GUBBIO, CITY OF MADMEN
IN THE HEART OF ITALY
Gubbio is a delightful town. It is located in the heart of Italy, on the slopes of Mount Ingino.
It is one of the oldest medieval cities in Umbria, as evidenced by the Tavole di Gubbio, also called Tavole Eugubine.
These seven bronze tablets from the XVV century are written in the Umbrian language.
They contain information about the customs and traditions of this beautiful city.
Gubbio is rich in history, culture, art and ancient traditions.
It is full of monuments and architectural masterpieces, historical buildings and seventeenth-century frescoes.
Last but not least, the city is also famous for a really special tradition.
In fact, it is the only one in the world to be traditionally defined as “city of madmen”.
THE CITY OF MADMEN. BECOME OFFICIALLY MAD!
“Mad” in this context has a broader meaning. It describes the free individual, dreamer, idealist, and all those full of passion. The term specifies those connected to the country’s values, traditions and history.
Consequently, in this Umbrian town, you can even get a “certificate” showing that you are “officially mad”.
The ritual dates back to 1880 and is related to the ”birate“, the fast laps around the main flagpole of Piazza Grande that take place during the Ceri festival, celebrated every year on May 15th.
THE ORIGIN OF THE TRADITION: THE FESTIVAL “FESTA DEI CERI” OF GUBBIO
The Festa dei ceri (Festival of Church Candles) of Gubbio is one of the most exciting festivals of Umbria and probably of Italy.
The whole city is lively and crowds gather in the square dressed in the colors of the ceraioli: yellow for the candle of the patron Sant’Ubaldo, blue for San Giorgio and black for Sant’Antonio.
The real protagonists of the day are the Ceri, the church candles: three tall and heavy wooden artefacts, surmounted by the statues of Sant’Ubaldo (Patron of the Muratori), of San Giorgio (Protector of the Merciai) and of Sant’Antonio Abate (Protector of the Peasants, and today also of the Students).
They are almost 5 meters high and weigh between 300 and 400kg. Those carrying them on their shoulders run through Gubbio until they reach the Basilica of S. Ubaldo that is located on the peak of Mount Ingino overlooking the city.
The Corsa dei Ceri (run of church candles) between ceraioli is certainly one of the craziest, most characteristic and exciting historical races in Italy, considering above all that it takes place uphill!
Those who saw the race three times in a row receive an award.
This is how the tradition of becoming officially mad came up. To get the certificate, you have to run around the “Fontana dei Matti” (Fountain of Madmen) three times in a row.
The correct name of the fountain is Fontana del Bergello. It is located in front of the homonymous Palace in the center of Gubbio.
The certificate is valid only if a citizen of Gubbio requests it for the candidate, paying a contribution to the Maggion Eugubino association. If you pass the “test”, the parchment will attest that you are officially mad!
BE MAD, OFFICIALLY!
Would you like to become officially mad? Click here.
The “Madness certificate” is included in our Gubbio tours. Click here to have a look.
Do you want to discover other characteristics of the Italian culture, language and traditions?
Follow our blog “Curiosities”.
Are you interested in typical recipes of the Italian cuisine?
Discover our blog “Italian cuisine“.