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The Medieval "Festa dei Ceri" in Gubbio

Every year on May 15, the town of Gubbio celebrates a medieval festival called “Festa dei Ceri”. This is an ancient festival which is as old as 8 centuries. It loosely translates as Festival of the Candles but what are present are huge long wooden sticks or “Ceri” that are part of a wooden base or “Barelle. All the Ceri have a wax statue of a Saint on it and are then carried by different members of the team. The Festa dei Ceri is followed by a mass at the Church which is at the town’s main square called “Piazza Grande”. Let’s learn more about the medieval Festa dei Ceri in Gubbio.

Medieval Festa dei Ceri in Gubbio

Every year the Festa dei Ceri attracts more than 150,000 people. The festival is the town’s way of honoring it’s patron Saint Ubaldi who had miraculous abilities. Every man, woman and child takes part in this local festival for which the town is divided in different teams/groups that are distinguished by the colors of their clothing:

Saint Ubaldo group wears Yellow

Saint Antonio group wears Black

Saint Georgio group wears Blue  

Festa dei Ceri, Gubbio

Gubbio on the day of Festa dei Ceri

 

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Piazza Grande, Gubbio

What happens in the Festa dei Ceri??

The 3 different teams in the Festa dei Ceri hold the octagonal Ceri which weighs more than 250kgs. These Ceri are nothing but huge wax statues of each saint and are lifted by the respective teams in the morning of May 15 at 11:30 am. After this, the teams undertake three laps in the Piazza and take the Ceri across town.

Usually when the Ceri is carried there is a lot of shouting and merriment by the onlookers. It is quite a sight as everyone follows the teams while the ceri bob and sway in different hands.

Consequently, the ceri are then rested on a base in Via Savelli della Porta while the teams go for lunch. At 6:00 p.m the Ceri return to the Basilica of Saint Ubaldo situated on top of the hill of Gubbio, in Mount Ingino. 

The festival shows the spirit of the community and the belief of the folklore! Some pictures of the festival from 2015:

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Piazza Grande, Gubbio

 

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The morning of the festival in Gubbio

 

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Locals in Gubbio

 

Gubbio on the day of Festa dei Ceri

The dapper gentlemen in Gubbio

 

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Everyone’s waiting in Gubbio

Is it worth going to Festa dei Ceri??

YES YES YES!!

The Festa dei Ceri is totally worth visiting as everything is done as per the customs and rituals that were followed eons ago!! Festa dei Ceri is one medieval festival I’d love to see again and if you plan to visit Italy in May, should not be missed.

Gubbio’s festival is not only eccentric but also intriguing. I felt as if I had traveled back in time. The mayhem is addictive.

If not for anything but visit the festival to explore Gubbio -an ancient town with Gothic architecture and a Roman theatre at the entrance. There is something extremely charming about the narrow streets of the town that add to its charming ancient”ness”

I planned my entire trip to Italy to see it and I’m proud to have been involved in something so medieval!! The next day’s paper had a shot of the festival from above and it was hard to believe that I really managed to stay intact among all that crowd and chaos!

Also read: Solo Female Travel Tips to Italy

Festa dei Ceri in Gubbio

Festa dei Ceri (Image Credits: Umbria Tourism)

Gubbio on the day of Festa dei Ceri

I might have traveled back in time in Gubbio

 

Gubbio on the day of Festa dei Ceri

Look at those medieval flags in Gubbio

 

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The crowd at the Festa dei Ceri

Important Points to Remember:

  • Book a hotel on time. Everything is full by the first week of March!
  • Reach Piazza Grande a little before 10 a.m.
  • As a tourist/spectator try not to do anything that upsets the locals.
  • Make sure you get are either at the corner or in the centre of the the piazza as you may be pushed and shoved especially when the Ceri arrive
  • If you’re not staying in Gubbio, check the bus schedule from Perugia as there is no train track to this town
  • Grab a bite before you head to the piazza as you won’t get anything to eat for a long time.
I’m very pleased to be in Gubbio

Also read: Umbria Travel Guide

Further Reading:

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35 Comments

  • […] helped me in understanding the culture of the area. I invite you to have a look here to know more- https://ishitasood.com/gubbios-festa-dei-ceri-an-ancient-festival/The other is the Mantova Literature Festival that takes place in the second week of September every […]

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  • […] The Medieval “Festa dei Ceri” in Gubbio […]

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  • Angela
    August 2, 2017 at 5:18 pm

    There’s a small town in Pennsylvania that is a sister city to Gubbio. It has a race of the Saints as well, and St. Ubaldo, of course, always wins. It’s in what used to be a “coal region” and thus looks nothing like Umbria–the sisterhood is in the hearts and souls of the people.

