Gubbio is a very old city, rich in important monuments, but overall it is a fascinating place where time seems to have been stopped: on the old streets you may hear people animately discussing the last crossbow competition or the strategy for the next Ceri (Large Candle) Race. Even if the modern-day city is very active and lively, the inhabitants are very attached to the traditions and make the be relived with pride.
The city, located at the base of Mount Ingino and crossed by the Carmignano stream, was founded by the Umbri, and was, between the 3rd and 1st cent. B.C., an important commercial and religious center. Allied with Rome, in 89 B.C. it obtained Roman citizenship and became a Municipium. From this period remains a beautiful Roman theater in the underlying valley. Flourishing in the Roman Era, it began to decline with the fall of the empire: invaded by the Erulli, then destroyed by the Goths, it was immediately reconstructed by the Byzantines but not on the plains and instead on the slopes of the mount; following the collapse of the Byzantine empire in 772 it was occupied by the Lombards.
As many other urban centers of central Italy, with the donations of Pipino il Breve and Carlo Magno it ceded to the Church, but soon after was made into a free Commune of Ghibelline faction and held to decidedly expansionist politics, which contrasted with that of nearby Perugia, with whom there were strong contrasts and changing fortunes.
In those years, between 1332 and 1349, the elegant Palazzo dei Consoli was constructed in blocks of local light stone terminated by a series of merlons and a slender tower. Today it is home to the Civic Museum and the Communal Picture Gallery. In 1354, conquered by Cardinal Albornoz, it passed yet again under the Church; then in 1384 the Eugubini voluntarily gave it to the Montefeltro. In that period Palazzo Ducale was reconstructed in Renaissance style , whose massive structure towers above the town, designed by Luciano Laurana, but probably realized by Francesco di Giorgio Martini; the interesting internal courtyard is similar, in reduced dimensions, to the courtyards of the palazzi of Urbino.
Under the Montefeltro and following under the Della Rovere, Gubbio flourished both artistically and culturally as well as commercially, following, in 1624, the end of the Della Rovere dynasty, passing into the Papal State.
The period in which Gubbio directly belonged to the State of the Church was characterized by a progressive economic and political decline. With Napoleon the city became united with the Cisalpina Republic (1798), to that of Romana (1798-1799), and then, from 1808 to 1814, to the Italico Kingdom. In 1860, a little after the annex to the Kingdom of Italy, Gubbio was united to Umbria.
Other than the two previously mentioned buildings and the Roman theater, the Duomo surely is worth a visit, reconstructed in Gothic form at the beginning of the 14th century on the site of the original Romanesque Cathedral and various other churches and buildings; most of all, you should stroll among the center calmly to appreciate the beauty and elegance together.
If you should happen to be here in May, you will have the opportunity to participate in the Ceri Race (Large Candle Race), a traditional event which is among the most exciting and unique in Europe and is comparable to the Festival of Santa Rosa in Viterbo and the Palio in Siena.