Let’s discover together what to see and do in Gubbio, Umbria’s most evocative medieval town. Ancient soul and pure beauty, here is what to visit in Gubbio for a journey through time!
We find ourselves in the heart of Italy, among the most welcoming hills of Umbria, where tranquillity inspires the soul. Here, even before the Roman domination, stood the Etruscan centre Ikuvium, whose citizens, according to Pliny, were among the first Italians. Today, like a precious jewel, the limestone architecture of Gubbio adorns the slopes of Mount Igino, giving it the epithet “the grey city”.
But is Gubbio really a city without colour? To find out, all you have to do is attend the Corsa dei Ceri on 15 May to admire the colours of its most traditional medieval festival!
It is a city of devotion and saints, shrouded in the mysticism of the miraculous encounter between St Francis of Assisi and the wolf, which took place near the church of the “Vittorina”. Because of its particular setting, it was the set of famous films such as Zeffirelli’s “Brother Sun, Sister Moon”, or the more recent Don Matteo series.
Visiting its churches, getting to know the stories of Gubbio inhabitants, wandering through the alleys embellished over time by the artistic skills of first the Montefeltro and then the Della Rovere families: exploring Gubbio is this and more! It is an open-air art show. “Everyone here lives in art, consciously or unconsciously”, quoting Guido Piovene, fascinated by the magnificence of this place. Even the supreme poet Dante dedicated some verses of the Divine Comedy to the miniaturist Oderisi da Gubbio, a native of the place.
It is well known that art originates from a pinch of mad genius, and here in Gubbio, there is even the possibility of obtaining a “madman’s licence”! Just take three laps around the Fontana del Bargello, and bathe in its water.
We will now have a look at the most interesting things to see in Gubbio, which ones you really cannot miss and what awaits you in the surroundings of this wonderful medieval jewel. 👇
What to visit in Gubbio in one day: an open-air museum!
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Being a small town, you can explore Gubbio in half a day or a little more. Although it is on several levels, walking is encouraged and we recommend comfortable shoes! In any case, there are public lifts to the Duomo and the S. Pietro car park to give you a boost!
There are many things to see in Gubbio, so if you plan to stay in town long enough to do some in-depth sightseeing, you may need the TuristiCard (at the Tourist Information Office, Via della Repubblica). It will allow you to have a 50% reduced ticket in all museums and many other services included.
At this point, all that remains is to take note of our itinerary to admire Gubbio…
1. Roman theatre, Antiquarium and archaeological itinerary
The ancient alliance with Rome allowed Iguvium to grow economically and urbanistically: the Roman Theatre, dating back to the mid-first century BC, had a capacity of 6000 souls. Today’s archaeological tour includes a visit to the Antiquarium, built on the remains of the Domus Scilla. There you can admire the floor mosaics and many ceramic and bronze objects found in the excavations. The complete visit takes about an hour and it is definitely worth starting with the oldest part.
2. Museum of Arts and Crafts
At Palazzo Beni, you can immerse yourself in the shoes of a Renaissance citizen living with ancient crafts and manual skills now forgotten. From apothecaries’ cruets to wooden looms: more than 2000 objects are arranged by craft occupying an impressive 670 square metres of exhibition space.
3. The Fountain of Fools and Bargello Palace
Continuing along Via dei Consoli you might hear some laughter in the distance… In Largo Bargello, around the Fountain of Fools, someone will be getting his “honorary Fools licence” by circling the fountain three times.
Behind it, you will find a Gothic 14th-century residence, home of the Bargello (i.e. the local police chief in the Middle Ages). Inside, three rooms are used for the Permanent Exhibition of the Crossbow, but there is also an exhibition of colourful period costumes.
4. Piazza Grande, Palazzo dei Consoli and Palazzo del Podestà (Praetorian Palace)
They are part of the same architectural design, conceived in the early 1300s by the Free Commune of Gubbio. Piazza dei Consoli is undoubtedly the central hub of the town: four arches support this enormous hanging square from below. Here, you can admire a breathtaking sunset!
