Published: August 18th 2012August 10th 2012
There aren't many places in the world where you get to see a 900 year old body that hasn't decayed and if we had known that was what we would see today we may not have gone- it's a bit freaky.
Gubbio is yet another amazingly pretty little medieval hill town in Umbria and the only reason it got on our radar for a visit was the funicular described as the nearest thing to a theme park ride in Umbria. After sleepy towns and a slow pace, we thought this would be a good contrast.
We arrived at the best time of day- gelateria opening time. We were the first customers, but we didn't get anything special to mark the occasion, just the usual 3 Coppa piccola. We sat outside to eat them and contemplated the steep walk ahead of us to the piazza, where the local museum is. We all enjoyed the museum which was a big surprise. There was some art, which we are still not really hugely appreciative of, but there were other things to amuse each of us. Toby was taken by the Umbrian tablets. These are a series of bronze plaques engraved with Umbrian
dialect 200-500BC. They have one of the best preserved historical transcripts as they have not rotted and they describe ancient ceremonies giving a more complete picture of life at that time than other transcripts. Harriet liked the secret passage that we actually got to go down. There had been one in Assisi from the fort to the town but it wasn't able to be used by the public. This one was part of the museum and we got to go through it past the medieval toilets. Fiona loved the architecture and the view from tower that we climbed.
We all also enjoyed the video presentation on the local festival of the candles. Each of the three regions on the town race from the piazza to the church up the hill carrying a large candle made of wood with a carving of a saint on the top. The candles weigh about 400kg each and the run up the hill is 5km and very steep. The video looked really fun and the men made the candles look really light. Of course they carry them in teams not individually, and there is lots of swapping of bearers as they make their way
up the hill. We were sorry that we had come at the wrong time of year and wouldn't be able to see it, but pleased that the men didn't have to carry the weight in the searing August heat.
After the museum we sauntered downhill to the old jail. Outside is a small fountain. The legend states that if you run round it three times you will go mad. There were several other tourists already there who were mad enough to want to go mad and were already going around the fountain. why?
It was now time for the promised funicular ride we had all been waiting for. The guide book had told us to do as we were told and stand on the red dot and it was right. We stood on the dot and were then pushed into a sort of topless bird cage which didn't slow down to let you on or off. We were then whisked off up the hill where we had to jump off again without the cage slowing down. Harriet and Fiona went together as neither were keen to go on their own- it was too scary. It didn't look like
OHS had been anywhere near the place in years. But we did get to the top alive and it was a lot easier than the walk.
The funicular takes you to the church of St Ubaldo. We had a picnic in the grounds around the church, enjoying the view down over the town and beyond. Then we went in to the church. We were shocked to see the actual body of St Ubaldo. Apparently it is supernaturally preserved and has not been mummified- further proof of his saintliness. The body lies in a glass coffin just like Cinderella's, behind the altar. It was a little shrivelled and decidedly weird. Even weirder is the fact that they took him out and paraded him around to celebrate his 850th birthday. Bet that party was a blast.
As we walked round the church we realised that it in also the resting place of the candles for the festival. They are huge. We could really appreciate the effort the men put in to carry them all the way up here.Once it was time to go back down we started to get a bit nervous about getting back on the funicular. Harriet and
Fiona ended up going together so that Toby who was less of a wuss could take some photos. Neither Fiona nor Harriet wanted to let go to take pictures. The best view from the cages was of the roman theatre just outside the town. It is still used for productions and very well preserved.
Every town has a cathedral and Gubbio is no different. This one was surprisingly quiet - the tourists all visit St Ubaldos and maybe miss the cathedral. At one point as we sat and reflected and prayed, there was not a single noise. We returned to the car which we had parked at the piazza of 40 martyrs. These martyrs were resistance fighters shot by the nazis in WW2. A statue commemorates their sacrifice. Then we headed off in search of more gelato but couldn't find the other shop we were looking for. Instead we went home for home cooked fresh tomato bruschetta and spaghetti, but not before we had been to Montone for aperitivi. And at last we have discovered the Aperol spritz.
There are more photos below