    Reply
    • Ishita
      August 2, 2017 at 6:55 pm

      Never knew but so intriguing. Thanks for sharing.

      Reply
  • Le Marche Magic.
    May 4, 2017 at 2:57 am

    Beautiful keep posting

    Reply
  • Tandy | Lavender and Lime
    May 2, 2017 at 11:33 am

    We stumbled on this stunning town when exploring the area. Would have loved to have been there for the festa 🙂

    Reply
    • Ishita
      May 2, 2017 at 3:51 pm

      Must have been so lovely to find such a unique town. Have a great day Tandy 🙂

      Reply
  • Don Henson
    May 2, 2017 at 10:47 am

    Stunning photos – really got to get myself to Spain!

    Reply
  • Image Earth Travel
    May 1, 2017 at 4:50 pm

    Shame I missed it…next time! 🙁

    Reply
    • Ishita
      May 1, 2017 at 6:03 pm

      Were you around in Italy this week?? Next time 🙂

      Reply
      • Image Earth Travel
        May 1, 2017 at 6:22 pm

        Yes, I live in Italy now and have been here since last July. 😉

        Reply
        • Ishita
          May 1, 2017 at 7:38 pm

          WOW! Tell me more 🙂

          Reply
          • Image Earth Travel
            May 1, 2017 at 7:42 pm

            It’s a very long story and have written several posts on but was trying to get Italian Citizenship.

            Reply
        • Ishita
          May 1, 2017 at 7:38 pm

          The festival is next week. go for it!

          Reply
          • Image Earth Travel
            May 1, 2017 at 7:43 pm

            We’re house-sitting in Rogliano and looking after many animals, so can’t this time. 🙁

            Reply
  • Streets of Nuremberg
    May 1, 2017 at 3:54 pm

    Amazing how many people fit in this Piazza. When we visited Gubbio about 15 years ago, it was a quiet November day and there was no-one besides us. Thanks for bringing back the memories, Ishita! Have a great week! Marcus

    Reply
    • Ishita
      May 1, 2017 at 6:04 pm

      15 years! Wow.. Amazing. Thanks as always Marcus.

      Reply
  • Tanja
    May 1, 2017 at 1:43 pm

    interesting fiesta:)

    Reply
  • Francesca
    May 1, 2017 at 4:16 am

    Gubbio is a great town in Umbria. We went when it was snowing one November- quiet and mysterious. The festival looks colourful but a little too crowded for me.

    Reply
    • Ishita
      May 1, 2017 at 9:39 am

      Yes mysterious indeed. Crowded because the entire town is involved but worth it for me

      Reply
  • Anabel Marsh
    May 1, 2017 at 4:06 am

    I have been to Gubbio, but not at this time of year. Still beautiful though!

    Reply
  • Darlene
    May 1, 2017 at 2:47 am

    I love the Medieval fiestas in Spain as well. The pageantry is amazing.This must have ben so much fun!

    Reply
    • Ishita
      May 1, 2017 at 9:35 am

      fun! any important ones I might have heard of??

      Reply
      • Darlene
        May 1, 2017 at 11:54 am

        Semana Santa (Easter) is the biggest one but there are so many others.

        Reply
        • Ishita
          May 1, 2017 at 12:04 pm

          Very interesting!! 🙂

          Reply
  • Lyn
    May 1, 2017 at 1:29 am

    Gubbio is such a gorgeous town. I was there for the festa when I went to school in Castelraimondo in 2008

    Reply
    • Ishita
      May 1, 2017 at 9:07 am

      Must have been great experience!

      Reply
      • Lyn
        May 1, 2017 at 9:20 am

        School was one of the best experiences of my life

        Reply

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