You can already find something about Gubbio on the website; its massive Christmas tree deserved a Christmas special, but what really defines the identity of this city is not its record-winning tree rather the long-standing tradition of “Corsa dei Ceri”. I can describe it as a race among three groups of participants: one represents Saint Ubaldo (yellows), one runs for Saint Giorgio (blues), and the last one for Saint Antonio (blacks). The people participating to the race are called “ceraioli” and they have to carry these candles (Ceri) uphill to the town’s Basilica, running as fast as they can for four kilometres throughout the city’s streets and alleys. The order the groups arrive to the Basilica is always the same (Yellows, Blues, Blacks), but the goal is to stay as close possible and not let the group ahead shutting the Basilica’s doors hence leaving you outside.
So, just a race you’d think; what it was not clear in my description is the size of the candles the ceraioli carry: the candles are three tall heavy wooden artefacts, surmounted respectively by statues of Saint Ubaldo, Saint George and Saint Antonio. Decorated by many motifs, the candles are fixed on stretchers in the shape of "H" so that it can be moved vertically and transported by "ceraioli". With a height of nearly 5 meters, the "Ceri" are impressive to look at and they take approximately 10 men per "manicchia" or pole (4 for each candle) to be transported, with a weight that is between 300 and 400 kg. Impressive. Here is the video of the moment the Ceri are lifted, a truly one-of-a-kind performance.
The race happens every 15th of May, its origins are still unclear, but they might date back to 1160, the year of the death of Saint Ubaldo. What is certain, though, is the passion shown by the people from Gubbio for this tradition. During the celebrations the city is an open-air party, restaurants are open, wine is flowing, and the squares are filled with people having a good time while waiting for the race to happen. Do yourself a favour and don’t miss out on this unique race.
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