Dwight Peck's personal Web site

Umbria and the neighborhood, November 2015

Twelve days in Gubbio and day trips roundabout


You may not find this terribly rewarding unless you're included here, so this is a good time for casual and random browsers to turn back before they get too caught up in the sweep and majesty of the proceedings and can't let go.

Gubbio: the Basilica of St Ubaldo, the Palazzo Ducale

There's been too much desultory sightseeing recently; we're out for some exercise today, 17 November 2015. That's the hotel reception behind the potted plants; we've slipped out the back gate.

We're leaving Gubbio, at about 500m altitude, by the Porta Vehia on the mountain road to the San Gerolamo monastery, thence by little paths up Monte d'Asciano and contouring around to the Basilica di Sant'Ubaldo on Monte Ingino above the town, at about 900m (a walk described in G. Henke, Landscapes of Umbria and the Marche, a countryside guide, 2nd ed. (2010)).

A fine path cuts off a good length of the road

The monastery of San Gerolamo, or St Jerome, on Monte d'Asciano, was founded in 1358 by local hermits, and from 1436 onward it was administered by the Friars Minor of Assisi. It languished in the 19th century but was bought by the order of Poor Clares of Assisi in 1935 and more recently restored; in 2000 the nuns of the Poor Clares moved up here from their former residence on the Corso Garibaldi in Gubbio.

This is the end of the road, so it's good paths from now on.

We're on the southern side of Monte d'Asciano . . .

. . . soon to be turning a corner round to the western side . . .

. . . and then rejoining Monte Ingino eventually. In the fullness of time.

A steady pace up the hill

Turning the corner to the western side of the hill

Gubbio below

A little path above the cliffs of the gorge

The Basilica di Sant'Ubaldo. Unfortunately not on the same mountain.

Monte d'Asciano

Non-desultory sightseeing

The path above the cliffs

An intersection

The top of the gorge leading down to Gubbio

Passing over onto Monte Ingino's eastern side

Monte d'Asciano

The bus stop at the basilica

The courtyard of the Basilica di Sant'Ubaldo. Ubaldo was a local boy who joined the church and throughout a long career became famous for his piety and what not. He eventually became Bishop of Gubbio and performed lots and lots of miracles, but his most famous miracle came when in 1155 the newly-crowned Emperor Frederick I Barbarossa was pursuing his first campaign to subdue Italy and had just sacked nearby Spoleto, Bishop Gubbio went out to work his magic and talked the Emperor into sparing Gubbio from the same fate.

The basilica was built in the early 16th century specifically to house the saint's remains -- it was for centuries much valued for its stucco decorations, but all of that was bombed away by the Allies during World War II.

That's Saint Ubaldo his own good self, looking if not exactly "flexible and incorrupt", at least better than a lot of people do after 855 years. He was very quickly canonized, in 1192, following his death at 76 in 1160.

These are the famous "ceri", stored here when not in use. Symbolic candles, these nearly half-ton constructions are carried on the Saint's feast day (15 May) in the Corsa dei Ceri race from the Piazza Grande in Gubbio up the roadway to the summit.

Each of the ceri is carried by members representing the three main medieval guilds of the city, the masons or builders, the craftsmen and merchants, and the peasants and farmers, each with its own patron saint on top.

The present ceri were made in the 19th century, but the traditional festival is evidently very old. The three teams race up the hill in good faith, but apparently tradition dictates that the masons, St Ubaldo's own team, must be allowed to win.

Some more of St Ubaldo's miracles. He's the patron saint of Gubbio, of course, but also patron of sufferers from migraine, people with obsessive compulsive disorder, and people possessed by demons.

A candle for a friend

Back to the courtyard

Leaving St Ubaldo's basilica

That's the monastery of St Ambrose on the next mountain over. In quarries on the far side of that hill, facing the State Road "della Contessa" (towards Urbino), there is the "Gubbio Layer", where in the 1970s Walter Alvarez discovered a sedimentary layer of clay containing the element iridium, very rare on earth but common in celestial objects. He and his father developed the now-accepted theory that the iridium layer, which has since been found all over the world, resulted from an asteroid impact about 65 million years ago that caused catastrophic extinctions, including the end of the era of dinosaurs.

-- Don't jump.

Descending toward Gubbio down the winding road from the basilica

Re-entering Gubbio through St Ubaldo's gate, this is part of the diocesan complex at the back of the Duomo.

The front of the Duomo on the left and of the Ducal Palace on the right.

We visited the Duomo the other day, but this is Kristin's first look; all very nice.

And now, at last, Federico III da Montefeltro's Palazzo Ducale . . .

. . . and its courtyard, modeled on the courtyard of his palace in Urbino (but much smaller).

What an array of friends and relatives . . . presumably mostly relatives. Following the death of Federico's son Guidobaldo, the third Duke, in 1508, the title and properties passed to the Della Rovere family and remained there until Urbino and Gubbio were forcibly incorporated into the Papal States in 1626.

What a grim collection.

Federico da Montefeltro, the second Duke of Urbino

The Duke's "studiolo" or small study, modeled on his larger one in Urbino. This is a replica of his original 'intarsia' wood inlay panels from the 1470s, financed by public subscription with the help of a local bank and completed in 2009. The original was imprudently sold off in 1874 and is presently in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City.

A great hall in the palace, overlooking the city on the left

Everybody enjoys a good beheading (17th century Triumph of David by F. Allegrini)

Madonna and Child of the Improbably Long Necks (by the 13th century 'Sienese Master')

The End Times: Democrats on one side and Republicans on the other. But which is which?

An indifferent Mary Magdalene 'in ecstasy', Scuola Romana, 17th century

Archaeological works in the basements

We might be able to get through to our hotel room this way.

A hologram show about Federico, the second Duke of Urbino

Back down to the hotel Relais Ducale near the end of the day

The original courtyard and reception of the hotel

Dinner at the little restaurant Ulisse e Letizia

Excellent food, charming ambience, friendly hosts, inexpensive, and . . .

. . . not too crowded.


Feedback and suggestions are welcome if positive, resented if negative, . All rights reserved, all wrongs avenged. Posted 28 December 2015.


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