Gubbio’s Corsa dei Ceri: The Day After
I could never be anywhere but Gubbio on May 15th for the glorious Corsa dei Ceri – but May 16th has its own magic. The euphoria of the day before has melted into a gentle calm. Streets are nearly empty, exhausted ceraioli (“those who carry the Ceri“) home resting after their run up the mountain and then dancing and feasting in the piazzas until the early hours of the next day. A memory of the day before are the multi-colored banners – yellow for Sant’Ubaldo, cobalt blue for San Giorgio and black for Sant’Antonio – draping windows and fluttering off balconies, adding festive chromatic splashes to Gubbio’s medieval buildings.
Strolling the nearly-empty streets, you might see clutches of men here and there, talking about the mad race up to the Basilica di Sant’Ubaldo the night before about 7 30 pm. Who won?
And in Gubbio, that means, which Cero (“candlestick” – but really a phallic symbol) stayed erect throughout the day for this is a race only in terms of speed (and all three huge Ceri – over 300 k each – arrived at the Basilica from the town in less than 10 minutes this year, too). The order is always the same: Sant’Ubaldo, then San Giorgio, then Sant’Antonio. Sant’Ubaldo will arrive first at the mountaint-top Basilica: after all, May 15th is the vigil of his feast and his body is enthroned in a glass coffin over the altar of his Basilica at the top of Mt. Ingino, backdropping Gubbio.
And the day after – as always – all the Umbrian papers carried stories on the astounding Corsa dei Ceri. At the photo studio across the street, young and old pored over the photos displayed in the windows of the May 15th race, trying to locate photos of self in the race – or a loved one carrying the Ceri – and deciding which photos to order for reproductions?
As Pino and I headed to the car from our B&B, I glanced up at the Basilica di Sant’Ubaldo on Mt. Ingino for a last look. I’d made if up to that Basilica, too, the night of May 15th – awaiting the Ceri arrival – and already spent after a good day with my tour group, then an afternoon of dancing to the music of marching brass bands in Gubbio’s piazzas with “the locals.”
Looking back at the mountain above Gubbio, I wondered why I always pushed on for the climb up the mountain on May 15th. I simply had to be at the Basilica for the end of the race of the Ceri, sharing in the appassioned suspense of the eugubini around me.
I asked myself why I was doing it.
Lacking an answer, I asked eugubini trekking along with me up that steep gravel road – some with walking sticks, most short on breath – what was pushing them to the top.
For Silvia, “For St. Ubaldo, our patron saint.” Stefania put it this way: “For love, for la passione.” Her friend Francesca told me with a smile, “I truly have no idea!” Francesco makes the climb for his father who once carried the Cero of St. Ubaldo as part of the team of ubaldari.
I’m a sangiorgiaro and always have been. My father was George. Dad, I must be making that climb for you.