The north eastern Umbrian town of Gubbio holds many surprises not least the joy of being lead through the streets by its own ‘crazy lady’ Emilia.
Dubbed the town of the crazy people, our guide for the day, Emilia, was as enthusiastic as anyone I know about the town in which she lived.
Gubbio sits along a hillside almost 40 kilometres from the Umbria capital, Perugia. Dating back as far as the 3rd Century BC the town flourished during the reign of the Roman Empire.
Today, the town centres around the Piazza Grande, an open area bookmarked by the Palazzo dei Consoli and Palazzo del Podesta, Gubbio’s two public halls.
The Festival of the Ceri
As Emilia explained, the Piazza Grande is also the starting point for the annual celebrations of the Festival of the Ceri. Every 15th May, the eve of the anniversary of Patron Saint Ubaldo’s death in 1160 AD, the residents of Gubbio come together in the square for a day of partying.
Three huge wooden devices each adorned with a statue of a saint, known collectively as the ceri, are displayed to the townsfolk before being paraded through the streets of Gubbio.
The following race that commences goes a long way to explain why the town has been given its nickname. Groups of ceri-bearers run through the streets carrying each cero on their shoulders and head further up the hillside to its finishing point
Emilia has never been one of the ceri-bearers but each year you are likely to find her on the final stretch leading up to St Ubaldo’s Church cheering on the runners. The Church overlooks Gubbio and is the resting place for the Ceri until the following year when the festivities will bring the town back onto the streets.
On visiting the church and seeing these giant structures it’s almost impossible to imagine how they manage to carry them through the town, let alone up some very steep roads up to the peak.
The Streets of Gubbio
Heading back down the hill the streets of Gubbio are wonderful to walk around and I felt a sense of history wherever we walked. The amount of stonework is incredible and we would occasionally stumble across carefully crafted iron horse tethers hanging from many of the town’s walls.
Though cars tend to find their way up the steepest and smallest of streets, we found ourselves walking through a medieval alleyway as we approached the end of our day in Gubbio MrsPostcardFrom and I found ourselves wanting to live in one of the small houses that lie along the alley.
As we dropped back down onto the Piazza Grande we stood and looked back over the surrounding green fields of the Gubbio area. In one final act of craziness, Emilia decided to skip her way from the Piazza Grande back to the bus terminal singing along the way.
Gubbio may be very beautiful but it is truly full of crazy people.
Have you been to Gubbio or Umbria? Where you there for the festival? Where have you been where the people have been crazy?
Our accommodation in Gubbio was provided by the Park Hotel Ai Cappuccini