So the Castello di Petroia is technically not right in the town of Gubbio, but rather in the outskirts, just past a town called Scritto. Today we will visit the actual town of Gubbio, famous as a beautiful medieval town and home to the Basilica of St Ubaldo.
Gubbio is also… ‘surprise’ … another hill town built on the slopes of Mount Ingino. As you may have guessed by now, that means lots of sloping streets and stairs. You don’t need to be a mathematician to know those angles will mean sore calves tomorrow. I digress.
We start out with a quick breakfast. We arrived after all the other guests, so we didn’t want to hold up the kitchen. Afterwards, gathered up our day bag and camera and off we went.
The town is only sixteen kilometers from here, so we were there in no time. I had read about a good place to park and we found that right away. It was just outside of the city walls, near to the roman ampitheatre. And it was free!
Made our way through the city gates and into the first of many squares we would see in Gubbio. The town is decorated with the flags of the four quarters as they just celebrated with a festival called the Ceri. More on that later.
A couple little shops immediately caught our eye. One selling gluten free salami and the other with a tray of huge, white truffles for sale. Turning the corner, we saw the Gubbio Express, a tourist train rolling by and decided that it would be a splendid way to get to know the city. We only had to go a short distance to find it parked and taking on new customers.
For 8 Euro, it’s a 45 minute ride around town pointing out many of the highlights. We hopped on board and away we went. Gubbio is actually bigger than it looks on the map.
Gubbio is the town where St Francis tamed a wild wolf that was terrorizing the town folk, and is the start of the trek that many people took from Gubbio to Assisi. You see many references to St Francis throughout the town.
After our train ride, we went to the Palazzo dei Consoli. It was built back in the 1300’s and is today a museum. Inside the palazzo, you will find many historical items and paintings, with the jewel being the “Gubbio Tables’.
These are seven bronze plaques that date back to the 3rd century BC. They describe the religious ceremonies, customs and sub-divisions of the inhabitants according to their occupations. The fact that they were written in Gubbian and Latin allowed them to be translated by future generations.
Most of the frescoes and paintings contained within are of a religious nature, spanning many centuries. Climbing up the many stairs, there is a wonderful balcony with expansive views all around. A young girl offered to take our picture (probably figured we wouldn’t make it down).
On another level, there were old ceramics – plates, jugs and other artifacts that were fascinating to see given their age. One of paintings that made us chuckle showed eight guys on the bottom that reminded us of Platform 4 in Ferrara. The looks on their faces and their haircuts were a little scary.
Back down in the main hall, there were miniature versions of the statues that are used during the race of the Ceri. The short story is that every May, on the second Sunday, the three saints of the area are set atop these pedestals and they hold a race around the city. The pedestals and the saint statues weigh about 1000 pounds and the streets and piazzas are packed with people making the ‘race’ more of an obstacle course. It has taken place for centuries and is an important festival for the town.
Our next stop was the Palazzo Ducale. It’s a museum that used to be the Duke’s house. There are many paintings, furniture and an audio visual presentation telling the Duke’s story. Though it was in Italian, you could pretty much understand what was going on.
There was one painting that really caught our eye. It is a painting of Mary, seemingly giving Joseph instructions regarding baby Jesus. He just looks so miserable it was precious.
Across from the palazzo was the Cathedral of Gubbio. Massive on the inside with beautiful stained glass behind the altar. It was empty when we arrived. Either the tourists and workers were all eating lunch or the walk up had them dropping.
So we decided next to take the gondola up to see the basilica of St Ubaldo. First we had to maneuver down the street to get to the right level. The east to west streets are fairly flat; the north and south routes require sheer will and determination as they are oh so steep.
Next we zigged and zagged our way over to the area where we saw the cables. Then we looked up to see the height and then we saw the bird cage gondola.
Luckily, or as Sue would say, miraculously, they were shut down for lunch. It looked a little scary and I’m sure I saw Sue crossing herself as we walked away.
Lunch was in order and we found a place that one of the other guest couples at the castello told us about. It was a nice little place, reasonably priced and the food was delicious. I had the menu of the day, while Sue had the gnocchi with shaved white truffle. Yum!! With full tummies, we decided to head back home for the day.
On the walk back to the car, we passed by a group that was creating religious street art in preparation for the feast of Corpus Christi. They used flowers and grass to make some beautiful images.
Finding the car park was easy, exiting the town was easy, finding the proper unmarked road – not so easy. What a pain. It took a couple tries before we caught the right road and headed off.
Tight, hairpin turns are no reason for Italian drivers to slow down. I just started pulling over when the line on my rear bumper got long and then took off when the coast was clear.
We rested up before dinner and since we were both still pretty full from lunch, we had a light dinner but made sure the prosecco was bubbly and the red wine was good. Someone had to do it!
Some light reading and a little music before heading off to bed.