Gubbio is another of those wonderful towns which can be reached by a long highway journey capped with a short trip through the Apennines. By now, we are becoming used to the savage twists and turns of the narrow mountain road, but always there is the curl of apprehension that keeps one on the edge of the seat. Even so, the scenery is beautiful. The high hillsides drop sharply into valleys golden with broom and soar over peaceful farmlands. Between being breathless over the scenery and holding our breath because of that car that is attempting to pass a motor scooter on a curve, we become very short of breath.
Gubbio is a large town boasting 33,026 inhabitants and is also very old with roots in the Paeolithic. Romans, Goths, Byzantines, Lombards, Guelphs, the Counts of Urbino and many others have ruled this town.
We are anxious to see as much as we can before the inevitable shutdown during the 1:00 to 3:00 period, but first we must find a parking place. The town is teeming with cars that seem to be going in all directions and—oh, no! a police woman is telling us in no uncertain terms that we are going the wrong way. “Dove e il parcheggio?” We wail… where is the parking area? She eyes us, then nods and motions for us to go all the way around and come back down the street the correct way. We do so and behold! Not only has the wonderful lady found us the only free parking spot in the whole town, but she is actually standing on the spot and refusing other cars entry! We call all sorts of blessings down on her as we walk away to sample the joys of Gubbio.
There are many sights to see, but the sun is blazing hot and the steps leading to these sights are steep. We gratefully accept the use of the public elevator which takes is to the Piazza Grande where we see a wedding party emerging from the doors of the Palace of the Podesta. A crowd has gathered with cameras at the ready, and we all applaud as the groom kisses the bride.
From here we walk up countless steep stone stairs and, completely out of breath, stop at the Museo Diocesano where artifacts of Umbria are on exhibit. We’re told that Bronze Age artifacts have been discovered close to the town and that Gubbio’s written history goes back to the 1st century. Frescoes, wall paintings and ancient coins are some of the items that have once been used by people long ago. And…look, here is a little terra cotta pomegranate. Who owned this small beauty? I wonder. Was it a gift? A toy? An offering to some god?
Did a child once laugh
Playing with this small, round fruit?
After a while we leave the past behind us and walk back into the blazing sun to climb more steps to the Cathedral of the Duomo. This center of Gubbio is a majestic place with paintings and stained glass windows set high above the alter. The equally imposing Palazzo de Ducale is directly across the way, but by now we are tired and thirsty and decide to forego magnificence for something to drink in the small café nearby where we meet Roberto and Julia. We talk about cars and politics and life in general… a young couple and an old one enjoying something cool in the heat of the day.
From thence to lunch. The food in Italy bears mentioning if for no other reason than that constant walking makes one hungry! Our meal in the outdoors garden of the elegant Taverna di Lupo consisted of a pasta with summer sauce (me) and a wonderful polenta with asparagus and mushrooms (Mike) and was followed, of course, by cappuccino. We wonder what daily life is like in Gubbio. Apparently, according to some people we met at a restaurant in the mountain town of Colifiori, a condo in Gubbio is quite cheap. It is the parking that makes life difficult… one must (or so we hear) park each night at the foot of the hill!
When lunch is over it is past three thirty and storm clouds are starting to gather. Dreading a crossing of the ‘little mountains’ in the rain, we hurry to our car and prepare to leave Gubbio. But before we do, I turn around and look up at the Duomo, a guardian set high above this ancient town.