In the North of Umbria, surrounded by the Apennine mountains, sits the hillside town of Gubbio. In a region that is renowned for its truffles, both black (tuber melanosporem) and white (tuber magnatum pico), cured sausage and pecorino cheese, I discover that there is a lot more to Gubbio than just great food.
I start at the foot of Monte Ingino where the Romans built a large theatre in the 1st century BC. It now lies in ruins with its stone seats covered in grass and its treasures pillaged to reside in museums and to decorate local gardens.
Through the Porta degli Ortacci I arrive at the large, circular Piazza 40 Martiri, named for the 40 martyrs who were shot by the Germans in June 1944 in retaliation for a partisan attack. The piazza features an interesting raised loggia, built by the 17th century wool merchants who required a place to stretch out their cloth. Beyond, the cobbled streets curve around the slopes of Monte Ingino, with steep alleyways and stairs joining them. Like San Marino, it is possible to climb to the Piazza Grande by lift, with the reward of endless views across the plains below.
I decide to climb even further to the top of Monte Ingino where the Basilica St Ubaldo surveys all below and houses the remains of the patron saint of Gubbio. I immediately regret my laziness when I find myself having to run and jump to board the cable car in a very unladylike fashion. Cable car is quite a grand name for what is really just a metal basket swinging from below a single metal cable and hanging above fir trees and jagged rocks. I’m not sure if I want to use the return part of my ticket. Just before I reach the top, as I am hanging 900m above sea level, the basket slows and I am left dangling. Luckily, it’s not for long and soon I am back on solid ground.
In the cool, calm of the Basilica I find St Ubaldo, resting peacefully in his glass tomb, the third and most decorative of his resting places. Nearby are the three ‘Ceri’, large wooden structures which are carried around the town on the 15th May in a race which starts in Via Dante, circles the Piazza Grande three times and ends at the Basilica on Monte Ingino. In a small museum next to the Basilica I watch an old video of the event. Aerial footage shows the exciting race through the streets and up the mountain. It certainly seems thrilling for the spectators but extremely exhausting for the men who share the task of carrying the Ceri and completing the course at such a crazy pace.
The basket ride back down to street level is much smoother and offers incredible views over the rooftops of the town to the plain and mountains beyond. As the sun sets, leaving a golden glow over the town, I feel that Gubbio is definitely not just black and white, like the tubers which will be sold in the annual truffle fair. As in the Italian flag there is the green of the forest covered hills, the white of the medieval stone buildings and the red of the blood spilt by the 40 martyrs.