Every year on 15th of May our local town of Gubbio celebrates the “Festa dei Ceri” or race of the candles. This event, it is an event that should be famous all over the world, but because the citizens of Gubbio or “Eugubini” regard it as their private festival it is not publicised. That is not to say that visitors are not welcome, they are, of course with the proviso that “they do not get in the way!!”
The race has its origins in pre-Christian times. A local author explained to me that it was originally a fertility festival, the blessing of the newly sown crops to provide a bountiful harvest. There are three candles, for fifty weeks of the year they reside in the basilica on top of the hill that dominates the town. On the first Sunday of May they are processed down to the Palazzo dei Consoli in the delightful main square of this beautiful medieval town. There whilst the citizens begin to party they wait, horizontal, quietly until the 15th of May.
The town is full, every street, road, lane, people thronging everywhere all heading to participate or watch the Alzata. Men on horseback, trumpeters, flag throwers and supporters, we are all there, yes, there is room for us from Bellaugello Gay Guest House.
At eleven in the morning the Ceri are carried out into the Piazza Prande, three Ceri, one for each saint, Ubaldo, Giorgio and Antonio. The attending Ceraioli wearing white trousers and shirts in the colour of their saint. The piazza is packed, we squeeze tightly amongst the crowds to soak up the adrenaline and atmosphere.
Of course there is pagentry and lots of symbolism before the Ceri are lifted vertical (the Alzata) and then the three teams start to run round the town. We participate from a spot near the Ceri, under the bell tower, the huge bell tolled by hand or more precisely foot, a real courageous feat of machismo, and as they set off we, like the townsfolk follow the Ceri.
Following a huge lunch the Ceraioli rest a while before the eagerly awaited actual race back up Mont Ingeno to the basilica, it too draws huge crowds. Which Ceri has come first, (it’s always S Ubaldo the patron saint, but hte distance between the Ceri is important) maybe one has fallen or veered off course, these are discussions that will occupy the townsfolk for the next 364 days.. arriving at the basilica about nine in the evening, encirling the fountain in the cloister and chanting the race concludes in a frenzy.
Of course the day does not end there, there is the walk back down to the town then the many ‘taverne’ street food stalls and dancing and drinking in the squares until the “wee sma’oors” it is a truly memorable day and one you can be part of (as a spectator).
This year there is an update to the Ceri website, check it out: Click here for the link to the Festa Dei Ceri Website it gives you a real in depth look at the event, and to book your Suite at Bellaugello this link will take you directly to our online booking service: Click here to book your stay at Bellaugello Gay Guest House