In Gubbio, Maiolica Majesty, Culinary Goodness….and a Mad Race
Medieval gem, Gubbio, is a favorite tour destination for me…..
– and turned out to be a favorite of the tours I offered Judy and Grady during their late-April week here.
As we arrived in Gubbio, we passed the 1st-c A.D. Roman theater and I pointed out to them the Basilica di Sant’Ubaldo at the top of Mt. Ingino backdropping Gubbio.
Enshrining the body of Gubbio’s beloved patron saint, Ubaldo Baldassini, 12th-century bishop, the Basilica is final destination for the May 15th utterly captivating Corsa dei Ceri (“Race of the Candles”).
The majestic 13th-century city hall, Palazzo dei Consoli, rises majestically in the main square.
We headed up towards the Palazzo via labyrinthine winding backstreets, flanked by homes primarily of the 14th and 15th centuries.
As we walked near the Camignano River (now very diminished), I pointed out to Judy and Grady the site of the medieval mill once along the banks where wheat was ground into flour through water power:
We stopped on the bridge over the Camignano….
…and in an alleyway, I climbed a couple steps leading to a porta della morte (“death door”) and recounted to them the history of this medieval entryway.
It was a windy day, though, and not ideal for shooting a video but here’s one of me explaining the death door.
We passed a lovely porta della morte with floral adornments on the steps leading up to the entrance…
….and shortly after, we were at the bottega (workshop)/shop of talented young artisan, Sabrina Matteucci.
Judy and Grady smiled with a masked Sabrina as I took their photo, a Gubbio “death door” – now a display window – to the left of the main door…
Inside, Judy was enticed by the jewelry designs of Etruscan motifs and Sabrina’s black bucchero pottery astounding in its delicacy and intricacy, every design incised by Sabrina and then painted in liquid gold and platinum…
You’ll want to see this video about Sabrina’s black bucchero work as well as her stupendous maiolica:
Every single piece is painted by Sabrina, after her companion, Raimondo, has formed the object on the potter’s wheel.
Many images of Sant’Ubaldo, patron saint of Gubbio, reign in the shop…..
…and Sabrina drew his image during the period of Covid lockdown “and that is why I made him looking so sad, in pain for his beloved Gubbio,” Sabrina told me as she showed us the drawing:
St. Francis and the wolf of Gubbio also star in many of Sabrina’s works:
She was creating another maiolica masterpiece for a private commission as we left.
Judy, Grady and I headed to a ristorante which Sabrina had recommended as “a favorite eating spot of the eugubini,” Il Lepre (“The Hare”):
We savored some of the restaurant’s specialties, suggested to us by owner Stefano whose sister, Francesca, was in the kitchen, cooking up the goodness.
Judy was delighted with the l’insalata del Lepre (their special salad highlighted with fruits and flowers) which -Stefano brought her:
…and how her husband, Grady, enjoyed his antipasto, la panna cotta con la zucca fonduta di parmigiano e tartufo: a buonissimo flan topped with a squash and Parmesan fondue and shaved black truffle.
For her pasta, Judy chose tagliatelle al ragu all’umbro (homemade tagliatelle with an Umbrian meat sauce):
I chose Il Lepre specialità, a delicious creation of Chef Francesca: diamantini.
The handmade ravioli are filled with ricotta, formaggio di fossa, crushed walnuts and flanked by finely-sliced pears and wild chicory sautéed in garlic and olive oil. Formaggio di fossa (“cheese of the pit”) is aged in special pits dug into volcanic tuff rock (tufo).
No words to describe the goodness.
Grady had skipped the primi (first courses), opting for a secondo (second course or main course) which he relished: grilled lamb. Stefano approved of his choice:
Happily satiated with our Il Lepre feast, I knew that our Gubbio day merited a memorable gran finale.
And so we headed to the funiculare for the ride up to the top of Mount Ingino, backdropping Gubbio to stop in at the Basilica di Sant’Ubaldo.
And what views of Gubbio below – captured by Judy in her photos – as we rode up the funiculare:
After our funiculare ride with a breath-taking Gubbio panorama spreading out below, we headed to the entrance of the Basilica di Sant’Ubaldo..
Inside, the tomb of Saint Ubaldo reigns over the altar in the center of the church presbytery.
I pointed out to Judy and Grady the splendid stained glass windows behind the tomb illustrating the most important episodes of the Saint’s life:
And then we headed over to a side aisle to view arguably the three most beloved objects in all of Gubbio for every one of the eugubini: the Ceri:
These huge wooden pyramidical structures – elegantly incised – are meant to represent the candles (“ceri“) carried solemnly in Bishop Ubaldo’s funeral procession following his death on May 16, 1160. The May 15th Corsa dei Ceri on the vigil of his feast is not a solemn procession but a race through Gubbio and up the mountain by teams of men carrying the three Ceri, dashing with intense passione at sunset after a full-day of glorious celebration.
I simply cannot imagine being anywhere else but in Gubbio on May 15th.
Do join me for the Corsa dei Ceri festivities (no, we won’t run the race!) to find out why the eugubini are called i matti dell’Italia (“the mad ones of Italy”).
Judy and Grady were with me in Gubbio in late April – when the Ceri were still “at home” in the Basilica di Sant’Ubaldo, for they’d be carried down to the town in procession on May 1st, in preparation for the run in mid-May.
The eugubini touch the Ceri when visiting the Basilica, for simply looking is not enough for these “hands-on” Italians!
We each did so, too, before leaving the Basilica:
Riding the funicolare back down to the town, I imagine we shared the same thought: who but i matti di Gubbio would race up that mountain shouldering those hefty Ceri?
See the ride up Mt Ingino on the funicular on Youtube
Read about the Gubbio passione for la Corsa dei Ceri
Read here about la Corsa dei Ceri
Read more here about the glorious Corsa dei Ceri
Read here about Gubbio’s Palazzo dei Consoli
Click here to read about Gubbio’s Mausoleum of the 40 Martyrs
Read about Gubbio’s pre-Roman archeological treasures
Click here to read about – and see! – the glorious April 25th celebrations in Gubbio