In Memory of the Martyrs

Gubbio: view of Piazza Quaranta Martiri from Piazza Grande

Gubbio: view of Piazza Quaranta Martiri from Piazza Grande

Most visitors, us included, arrive in Gubbio at the Piazza Quaranta Martiri – the square of the 40 martyrs. In 1944, 40 local people were executed here by the Germans in an act of reprisal following a partisan attack. A simple monument marks the spot; the bullet holes are still visible.

The 13th century church of San Francesco dominates the square, and opposite the church is the 14th century hospital of Santa Maria della Misericordia. The wool merchants guild added a loggia in the 17th century to create a long gallery for stretching and drying their products.

Gubbio: view of Palazzo dei Consoli

Gubbio: view of Palazzo dei Consoli

Gubbio was built of local limestone on the lower slopes of Mount Ingino, one of the smaller Apennine peaks. Today it is a well-preserved medieval town, but it was founded much earlier by the Umbri. Seven bronze slabs, known as the Eugubine Tablets, survive from the 2nd century BC. They are engraved with text in the (then) local language describing sacred rites and sites – a remarkable heirloom of pre-Roman Italy.

Today Gubbio is a busy little town, known for its ceramics, wrought iron and woodwork. The roads wind – as ever – uphill, but the centre is quite compact even though it is steep.

Gubbio: street view

Gubbio: street view

Gubbio: Piazza Giordano Bruno

Gubbio: Piazza Giordano Bruno

In Piazza Bruno is the church of San Domenico, with an interior decorated with rich, fading frescoes.

Gubbio: Fresco, Church of San Domenico

Gubbio: Fresco, Church of San Domenico

A fragment of a fresco such as this can be very attractive. It always makes me  wonder what it would have looked like when complete. This fragment looks like an Annunciation scene, with a rather beautiful angel.

In front of a lovely ancient palazzo in the tiny square, Largo del Bargello, is the Fontana dei Matti, the madmens’ fountainAccording to tradition, in order to be considered mad, you had to run around the fountain 3 times, preferably trailing your elbow in the water as you ran. During our visit we did not see this put to the test! Hard to believe that this small fountain was once the town’s main source of water.

Gubbio: Fontana dei Matti

Gubbio: Fontana dei Matti

Continuing upwards, we reached the Piazza Grande, centre of Gubbio and engineering feat extraordinaire. The large square is suspended above a space supported by huge arches: a veritable hanging piazza! Here it is seen from the top….

Gubbio: Piazza Grande, Palazzo dei Consoli

Gubbio: Piazza Grande, Palazzo dei Consoli

…and from underneath…

Gubbio: view underneath the Piazza Grande

Gubbio: view underneath the Piazza Grande

The most distinctive building in the main square is the Palazzo dei Consoli. Building commenced in the 14th century and its battlements, decorative windows and sweeping staircase make this a remarkable sight. It now houses an art gallery and a museum where the Eugubine Tablets are kept.

Gubbio: Palazzo dei Consoli

Gubbio: Palazzo dei Consoli

The detail is wonderful….a narrow passageway next to the Palazzo with inspiring views…

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An iron ring in animal form – perhaps medieval nobles tied their horses up here?

Gubbio: Palazzo dei Consoli, detail

And a rusty bolt might secure hidden treasures….

Gubbio: Palazzo dei Consoli, detail

Across the square is another lovely facade, shades of pink in the bright sunlight.

Gubbio: Piazza Grande

Gubbio: Piazza Grande

But still we rose….

Gubbio: stairway to Cathedral and Ducal Palace

Gubbio: stairway to Cathedral and Ducal Palace

The cathedral and Ducal Palace are above the main square and face each other across a tiny street. The cathedral is dark and unwelcoming, with an altar made from a Roman sarcophagus, some unremarkable frescoes and an unusual rose window.

Gubbio: Cathedral, rose window

Gubbio: Cathedral, rose window

The Ducal Palace houses temporary exhibitions, but its best feature was its garden bar overlooking the town.

Gubbio: Ducal Palace facade

Gubbio: Ducal Palace facade

Gubbio: view from Ducal Palace garden

Gubbio: view from Ducal Palace garden

Gubbio: view of Palazzo dei Consoli from Ducal Palace garden

Gubbio: view of Palazzo dei Consoli from Ducal Palace garden

Descending, we passed the white marble facade of San Giovanni Battista which is on the probable site of the old cathedral. It also (apparently) featured as the parish church in the TV programme Don Matteo.

Gubbio: Church of San Giovanni Battista

Gubbio: Church of San Giovanni Battista

There’s a “cable car” that links the town with the mountain top, where the Basilica of Sant”Ubaldo (complete with the saint’s remains) crowns the peak. We gave this a miss this time around, but riding in a small basket to the top of a mountain sounds like something to do on a repeat visit.

Just outside the town walls are the remains of a Roman amphitheatre, dating from the 1st century and in its day able to accommodate 6,000 spectators.

Gubbio: Roman Amphitheatre

Gubbio: Roman Amphitheatre

The smell of the grease paint….

Gubbio: Roman Amphitheatre

Gubbio: Roman Amphitheatre

The roar of the crowd….

Gubbio: Roman Amphitheatre

Gubbio: Roman Amphitheatre

With wonderful views of Gubbio, this amphitheatre is still used for performances today.

Gubbio: Roman Amphitheatre

Gubbio: Roman Amphitheatre

Looking up, we saw the unexpected sight of a low-flying hang glider. What a view he must have had over this lovely town on a hot and sunny afternoon!

Gubbio: hanglider

Gubbio: hang glider

And finally – did you know that Gubbio has had the largest Christmas tree in the world each year since 1981? Made up of 3000 lights installed on the hillside, connected by 5 miles of wiring, it is 2132 feet high and 1148 feet wide. Well – I suppose it attracts the Christmas visitors…!

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4 thoughts on “In Memory of the Martyrs

      1. ludwig980

        It’s actually really engaging! However, I can suggest you another festival that you should not miss if you’re still in Italy in the beginning of July… You may already know about it actually, since I think it’s the most famous festival in Italy: il Palio di Siena.
        It is held twice a year, on the 2nd of July and on the 16th of August, in Siena of course, which is not too far from Spello, just about 1.5 hours driving.

      2. maryshoobridge Post author

        Thanks for your tip. Unfortunately we will be past Sienna by the beginning of July. We are travelling home across Italy then through Switzerland and France. Well, that’s the plan…!

        Sent from my iPad

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