On opposite sides, you will find Palazzo del Podestà, seat of the Town Hall, and Palazzo dei Consoli, which since 1909 has housed the Museo Civico, organised on several levels and rich in treasures. It houses the Eugubine Tablets: seven bronze slabs, engraved in the ancient Umbrian and Latin languages, dating back to the 3rd-1st century B.C.. They are “diaries” of religious life, containing information on the legal system and ceremonial rites.
5. Ducal Palace and Cathedral
In the midst of so much of the Middle Ages, the Duke of Urbino Federico da Montefeltro, towards the end of the 15th century, ordered the construction of this palace. It stands out for its Renaissance architecture (from the large halls to the inlaid capitals, from the courtyard outside to the fireplaces). The entrance to the Cathedral, dedicated to Saints James and Marian Martyrs, whose remains are preserved in an ancient sarcophagus under the high altar, is opposite. The Cathedral is in the usual Gothic style: walking through its single nave, crossing the arches leading to the altar, will be like travelling through a space-time portal!
6. The Botte dei Canonici
For wine lovers and not! It is a huge barrel with wooden rims, a capacity of about 20,000 litres and 4 metres wide. It is a must-see inside a small souvenir shop in Gubbio, right next to the Ducal Palace.
7. Church of San Giovanni
Known to most thanks to the TV series Don Matteo, this small church is fascinating for its austere and clean Gothic style. The interior is sober and very intimate and is flanked by a Romanesque bell tower.
8. Piazza 40 Martiri and Logge dei Tiratori
The building at the head of Piazza 40 Martiri was the seat of the Santa Maria hospital and in the 16th century was later called “Spedal Grande”. Its noble use gave way to the art of wool processing: in the loggias, cloth was “pulled” and dried. Unfortunately, during the Second World War, the building was a mute witness to an atrocious martyrdom, which took place on 22 June 1944 at the hands of the Germans. Forty innocents, victims of an absurd barbarity, are remembered in this square by the mausoleum that stands there.
Here, every third Sunday of the month, an antiques and handicrafts fair is held, where you can buy a souvenir of your visit to Gubbio.
9. In the footsteps of St Francis of Assisi
When the young Francis decided to abandon his wealth, Gubbio was a refuge for him. He is renowned for the miracle he performed in taming a wolf that terrorised the inhabitants at the time. The cave where the beast lived, in time became the present Church of San Francesco della Pace, also known as the Church of the Masons, because it belonged to the University of Stonemasons and Craftsmen.
Inside you can see the shrine with the stuffed wolf and the stone (now an altar balustrade) over which the saint delivered a sermon. The church also houses the important statues of St. Ubaldo, St. Anthony and St. George, placed on the Ceri during the May festivities.
In Largo San Francesco, on the other hand, on the land of the ancient Spadalonga family, the splendid church dedicated to the saint has amazed people with its mystical atmosphere since 1255. Inside, three naves separated by solemn Gothic columns, with apses frescoed with marvellous works, frame one of Gubbio’s best-loved places of worship.
10. Basilica of St. Eubald
Here lie the relics of the patron saint of Gubbio, protector of the city from the heights of Mount Ingino. In the peace of such an ethereal place, the famous Ceri are kept inside the basilica, in anticipation of the celebrations on 15 May. It is possible to reach the basilica by car, taking the Colle Eletto cable car or on foot, starting from Porta Vehia and continuing along the nature trail.
11. The tower of Porta Romana
A few steps from the cable car, in the direction of the ancient Via Flaminia leading to Rome, you can cross and visit Porta Romana. Once used for defence, today it houses the Museum of Ceramics: unique pieces of craftsmanship that tell the story of the manual skills of Gubbio’s Renaissance inhabitants!
12. Museum of Bicycle Crafts
In this exhibition by Luciano Pellegrini, about a hundred “trade” bicycles will let you relive glimpses of Gubbio life long gone. It is beautiful in Gubbio to visit with children!
