Woken this morning by the sun pouring through my bedroom window, I stumble to my feet and head to the bathroom to throw water on my face.

Check the day, out of my bedroom window the rosemary is in full bloom, spikes of purply pinky blue busy with bees already gathering nectar, the sun hazy after the brief rains of yesterday, the air decidedly cooler and fresher.  Into the kitchen, flick the kettle on, it will be tea today, tea from my dwindling supply of strong British teabags,  home-made soda bread and home-made orange marmalade that featured in my blog a few posts ago, fire up the laptop, and notice an email informing me of a comment on a recent blog post.

This comment is from a couple of guys who had the courage to stay at Bellaugello in the very early days, when all around was by no means finished.  I remember them well, they helped me with not only moral support, but also I seem to remember a paintbrush being taken up with enthusiasm, their stay is very much an integral part of my Bellaugello voyage.  To show you how brave they and many others were, the pic below is the same view but I am sure a more familiar memory to these guys and many others in those early days.

I am so warmed by the kind affection and interest in Bellaugello I receive from so many readers who keep in contact, and dip into my blog.  It may be years of silence, but then, ‘ping’ an arriving email brings back memories of a stay and I journey back to that time and reflect on all the changes since my arrival in Italy.

One of the things that has not changed in recorded time is the annual ‘Festa dei Ceri’ or race of the candles held each 15th of May in our local town of Gubbio.  With its beginning in pre-christian times, history now records it to have origins as a fertility festival later adopted by the catholic church, and little changed through the centuries, including during the last war, when much depleted in number it still took place.   Three saints atop three large wooden structures held shoulder high by teams of strong guys and run round the medieval city, before an evening race up the hill and into the basilica where the ‘candles’ remain until the next year.

This most important day in the calendar of the Eugubini sees the town and surrounding district thronged with guys dressed in white trousers and coloured shirts, yellow for S Ubaldo the patron saint of the city, Blue for S Giorgio, the saint of the tradesmen and city dwellers and black, for S Antonio, the saint of the country dwellers and farmers, all sport a red neckerchief, and all take the ceremony very seriously.

Lots of wine flows, there is music in the piazzas, dancing and the town is bursting with adrenaline, but above all it feels safe.  I am not a fan of crowds, maybe that is why I choose to live in the glorious countryside in rural Umbria, but the day of the Ceri is somewhat magical, and the enthusiasm of the participants flows seamlessly to us spectators, and despite the huge numbers I never feel to be in danger, a truly rare and valuable sensation in today’s world bedlam.

It is an incredible sight to behold.  Unlike the Palio di Siena or the Bulls in Pamplona, Spain, the Festa dei Ceri is still run for the people of Gubbio (Eugubini) and whilst they warmly welcome outsiders, the city does not think to promote this amazing event.  So guys I have given you a taste, go see your boss, request time off work and book with us at Bellaugello Gay Guest House and come witness this very special event.

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