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Gubbio

I will lift up mine eyes to the hills — from whence cometh my help?

Ps. 121.1

A town of northern Umbria: 43°21N, 12°34E. Altitude: 522 m. Population in 2003: 32,000.

[image ALT: A 5‑story crenellated stone building seen over the tops of houses and trees: it is the Palazzo dei Consoli in Gubbio, Umbria (central Italy).]

The Palazzo dei Consoli from an unusual angle.

The Monte Ingino behind the city is an omnipresent backdrop, responsible for much of the city's character; but it is considerably more than that. In pre-Roman days, Ikuvium was a major religious sanctuary, and as the Eugubine Tables tell us, the actual holy area was a patch of hill that has now been identified: the hill itself played a major part in local religion.

With Romanization and peace (and probably also the Roman penchant for building cities with rectangular grids) Gubbio, like many other towns, moved down the slopes of its hill onto the plain, accounting for the presence there today of the major Roman remains: a theater and a mausoleum.

As soon as the Empire crumbled away into the uncertain dangers of Late Antiquity, though, it was right back up to the hill: a common pattern thruout Europe, but which made Gubbio an unusually attractive if severe city, bristling with crenellated towers and offering wide views from the edges of precipitous drops. To enjoy Gubbio, you should not be afraid of heights.

(For a more formal and comprehensive introduction to the city's history and monuments, see the article Gubbio from the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.)


[image ALT: A four-story stone building on a spacious brick-paved piazza high overlooking a city; the building has neighbors only on one side. It is roughly cubical, with a crenellated roofline from which on the left a very thin square belfry pokes up one more story. The building's many windows are round-arched, of different sizes in each story. The entrance door also is a round arch, and is not at ground level, but reached by a an elegant staircase the bottom of which fans out to meet the Piazza della Signoria. It is a view of the Palazzo dei Consoli in Gubbio, Umbria (central Italy).]

[ 1 page, 2 photos ]

Gubbio is proud of its rich medieval heritage: some very old streets lined with the solid houses of its leading citizens of the 13c, a famous ancient fountain — there is a lot to immerse the visitor in the Middle Ages. Of all this, however, the most famous and photogenic monument remains the Palazzo dei Consoli, for centuries the city hall, now a museum.


[image ALT: A large Gothic stone church, almost windowless, with a polygonal belfry, seen from the rear. It is the church of S. Francesco in Gubbio, Umbria (central Italy).]

[ 7 churches, 3 pages, 11 photos ]

For all its fractious and resolutely civil character in the Middle Ages, Gubbio, like every self-respecting Italian town, has its share of churches. For now, a curious selection of smaller churches.


[image ALT: A slightly curving aqueduct-like structure of arches forming a wall not more than 75 cm thick; part of it has a second story, also of arches. It is a partial view of the Roman theater of Gubbio, Umbria (central Italy).]

[ 4 pages, 11 photos ]

Drawn to Gubbio by its medieval monuments, the visitor is often then surprised to discover in her an ancient Roman city, with one of the largest theatres in the Roman world; and other vestiges, such as the so‑called Mausoleum of Pomponius Graecinus, and a raft of inscriptions and lapidary remains in the town's museum, among which the Eugubine Tables, a unique collection of seven bronze plates inscribed in the pre-Roman language of Umbria.


[image ALT: A detail of a bronze bas-relief sculpture representing a haloed man embracing a wolf. It is part of a monument to St. Francis and the Wolf in Gubbio, Umbria (central Italy).]

[ 1 page, 2 photos ]

. . . and I wouldn't be me if I failed to mention the animal story: here is Gubbio's tale (and monument) of St. Francis and the Wolf.


[image ALT: A very elegant stone rose window, formed of two concentric circles of almost circular arches: the inner of eight petals, the outer of sixteen. It is the rose window on the façade of the church of S. Felice di Narco in Umbria (central Italy).]

[3/31/08: 1 page, 4 photos ]

Finally (in Italian) the Gubbio chapter of Indice-guida dei monumenti dell' Umbria by the 19c Umbrian historian Mariano Guardabassi. Even illustrated with some of my own photos, it's very dry, but you'll find in it a comprehensive catalog of what could be found in the city's churches and museums in his time.

On a different note: along with Deruta, Orvieto, and Gualdo Tadino, Gubbio has been known for its art ceramics for several hundred years. Unfortunately, though, this is not a field I know anything about: if you are interested in it, you can start with the Gubbio page of CeramicsOnLine, which includes a historical survey as well as information about present-day manufacturers, and a very good photo gallery of typical examples.

Finally, these are still just scattered pages, and this website is not fully developed: but there is a good deal more information about Gubbio in the Oct. 7, 1997, Sept. 24, 1998 and June 30, 2000 entries of my diary, which also include at least 2 more photos.

Frazioni

For historical reasons, Gubbio is one of the larger comuni in Umbria, carrying with it from its aggressive medieval period into modern times a long list of subject towns and hamlets. Many of these places are very small, a few hundred inhabitants if that; as elsewhere in Italy, those that have a certain administrative identity of their own are frazioni of the comune (singular: frazione, literally a "fraction"): a complete list of them follows. For those I've been to, links are to diary entries; any other links are offsite.

Bellugello • Belvedere • Biscina • Branca • Burano • Caicanbiucci • Camporeggiano • Carbonesca • Carpiano • Casa Morcia • Case Corso • Colpalombo • Corraduccio • Loreto Basso • Madonna della Cima • Mocaiana • Montanaldo • Monteleto • Montelviano • Padule • Pisciano • Ponte d' Assi • S. Bartolomeo • S. Benedetto Vecchio • S. Marco • S. Martino in Colle (not to be confused with another town by the same name in the comune of Perugia) • S. Cristina • S. Maria di Colonnata • Scritto • Semonte • Serra Brunamonti • Torre Calzolari (also: Torre Calzolai) • Via Macchia


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Site updated: 24 Aug 12