Last month I attended Travel Bloggers Unite’s event in the beautiful region of Umbria, also known as the green heart of Italy. One of the biggest perks of TBU’s conference, were the blog trips that took place after the event. After taking a look at the different itineraries organised by the lovely people in charge of promoting tourism in Umbria, I decided on the trip that would take me to explore the region’s medieval northern towns.
For a couple of days, the ancient town of Gubbio, located at the foot of the Apennines mountains, would become the base for our bloggers’ group. As we took our first glances of this charming little town, we could not have imagined the transformation it goes through during one of its most important celebration, the Festa dei Ceri. But before learning about this town’s wild side, we got a chance to get dirty during our visit to C.A.F.F. Ceramiche, one’s of Gubbio’s traditional ceramic atelier; where we all sat at the potter’s wheel and tried to make something out of clay.
The results went from barely useful to grotesquely funny, as we realised that it’s actually harder than it seems. In fact, the main challenge faced by many of these traditional ceramic enterprises is the lack of apprentices wanting to get into this craft; so as the old masters retire, there simply aren’t enough young people interested in learning the secrets of this ancestral technique and keeping it alive for the future.
Later, we met our tour guide, Emilia, who was thrilled to have a chance to practice her English with us (apparently, she doesn’t like French as much), and to tell us all about her biggest loves: her deceased husband, Gubbio and Frank Sinatra. As she took us on a whirlwind tour through Gubbio’s narrow streets, some of us had trouble keeping up with this energetic lady; she wanted to show us as much as possible in the little time we had.
One of the most important sites we visited, was the Basilica of Saint Ubaldo which sits on top of a hill overlooking the town. Inside, people can still see the body of Gubbio’s patron saint; which is still in decent shape considering he passed away in the year 1160! So it’s not surprising that Saint Ubaldo has a big following; in fact, Gubbio’s Festa dei Ceri, one of Italy’s most well known folkloric feasts, takes place every May 15th, the eve of his death anniversary.
During the Festa dei Ceri, three teams of strong men dress in yellow, blue and black shirts carry each a huge wooden structure topped with statues of Saint Ubaldo, Saint George and Saint Anthony. These structures are about 5 meters high and weight about 300 kilos, and after the teams leave the town they race up the hill at maximum speed until they reach Saint Ubald’s Basilica at the top. The event is so popular that the Ceri is part of the official Umbrian flag.
After a day of playing with clay and following Emilia around the streets of Gubbio, we needed some time to relax before it was time for new adventures. During our time in Gubbio, we stayed at the fantastic Park Hotel Ai Cappuccini, which is housed in a renovated 17th century monastery and has some amazing spa facilities that we got to try for ourselves!
Seeing Gubbio was unforgetable, I just wish I could go back and see the Festa dei Ceri with my own eyes. It was a privilege to take part on this trip and I can’t thank enough the people from Umbria on the Blog for all their help! A special thank also to Andrea, from Destination Europe, for taking my photos while I was getting my hands dirty! If you’d like to see more photos about my time in Umbria, visit my gallery.
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