In the heart of the Umbria Region you’ll find Gubbio, one of the most ancient and well-preserved medieval villages in the region. Gubbio is also known as “the grey town” because of the uniform colour of the limestone blocks it’s built with or as “the town of fools” for the unpredictable and light-hearted nature of its citizens.

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Through the centuries this village saved its extraordinary and fascinating medieval appearance, revealed by the outline of the buildings and its narrow streets. You’ll have the chance to enjoy it in a one-day trip, as it’s not a very large town. Comfortable shoes are recommended due to the many hills and staircases.

Gubbio is among the most ancient Umbrian villages, it was a feud of the Montefeltro and Della Rovere families in the period of the Signorie. The town of Gubbio is closely associated with the life of Saint Francis of Assisi, especially with an event of his life mentioned in the XXI chapter of Little Flowers of St. Francis (Fioretti di San Francesco), the encounter with a “wolf” that took place near the Church of Santa Maria della Vittoria, known as della Vittorina.

This miraculous event is among the world’s best-known ones and its historical authenticity has long been debated: the wolf or she-wolf could also be a metaphor for an outlaw reconciled with their town thanks to Francis, but many scholars talk of a real animal.

What to do in Gubbio

Martyrs’ square (Piazza 40 Martiri)

It’s likely that you’ll end up in Martyrs’ Square, one of the places of major interest and an entrance to the old town. Here you’ll find a large pay and display parking.

This square and its great monument clearly visible from the car park are dedicated to all the eugubini killed by the German military troops in 1944.

Logge dei Tiratori

The loggia dates back to 600 and it’s a two-storey building: a long portico covered by an arcade. This covered space was where fabrics were “tirate” (therefore “Tiratori”), so stretched out until they reached the right size. The building, damaged by the last earthquake (1997), has been restored; the walls of the only nave have been decorated with 24 valuable, small pictures portraying the life of Mary and painted by Felice Damiani.

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The Church of Saint Francis in Martyrs’ square

In Gubbio there are two churches associated with episodes from the life of Saint Francis and which carry the name of the saint. The first one is the The Church of San Francesco, where the saint from Assisi stayed after leaving his father’s house. The second one is the Chiesa di San Francesco dei Muratori (or della Pace) related to the well-knowed story of the wolf.

The church in Martyrs’ square is the only one with three naves in Gubbio. The bell tower, in the left apse, isn’t contemporary with the rest of the church, as it wasn’t built before the 15th century. The rose window that can still be seen today dates back to 1958 and comes from the church of Saint Francis in Foligno. The church interior underwent two transformations, the last one in the the 18th century. Between the 1926 and the 1938, the restoration of the apsal part with full respect of its original style had important frescoes from the 14th and 15th centuries come back to light.

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Piazza Grande

The main square in Gubbio is Piazza Grande, where the four districts of the town meet. The parapet on the square, that marks the area of the terrace, has taken the place of a long loggia built in 1508 and demolished then in 1839.

This hanging square is propped up by the arches that can be admired from lower Gubbio. It’s the beating heart of the Medieval town. All the greatest events take place here and it’s a place loved both by locals and tourists due to the beautiful view over the valley that can be enjoyed from here. If you’ve ever seen a picture of Gubbio, it has most likely been taken from this hanging square. From up here you can enjoy the best panorama over the valley.

The Consuls Palace Civic museum

In Piazza Grande you’ll find the Civic Museum Palazzo dei Consoli (formerly called Palazzo del Popolo) which, together with the complex of Piazza Grande and Palazzo del Podestà, forms one of the greatest Middle Ages building projects and proves how ambitious Gubbio’s political and institutional plan of the Libero Comune di Gubbio was.

Built right in the centre of the Medieval town so to be close to all the districs (and not disappoint any citizen), Palazzo dei Consoli overlooks Gubbio from its height of 60 meters with its magnificent Gothic facade.

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The famous Eugubine Tables are kept inside the building: seven bronze tables discovered in the 15th century in a field nearby. They contain a text in the Umbrian language, relating to the ceremonial rites for the lustration of the people. The interior of the palazzo is said to be very suggestive – “it’s said to be” because, unfortunately, we found it closed. Such a pity!

Anyway, there can be found the great Sala dell’Arengo with a barrel vault, the palatine chapel, the frescoes and furniture of the noble floor where the consuls met. The Consuls Palace also has a unique historical record: it has been the first Italian building to have running water, pipes and toilets, all of which can still be seen today in the secret corridor.

The building houses nowadays the Civic Museum of Gubbio, an art gallery and a ceramics collection. However the strong point of the exhibition are the Eugubine Tables, 7 bronze plates showing the most important text in the Umbrian language ever written, with a description of ancient religious rites.

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The Big, ancient Barrel (Botte dei Canonici)

Along the road from Piazza Grande to the Cathedral, you can spot the Big, ancient Barrel (seen from the alley and free of charge), home to the Diocesan Museum. The ground floor houses the Big, ancient Barrel or Botte dei Canonici, a giant 15th-century container, a rarity.

The Cathedral of St. Mariano and Giacomo

The Cathedral is worth a visit, above all due to the stunning effect created by the single nave with 10 pointed arches characteristic of the churches in Gubbio.

What we see today is the result of the restorations that the original cathedral, which dates back to 1000, has undergone in 1300.

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The church is rich in paintings by Gubbio artists from the 16th century and by foreign artists too. The Baroque chapel that can be seen in the middle of the right wall is outstanding: frescoes by Allegrini and a canvas (the Birth of the Virgin) by Gherardi are preserved there.