10 things to see in Gubbio, so you don’t miss anything
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- Piazza Grande and its magical view
- Palazzo dei Consoli and the Civic Museum
- The Fountain of the Fools
- Museum of Arts and Crafts
- The Basilica of Sant’Ubaldo going up by cable car
- The Bottaccione Gorge
- The Roman Theatre
- The Church of San Francesco della Pace
- The beautiful Cathedral of St. James and Marian Martyrs
- The mausoleum of Piazza 40 Martiri
What to do in Gubbio? Landscapes and Culture
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Certainly, to appreciate the beauty of this town, it is essential to wander on foot around the squares and monuments I have suggested. You could take a souvenir of Gubbio with you by purchasing artistic ceramics, handmade by Umbrian master potters.
As you walk, your appetite will be whetted: what better occasion to taste the famous Crescia? It is a typical bread baked in a cast-iron pan called “Testo”, served together with other delicious local foods such as cured meats (especially wild boar), cheeses and truffles. And don’t forget to savour the local Pecorino cheese, too!
If you are in the company of little ones, the Extinction Museum “Dinosaurs in Flesh and Bone” is just the thing for you: a travelling exhibition with fossils and life-size models of dinosaurs. By taking a leap back in time, you can understand what caused the extinction of history’s greatest giants. Children will love it, but so will adults!
If you don’t want to miss out on anything during your visit to Gubbio, an immersion in nature is a must. Find refreshment on a bench in the Ranghiasci Park or venture on a walk outside it, passing through the Bottaccione Gorge and continuing above the Acquedotto. You will reach Monte Ingino (along the way, you will also find the Hermitage of San Girolamo) and, once there, you can decide to continue on foot or take the cable car.
In this regard, the Colle Eletto cable car is among the best things to see in Gubbio: it is a small open cabin that moves over a 500 metre difference in height. At sunset, the panorama and the colours of the sky reflecting on the roofs of Gubbio will be a memorable memory!
And if you love trekking in the mountains, in Gubbio you should absolutely visit the caves of Monte Cucco, in the regional park of the same name. These are enormous caves of stalactites and stalagmites, worthy of the best fantasy films.
Traditions and Events in Gubbio
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The Patron’s Candle Race
The people of Gubbio eagerly await this time of year. On 15 May, honour is paid to the patron saint of Gubbio, Saint Ubaldo. The bishop, at the end of the 12th century, led the city stormed by 11 confederates led by Perugia to victory. Since then, homage has been paid to the patron with candles, which have grown larger and larger over time – now replaced with wooden structures. There are three guilds that run through the historical centre during the festival, with a not inconsiderable physical effort: masons, merchants and donkeys, distinguished by different colours. It is a super event!
Palio della Balestra
On the last Sunday in May, to close the celebrations of St Ubaldo, this ancient palio is held. The Gubbio crossbowmen’s society is still an institution that keeps this traditional competition alive. The event is repeated in September, in honour of Sant’Egidio, in nearby Sansepolcro.
The White Truffle Festival
An all-round food and wine event that opens the door to autumn and the products it brings, including olive oil, cheese, honey and local cured meats.
International Kite Festival
Now in its 35th year, Ventomania recalls the passion for kites in an unmissable event for amateurs and professionals alike. Participating together with the little ones will be fun.
It is the most magical time of the year, and in Gubbio the atmosphere is lit up on 7 December together with the “world’s biggest Christmas tree”, a huge silhouette that towers behind the town, stretching over Mount Ingino. You can admire it in its entirety from the hills overlooking Gubbio in the Villa Castelli – Montegranelli area or by taking a ride on the Ferris wheel that annually stands in Piazza 40 Martiri, where you can also buy a sweet souvenir at the markets.
To the delight of the little ones, a stop at Father Christmas’s House is a must. Inside, in addition to busy elves, there is an exhibition of Gubbio nativity scenes, although you can also see the life-size one in the San Martino quarter or the living one in the San Pietro quarter.
Gubbio No Borders Festival
Since 2002, after Ferragosto (August bank holiday), summer evenings are accompanied by the notes of jazz artists in the enchanting settings of the Roman theatre and the Ducal Palace. A festival at the highest level, with an annual appointment, not to be missed!
What to see around Gubbio
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1. Gualdo Tadino
This beautiful medieval town is located on the north-eastern side of the region and keeps the Rocca Flea, a fortress that today houses the Municipal Museum, in excellent condition. The town is also home to the renowned international ceramics competition.
