it from above (from the balcony of Palazzo dei Consoli) and imagine how life would have been during Gubbio’s eventful past. The piazza comes to full life during the crossbow contests Palio della Balestra® and Torneo dei Quartieri, when the flag wavers train or held demonstrations and during all other events in town such as Life in Gubbio, a music and theatre festival. And then the piazza cannot be big enough for Gubbio’s most important event, La Festa dei Ceri, because then it is literally packed with people. Just look at one of the photos on Ceri website (the building in the background is Palazzo del Podestà)! Haha, there isn’t even room to squeeze a sheet of paper between the celebrating locals.
The two palazzi were built almost during the same time, in 14th century. Originally they were intended to be “twins” and face each other across the piazza. But Palazzo del Podestà was never finished. This can be seen at the outer walls: the bricks stick out of the side walls. The dominating building at Piazza Grande though, or better the most dominating building of Gubbio is Palazzo dei Consoli. It is said to be one of the most beautiful Medieval town halls in whole Italy. And yes, even if I haven’t been in all Italy, I am sure that there cannot be a town hall more magnificent than the palazzo, albeit I am biased. It looks massive from the outside and one would maybe expect more windows in the middle section. I did, before I visited it the first time. But this becomes explicable once you get inside (see next tip). Palazzo dei Consoli is a very much harmonic building. On its left side, the one that faces Via Baldassini below, an extension was added with a balcony and a loggia. It was built with the purpose to support the palazzo on the one hand and to absorb part of the palazzo’s immense weight so that the supporting structure below piazza and palazzo wouldn’t collapse under all the weight. This becomes obvious when you look at this structure from below (Via Baldassini): an incredible technical feat and achievement for these Medieval days! The loggia by the way was intended to have stairs to lead down to the street or from the street up to the piazza, but this idea was obviously abandoned. It would have been too much of weight disturbance. But if you intend to walk down in the loggia: be careful, because the little balustrade at the end is not very high!
Both, Palazzo dei Consoli and Palazzo del Podestà are attributed to the famous local architect, Matteo di Giovanni, called Gattapone; Hotel Gattapone is named after him for example. However, the relief above Palazzo dei Consoli’s entrance portal also mentions an Angelo da Orvieto.
Piazza Grande on Google Maps.
© Ingrid D., February 2009 (So please do not copy my text or photos without my permission.)
continue with next review => architectural efforts for Piazza Grande
Palazzo dei Consoli hosts a museum. But Museo Civico is not just a museum: it is the museum where the most famous ancient Umbrian or better European treasures, the Iguvine Tables, are exhibited. I have learned about them at school and every time when I see them in reality, I have this kind of holy feeling of admiration to see a real treasure! The Iguvine Tables were “written” or better carved in 3-1th century B.C.. They are made of bronze, the material which was used for sacred objects. The seven tables are written in “Iguvinic” or Umbri language and in Latin, with both Etruscan-like and Latin letters. That is why they are often referred to as the “Rosetta Stone of Italy”. But since the Rosetta Stone is much newer, the political correct description would be that the stone is the Egyptian version of the tables. So much about clever marketing strategies of Egypt and the British Museum, haha. The tables’ texts describe the rituals of the priestly brotherhood Attiedii and the daily life and social structure of the Umbri during 6th century B.C. in a very much detailed way. In fact these texts are copies from much older, lost documents. Next to the tables is an exhibition about coins, since Gubbio was a mint in the past. Some of the coins are as old as 5th century B.C. I found the explanations of today’s “monetary” words and their descent from Latin words very fascinating. Another treasure in the museum is the big collection of maiolica. Mastro Giorgio from Gubbio was a very famous ceramic art master and that his technique has influenced almost the whole ceramic artwork. Part of his work is also exhibited in the British Museum and in Louvre. In the upper floor is Pinacoteca Civica, with a big collection of religious art of Gubbio and the surrounding region. But don’t stop here. Make sure you walk outside on the balcony to get a magnificent view of Gubbio and the surrounding region. When you walk back down the stairs, enter the door into the back part of the palazzo. It is only a small corridor, called corridoro segreto, but it leads into the cellar with (in April 2008) an exhibition about Italian Resistenza. And in the corridor is also a Medieval toilet, covered with modern wood though.
Palazzo dei Consoli itself is also a treasure. Anytime I go inside I have a sublime feeling when I walk up the magnificent almost free standing fanlike outer stairs. The palazzo is one of the masterpieces of Iguvine architecture and only inside it becomes obvious why; from the outside, one would think that some windows are missing. The windows are a kind of representative windows with seats inside, something like the original version of the window seat. Photography isn’t allowed inside, but... I got permission to take a photo of the three Ceri from hig up the stairs (photo 5). The window seats are visible in the background. Sitting on the stone benches, the noble people had a prime position to watch anything going on at the piazza. This huge hall, 30 x 13 metres and 13 metres high, is called Sala Maggiore or Sala dell’Arengo (click on the link for a photo). Anytime I enter the palazzo, the size of this hall overwhelms me. I stand there, feel extremely tiny. And when I walk up the stairs, I stop every few steps to look down the hall, look at this incredible clever made vault and imagine how it must have been filled with people during Medieval times or literally jammed with ceraioli during May 15, the day of Ceri. The hall is used for exhibitions which change quite frequently. When I was there in April 2008 I saw a magnificent exhibition of local painter Giuseppe Gierut, his interpretation of Iguvine Tables. Later I read that he is famous throughout all Umbria, interpreter of ancient rituals and religious ideas and beliefs and the whole social network. Maybe that’s why his paintings left a very intense impression on me. In November 2009 it was an exhibition with original costumes of Medieval movies and TV series, such as Los Borgia. See here (and continue for a couple of more) for photos. And, as seen in my last photo, the three Ceri are kept here two weeks before Festa dei Ceri. There is an interesting video, for those who want to see the probation of erection of Ceri in the days befor the festa: prova dei Ceri.