To the left of the main altar you’ll see the Seggio dei Magistrati, while in the choir you’ll see the Episcopal See, engraved in the middle of the 16th century. The sarcophagus under the main altar contains the relics of St. Giacomo and Mariano, to whom the church is dedicated.

The Doge’s Palace Museum

The Doge’s Palace, also known as Corte Nuova, stands in front of the Cathedral. It’s the result of the extension and transformation of a medieval buildings complex. It was built starting from 1476 by order of Federico di Montefeltro and it included these ancient medieval buildings, which were given a Renaissance appearance.

Also in this case we found it closed, but, however, the interior is said to be characterized by rooms with refined fireplaces and other ornaments and a graceful central courtyard.

The Ministry for Cultural Heritage made it a museum that houses a valuable 15th century studio in carved and inlaid wood, upon request of Duke Federico di Montefeltro. It looks the same as the one in the Doge’s Palace in Urbino, the original of which can be found in the Metropolitan Museum of New York.

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You’ll go through the “big vault” at street level (we had the chance to do this, at least) built to support a large pro-aulus on six pillars which can be seen from the lovely hanging garden created for the Montefeltro court.

The Bargello Palace

The Bargello Palace competes with the Consuls and the Doge’s palaces for the title of the most beautiful building in Gubbio. This gothic 1300 palace spreads over three floors and it’s perfectly preserved, above all the beautiful facade in square stone blocks.

The facade shows a typical example of the Medieval “Dead’s Door”.

According to some this narrow door was used as an exit by the “dear departed”. Others say it was just an entry with a wooden ladder that was removed in the evening for safety reasons or to not pay the tax for occupation of public land.

Today it houses the Crossbow Museum.

The Fountain of Fools

In the square opposite the Bargello Palace you’ll see the 16th century Fountain of Fools, which gave Gubbio the name of the “town of fools”.

According to ancient legend, those who spin three times around it receives a symbolic “fool licence” which gives Gubbio citizens their well known light-hearted nature.

What do you think, did we spin three times around the fountain? Of course we did!

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The Bridges of Abbondanza

From the Fountain of Fools towards Via dei Consoli and the Roman Theatre, you’ll cross the Bridges of Abbondanza. These three bridges belong to an internal road system for the Abbondanza building complex.

It’s an area of the town along the Camignano stream, between the Piazza del Mercato and the bridge of St. Martin, the headquarters of the eugubina annona frumentaria: the watermill for the wheat and the two town ovens for bread were here, on two different buildings.

The Hermitage of St. Ambrose, a stunning landmark, can be seen from the bridge. Since from 1591 the remains of Bishop Agostino Steuco, well known jurisconsult, philosopher, historian, theologian, apostolic librarian and secretary to the Council of Trent, rest in this same church.

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The Roman Theatre

Just beneath the walls, not far from Martyrs’ square, where you probably parked, you’ll find the Roman theatre built around the end of the 1st century BC. Right in the middle of the second settlement of the Roman town, it could house up to 6000 spectators.

The Roman Theatre is inside the public park (free access), where you can enjoy the panorama or rest, as well as play on the swing.

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The Roman Theater has a semicircular shape and a cavea with a 70 meter diameter, separated in four wedges by the stairways used to reach the bleachers.

The theatre can still be visited today thanks to the restorations carried out between the 1800s and 1900s and it hosts the summer season of classical shows.

The stunning thousand (and more!) Medieval alleys

Each alley is a surprise, more than a thousand narrow roads cross each other and nobody would ever look away. A wonder you’ll rarely have the chance to see again!

What and where to eat

Simple but with the best ingredients: this is the Eugubian cooking, in harmony with the Umbrian tradition.

I primi piatti sono quelli storici: zuppe di legumi (farro e lenticchie su tutto), tagliatelle e stringozzi con i sughi di carne e cacciagione. Tra i secondi prevalgono soprattutto i secondi piatti di carne e i salumi accompagnati con la crescia, una piadina locale che sta benissimo anche con il friccò (carne di agnello, anatra, pollo e coniglio rosolata e cotta in vino bianco e brodo).

In the right time of the year kitchens are filled with the strong and unique smell of white and black truffle, very typical to Umbria and to the area of Gubbio.

We had lunch at the Locanda del Tartufo in via dei Consoli 111, along the road that leads to Piazza Grande, where the Consuls Palace is. We ate very well 🙂

Not-to-miss events

Every year since 1980, on the evening of August 14th: the protectors of the four town districts challenge each other in Piazza Grande, shooting ancient Italian crossbows.

Come anticipato, Gubbio ha il record dell’albero di Natale più grande del mondo. Interamente costruito lungo il Monte Ingino con circa 500 luci colorate, l’albero ha una base di circa 450 metri di base e quasi 700 di altezza. Si accende al tramonto ogni giorno dal 7 dicembre al 10 gennaio di ogni anno.

At the same time of the year San Martino district becomes a huge, open-air museum: life-size statues, Nativity scenes, ancient crafts and much more make this district, usually off the beaten path, a very crowded attraction.

Many events and classical shows take place in summer in the stunning Roman Theatre.

Walking route

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Clicca qui per vedere l’itinerario da fare a piedi su Google Maps

Interesting facts

The Church of San Giovanni hosted Terence Hill for a long time, as he filmed Don Matteo here, a popular Italian television series. Beautiful light displays illuminate the church at Christmas.

All in all, if you haven’t done it yet, spend a day in this wonderful Medieval village because it’s really worth it!

Ciao da Cris e Marco del blog in giro in giro

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