Saturday, April 30, 2005
Yesterday afternoon we decided to get on a bus and go to Gubbio. On May 15th, the eve of the anniversary of their Patron Saint Ubaldo's death, they have a huge festival - called The Festival of the Ceri, where they race through the town carrying these colossal wooden prisms with sculptures of their saints on top. These are carried by means of a wooden support with crossbars that rests on the shoulders of very strong men who run through the wide streets and squares through the town and up the steep slopes to the church on the top of the hillside where St. Ubaldo rests (literally - his body is encased in glass on the altar). This is probably the briefest description of this event ever, but we had read about it and wanted to go and check out the town and the route there and see if we could make some plans to go to the festival. We learned that all the hotels in the town were already booked and getting in from the smaller villages nearby would be difficult at best. Without a car, we decided that we may just go for the day, which is easy for us to do and see whatever we can the day of the festival, without spending the night.
The bus ride to Gubbio takes about an hour and 10 minutes. It was very comfortable and spacious like a tour bus with wide, clear windows that afforded unobstructed views of the countryside we passed. Beautiful rolling hills, mountains really, with small patches of forested areas set between olive groves and vineyards, up and down the hillsides and through tiny little towns. The only disadvantage to not driving was not being able to stop and take photos. Which probably got us there quicker since I would have wanted to stop at every turn in the road! The views were breathtaking.
Gubbio is an extremely vertical city. In order to get the faithful from the lower part of centro to the church on the hill, they have generously provided an elevator which we gladly took advantage of rather than climb the very steep steps to that part of the town. OK, we were being lazy, but we only had a few hours to spend and wanted to make the most of it. The really cool thing we did was to ride what they called the "Funivia" a basket-like contraption that is like a ski-lift sort of thing that allows two of you to stand and be lifted (almost vertically!) by a cable system, slowly, slowly, to the top of the mountain to the Church of St. Ubaldo. It was amazing (and terrifying for me too) to be in that little basket, climbing, climbing, above the tree tops until the town below was very, very tiny and far away and climbing still to the very top. You are then free to visit the Church whose stained glass windows tell the story of St. Ubaldo and, to see the "Ceri" up close, since this is where they appear to be housed when they are not being carried all over the town.
The ride home was even more beautiful than the ride there because the sky was party cloudy and the sun was streaming down through dark clouds lighting up the landscape in very dramatic ways. We said very little as we watched the light play across the fields and farms, lighting up this valley and that stone house. The city of Assisi glowed in the late afternoon, lit as if from within, a result of the type of stone used to construct that monument to the saint, we imagine, and eerie for that reason.
We ended the day sharing a bottle of wine and a pizza at a little pizzeria (wonderful wood-fired oven) nearby and winding our way up the hill to our apartment.
What an amazing week this has been - the end of our fourth week in Perugia!
Rosemary & Bob