Rome is such a complex little city that it is important to take a break every now and then, which is why I love to escape to places like the Umbrian village of Gubbio.
Gubbio is found in the province of Perugia and is a joy to visit thanks to its medieval architecture, quirky local festivals and pedestrianized historic center.
Things to do in Gubbio
- Look for the porta dei morti: For the most part, the look of the town is truly medieval. Most of the buildings in Gubbio are built of stone and date back to the 14th and 15th century. Some of the buildings still have a funny little architectural detail and if you look closely you will see that many were built with two front doors. The second door was always a bit elevated off the street level and some have been turned into windows today. The legend says that they were used to remove the bodies of anyone who died in the home so that they wouldn’t have to pass through the main door- but this is widely considered to be 100% made up (but it does explain the name). There is no real agreement on what these random second doors were for.
- Take the funivia: Gubbio has one of the most unique cable cars in Italy. The rickety old metal thing scared me but you essentially hop in a tiny open cage (there are no enclosed cars) and get transported up to the Basilica di Sant’Ubaldo. The real adventure is the trip up, and you can watch the city spread out below you as you dangle precariously in your tiny basket.
- Wander through Piazza Grande: The grandest square of all is flanked by Palazzo dei Consoli and Palazzo dei Podesta and looks much the same as it would have when it was built back in the 14th century.
- Find the arches: The real treat in the village is just beyond the Palazzo dei Consoli: cloistered arches framing the pretty stone buildings below.
- Go for a festival: Gubbio is beautiful every day of the year, but there are certain days that are more fun than others. The town regularly hosts costumed Renaissance fairs, but the kookiest and coolest event is the Corsa dei Ceri. On May 15th, three color-coordinated teams race statues of saints up and down the steep main walkway.And for an added bonus if you happen to visit in December: did you know that Gubbio is home to the World’s Largest Christmas Tree? The illuminated tree up the side of Mount Ingino has been in the Guinness Book of World Records since 1991.
But best of all, Gubbio is completely car-free so you can wander the little alleyways without any set itinerary to discover the town with no agenda at all.
It is the perfect stop to add into an Umbria trip that already includes the much more crowded cities of Perugia and Assissi.
Where to Stay in Gubbio
Ready to get going and explore this lovely little Italian town? It is possible to do as a day trip but even better to take the time and stay in or around Gubbio.
- Hotel San Marco: Gubbio has been settled since the bronze age but it is really best known as a Medieval town. It only makes sense to stay in a historic hotel when you visit, and Hotel San Marco is ideal. It is built inside a 14th-century building. The rooms have modern comforts but are furnished with antiques. The hotel’s best feature is without a doubt the internal garden that overlooks the nearby hillside. Everything is a short walk away, but because it is located on the edge of the pedestrian zone, you can actually drive up to leave your suitcases.
- Relais Ducale: Location is everything and this is the Gubbio hotel with one of the best. Sitting right on Piazza Grande, the family-run hotel is at the top of town. You can enjoy the rooftop terrace to take in some of the best views of the pretty Umbrian rooftops or relax in the classically decorated rooms. This is actually built in an annex of the Ducal Palace.
- Mamihouse apartment: To stay like a local, book an apartment in the residential area of Gubbio, a short walk from all the sites. The flat has been recently updated and features beautiful stonework. Of course, there is also Wi-Fi and mountain views to sweeten the deal. For a bit more, you can also book the gorgeous Bellavista apartment, which has two bedrooms and truly beautiful views.
- Villa Mozart: Staying outside of town can be just as enjoyable. The countryside setting of Villa Mozart is only about 3 miles away from Gubbio and boasts both a pool and tennis courts. There are also plenty of tree-lined paths for taking and ambling walk around the agriturismo.