Named after Umberto di Savoia. Its monument is the medieval fortress, used in the past as a gaol. If you happen to be in the area in September, the “Fratta dell’800” event dedicates four days to the Risorgimento uprisings, with costumes of the time and delicacies prepared using the original recipes of that period!
It is a walled town belonging to the most beautiful villages in Italy and an important tourist stop especially during the Corpus Domini celebrations, which see the village filled with the characteristic colours of the Infiorata (Flower Festival). The municipality is located on the slopes of Mount Subasio near Assisi.
This is an important pilgrimage destination for devotees of Saints Francis of Assisi, who was born here between 1181 and 1182, and Clare, who during her lifetime helped the city crush the Duke of Lutzen. A visit to the beautiful basilica of St Francis, or to the impressive Hermitage of the Prisons, completely surrounded by greenery, are not to be missed. From the top of the hill, the Rocca Maggiore rises observing Assisi and its countless beauties.
This tiny municipality, also included in the circuit of the most beautiful villages in Italy, hosts the Mostra Mercato delle Terre del Sagrantino (Sagrantino Lands Market), where olive oil and, above all, wine stand out among the local products.
6. Lake Trasimeno
It is the largest in central Italy by extension. Here the fauna and flora are varied, and three islands (the Minore, the Maggiore and the Polvese) are scattered around the lake. It is worth organising a trip to this lake, animated by fishermen who pull their nets and silently spend their time on its waters. At the end of July, on its shores, the Blues Festival makes the lake atmosphere magical.
Also known as “Brooks Village”, it is a mountain hamlet of Foligno where you can wander through alleys and streets, past streams that create a fairytale landscape. Water has been indispensable for the most ancient activities, such as weaving and wool processing. In June, these crafts are celebrated with the event “Penelope in Rasiglia”.
In the natural environment surrounding Rasiglia, you can also admire the Menotre Waterfalls and the Abbadessa Caves, with stalactite and stalagmite formations. A true enchantment!
It is the ancient “Turrena”. Its historic centre is built around the highest point of Porta Sole, some 450 metres above sea level. Cradle of artists such as Pinturicchio and Ignazio Danti, the astronomer who revolutionized modern cartography, Perugia is a jewel rich in culture that is celebrated today between the Academy of Fine Arts and the University.
Don’t miss Piazza IV Novembre, with its Fontana Maggiore, the Cathedral of San Lorenzo and the Palazzo dei Priori. There is also room for foodies: you can pay a visit to the Perugina factory or attend the most important national chocolate festival – Eurochocolate – in the second half of October.
How to get to Gubbio
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- By train: the town is served by the nearby station of Fossato di Vico-Gubbio, 14 km from Gubbio and reachable by public transport lines E052/E022. This may not be the fastest option!
- By plane: the nearest International Airport of Umbria “San Francesco d’Assisi” provides many flights and can be reached by car in just 37 minutes. The most practical solution for maximum autonomy is to take a rental car, to move with agility from one country to another. Other nearby airports are Ancona, Florence and Rome.
- By car: via the A1 Milan-Naples motorway and the Adriatic motorway A14, Gubbio can be easily reached from both north and south, but also from the neighbouring municipalities via five state roads.
Arriving by car, parking in Gubbio will not be a problem, but beware of the restricted traffic zone in the centre! There are numerous open-air parking areas, some free, others for a fee.
Most are open 24 hours a day. The Piazza 40 Martiri car park and the Piazzale Frondizi car park are very central. For those with camper vans, the Camper Carlini parking area and the car park in Via della Repubblica are recommended. Also convenient are the Roman Theatre car park and the Funivia car park, where you can leave your car and enjoy a breathtaking view over the city!
Now that you know what to see in and around Gubbio, you can make the most of my advice to create your own itinerary to discover these fantastic places of interest! Remember that, with Italia Delight, you can book tailor-made food and wine experiences and trips directly with Italy’s top Food Experts.
It only remains for me to wish you a happy trip to Umbria! 😍