Dwight Peck's personal website

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.

Scenes of Gubbio in Umbria, II: the Palazzo dei Consoli

Gubbio seems to have prospered throughout the High Middle Ages, despite frequent warfare with other towns in the region. The population has been estimated at a considerable 50,000 at its peak, and a sizable contingent of knights served in the First Crusade under their leader from the Gabrielli family -- a family which continued as the most powerful local clan of consuls, lords, and bishops of Gubbio for the next 250 years (the condottiere or mercenary commander Cante de' Gabrielli of Gubbio was the hired Podestà of Florence who sent Dante into exile in 1301).

Prosperity and traditions of popular and communal government made possible an era of exceptional family and civic palace building, not least of which is the Palace of the Consuls, dating from the third decade of the 14th century.

The huge Salone dell'Arengo, or Hall of Citizen Assemblies, now filled with ancient bits and bobs. The chapel is also on this floor, facing out over the town, and the offices, court, and residence of the chief magistrate and consuls of the Free Commune of Gubbio are way, way up the stairs.

A fresco adorning the stairway to the upper floors, Madonna and Child Enthroned with St John the Baptist and St Ubaldo, the patron saint of Gubbio, from the first half of the 14th century

Similarly, Madonna and Child Enthroned, from about the 1330s, said to be influenced by trends in nearby Assisi

And this time, in the chapel next door, the Madonna and Child Enthroned but with four saints, all of whose feast days coincide with the day in 1350 (7-8 August) when Giovanni Gabrielli seized power, suspended the constitution of 1338, and made himself lord of the city. That's him kneeling in the green cloak, basking in the approval of the gathered notables. (Happily, he was removed soon afterward.)

Also displayed in the chapel are the seven bronze slabs of the Eugubine Tablets from ca. 200-100 BC, recording rituals, prayers, and divinations involving early Roman and Etruscan worship of Jupiter in the Umbrian language for the benefit of locals. But now we're on our way upstairs, pausing for breath from time to time.

Tastefully displayed in corridors around the upper floors is a good collection of medieval and Renaissance ceramic art . . .

Gubbio was a noted centre for maiolica tin-glazed ceramics in the 16th century, a tradition apparently continuing to the present.

Admiring the view over the city

The municipal picture gallery fills five rooms that were once offices and court for the Gonfaloniere di Giustizia, or chief magistrate, and other officials.

Most of the works displayed are anonymous or, more frequently, by local artists of the medieval "Gubbian School", many of them very interesting.

But the building itself is as interesting as the pictures.

-- Welcome to Gubbio. My name is Mary, and I'll be your guide. (An intriguing wood sculpture from the late 1200s, in the Madonna and Child Enthroned motif except the Child's wandered off.)

Madonna and Child with Funny Pigtails. This, from the mid-14th century, has been attributed to one of the best known of the local artists, Mello da Gubbio.


Madonna and Child, with Saints Rocco, Ubaldo, Dominic, and Sebastian, attributed to Orlando Merlini, late 15th century. The Rocco, or St Roch, seems a little odd; he was a 'plague saint' normally shown displaying his bubo on his leg, to show that he was not afraid, and being sustained by a dog bringing him a loaf of bread. Here, no bubo, just Rocco waving a biscuit, and what is apparently meant to look like a dog but doesn't.

The pinacoteca in the Museo Civico

The loggia on the top floor, facing out over the city

The park of the Piazza of 40 Martyrs directly below, and the Roman theatre in the meadow beyond

The park of the Quaranta Martiri in the centre, with the San Francesco church beyond it on the left, and the Loggia di Tiratori also on the left

The San Giovanni church below on the left, and the Loggia dei Tiratori

Looking northward from the Palazzo dei Consoli (with the cement works in the distance)

Up the hill, the Palazzo Ducale and the Duomo, with remains of the city wall in the forest above; the entrance to the Hotel Relais Ducale below

The Piazza Grande from the loggia atop the Palace of the Consuls

Edging our way back down the stairs

The Museum of the Risorgimento in the basement: Garibaldi and Friends

Back in the main hall, with the stairway at the far end

The Gubbio Express, loading up

Hot wine outside the bar/café of the Relais Ducale

Now, northward from our hotel down past the palaces and what-not of the Via dei Consoli (a continuation of the Via XX Settembre going southward)

Looking back up the Via dei Consoli, with ceramic shops all along the way

The Largo del Bargello and the Fontana dei Matti, once the principal water source for the old city. The story is that if you walk around it three times and get splashed with water, you'll go mad; or, alternatively, that you can't properly be considered to be mad unless you do that. The Palazzo del Bargello was built in 1302 apparently as a sort of police station.

The hot chestnuts seller

The bridge over the River Comignano, reputed to have water in it sometimes. A monastery of St Ambrose is up on the mountainside.

The Via Gabrielli towards the road up into the mountains

One of two large civic towers remaining

This is called the Palazzo del Capitano del Popolo, Palace of the Captain of the People -- in the 13th and 14th centuries, the Captain of the People was a common hired or elected official who led a medieval militia of a town's guilds, who had police functions and was meant as a counter-balance to the influence of the noble families. (Over time the aristocrats usually tended to gain control of the election process and subvert that popular role.) This house may or may not really have been that, but it was certainly the first home of the Gabriellis.

The Porta Santa Croce, one of the seven medieval gateways through the city walls --it's still got its original wooden doors. The road leads up around behind Monte Ingino to the Basilica of St Ubaldo and Rocca or fortress, now a ruin. The opening just to the right leads into the 19th century Parco Ranghiasci, a garden laid out by the Marquis Ranghiasci in the English style to please his lovely wife, Matilde Hobhouse (who, a friend of Byron's, talked her husband into joining the anti-papal rebellion in 1831; when it failed and he was exiled, she went home to England, he returned to Gubbio, became an ardent papalist, and mayor of the city in 1866).

Back to the homey bar/café of the Relais Ducale

The lobby on our floor of the hotel, only two rooms here, with the secret passage into the Ducal Palace and a sort of mezzanine with the next floor of rooms off it.

The Palazzo dei Consoli at nightfall

Feedback and suggestions are welcome if positive, resented if negative, . All rights reserved, all wrongs avenged. Posted 17 December 2015.

Umbria trip