Saturday, 15 May 2010

Gubbio is one of the jewels of Umbria

Gubbio is a somewhat idyllic hill town in Umbria – imagine an old Italian town built on a hillside with numerous churches, narrow alley ways, small

Alley Way 1 Alley Way 2

shops, bars, quiet public spaces etc surrounded by a high stone wall and

Gate Fountain

a church to the patron saint of the town on the top of the hill (Mount Ingino) and you have Gubbio.

The town has held the Ceri Festival on the 15th of May every year since the

Ceri Poster

12th Century. The festival started to commemorate the death of Bishop (now Saint) Ubaldo Baldassini but has now assumed a wider significance. If you click on the Ceri Festival link above, you will get taken to the official web site of the festival which also has a detailed history and videos etc.

In summary: religious icons related to St Ubaldo (patron and protector of the city) for the builders, St George for the shopkeepers and St Anthony for the country folk are paraded around the town. There is a lot of general merry making and festival spirit, then in the evening three teams race each other up the mountain carrying a Cero. That of St Ubaldo is always in the front and the objective is for his team of carriers to get to the church at the top of the mountain sufficiently far ahead of the other two teams so he can get inside and the door can be slammed shut before the other two teams arrive. Having then had 10 minutes of parading around the church and its courtyard to himself, the doors are opened and the other two saints allowed in. After a bit more parading around, the three saints are united in the church for some final hymn singing. Everybody then goes back down the mountain and the party continues.

So: On the evening before the race, everyone went into town to the Piazza Grande  to hear the town bell (aka the Campanone" - the big bell) rung with great enthusiasm.

Town Bells

Many of the houses in the town opened their front doors and offered free wine to anyone who called by and some fountains were converted to wine.

Free Wine

The following day, wet revellers gathered in the streets and marched

Wet Revellers

around preceded or followed by a number of bands (equally wet)


and made their way to the town square to await the appearance of the

Awaiting the ceri

three cerio from the town palace to the sound of fanfares


This video shows some aspects of the Ceri madness – really great fun, you should go there if you ever get the opportunity. During the afternoon 9before the race) the Cero are individually raced around the town at high speed – and dear reader, your reporter was offered the opportunity to assist in the carrying of two of the three Cero for a short period and can reliably report that they are very very heavy.

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