April – September: 10-13 and 15-18, October – March: 10-13 and 15-17.
The museum is closed on May 15 of course, during Festa dei Ceri.
Entrance fee: 5,50 € (summer 2011)
Bring warm clothes, even in summer. It is cold inside the palazzo!
The museum celebrated 100 years in 2009, by the way. And all exhibit explanations are also available in excellent English.
Palazzo dei Consoli on Google Maps.
© Ingrid D., February 2009 (So please do not copy my text or photos without my permission.), updates December 2010.
continue with next review => old measuring signs at Palazzo dei Consoli
With Gubbio’s location at the slope of Monte Ingenio it is almost inevitable to walk up and down when visiting the city. As much as I liked to wander around anywhere, I found it even more fascinating to walk through the backstreets, because they are much more charming and in summer are even less frequented than the main paths. For example it is well worth to turn upward or uphill from Fontana dei Matti if you plan to visit the cathedral. That is the path or road which is called Via della Cattedrale and it leads along parts of the city walls and some very cute and architectural interesting little houses. Towers along this wall are often built “into” the wall, like the one in photo 3. On the left hand side is the huge Parco Ranghiasci which is most magic in autumn and which I will describe separately. But walk also into the backstreets in other parts of Gubbio. In the west, near Porta Romana for example, I found this beautiful “bridge house” (photo 2). My most favourite walk though, especially in summer, is Via Galeotti, the tiny street which runs parallel to Piazza Grande and the gardens of Palazzo Ducale. It is too small for car traffic of course and small bridges connect houses and gardens. It is heavenly cool in there. Only small openings in the walls of the houses along Piazza Grande lead to this road.
© Ingrid D., February 2009, text update December 2010 (So please do not copy my text or photos without my permission.).
continue with next review => Palazzo Ducale and the view
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
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
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
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
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
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
Palazzo Bargello is maybe Gubbio’s best hidden secret. The treasures inside that is. The building itself is not hidden at all: it is located at the end of Via dei Consoli at the little piazza with the fountain Fontana dei Matti. Thus many or almost all visitors will certainly pass it or have their photo taken in front of the fountain. But since there is no real sign at the palazzo, it might be unnoticed that it is possible to visit. Only a small sign at the wooden door tells about the treasures inside and the opening hours: Esposizione permanente della balestra, which means permanent exhibition of the crossbows.
Inside, Palazzo Bargello hosts not only a marvellous collection and display of antique crossbows but also explains their use, history and function. In addition, many banners of Palio della Balestra® are decorating the rooms and the walls at the stairs. This Palio is held every year at the last May weekend and is a crossbow contest between Gubbio and Toscana town of Sansepolcro. Palio, by the way, stands for the banner which is made for each contest, and does not stand only for the one in Siena Palio. These banners are magnificent pieces of art, all handmade, often of silk and very much colourful. I didn’t find signs of the artists, but will ask next time. The ones displayed in the palazzo are the ones of the years when Gubbio won the contest. I also like that photography is allowed everywhere in Palazzo Bargello, flash photos included. I liked this especially since I could take photos to show the special architecture inside the palazzo, which is characteristic for Gubbio’s palazzi and which already fascinated me in Palazzo dei Consoli: the window openings inside have little stone benches left and right, early versions of the window seats, to sit there and watch the world passing by. The exhibition is completed by displays of marvellous old dresses, made according to the ones in Ottaviano Nelli’s paintings, a local artist of Gubbio (14/15th century). These dresses are being worn by the girls and boys of Società Balestrieri who accompany the crossbowmen at the Palio and official events.
In a nutshell: please make sure to visit Palazzo Bargello because it will give you much insight of Gubbio’s past and history, which is not past at all, but in the soul of each Eugubino (the name, the locals refer to themselves): the past kept alive with passion and pride. This is not at all silly or old fashioned, it is something that fascinated me everywhere in Gubbio, the pride and passion the people have about their past and the way they keep their traditions alive. I hope to be able to bring this across in my tips.
I wrote more about the crossbows in the local customs section. Already here I want to stress out that this is not seen as a deadly weapon – it is a passionate tradition originating from protection the town during the times of Federico da Montefeltro II, it is an expression of marvellous skills, of bounds, of life. And in my eyes it has a lot to do with Zen.
Please take your time and watch the video about Palio della Balestra®, which itself is a fascinating piece of art by Giampaolo Pauselli and explains so much about this marvellous tradition. They also show it in Palazzo Bargello, by the way.
Opening hours: Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays & festive days only,
November – March: 10 a.m. – 1 p.m. and 3 p.m. – 6 p.m.,
April – October: 10 a.m. – 1 p.m. and 3 p.m. – 7 p.m.
Entrance fee: 3 € for adults, 2 € for kids.
From Palazzo dei Consoli/Piazza Grande walk north along Via dei Consoli. Palazzo Bargello is located at the piazzetta Largo del Bargello at the left after a couple of metres.
Palazzo Bargello on Google Maps.
© Ingrid D., November 2009 (So please do not copy my text or photos without my permission.), update June 2010.
continue with next review => the famous fountain in front of Palazzo Bargello