A Glorious Festa della Repubblica

June 1, 2015 / Events
Gubbio. Umbria

Dear friends, we’re republishing this from last year in case anyone is in central Italy and free tomorrow. This is an incredibly event, not to be missed if you’re in the area!

I wonder if Gubbio’s children realize that their Corsa dei Ceri Piccoli is probably the most unique celebration of la Festa della Repubblica (June 2nd) in all of Italy? In this race the youngest ceraioli (also called ceretti) – like their fathers, uncles, and even grandfathers in some cases on May 15th, and i Mezzani (their teen-aged brothers) in late May – run their smaller ceri up to Mt. Ingino where patron saint Sant’Ubaldo (a 12th-c. Gubbio bishop) is enthroned in a glass case.

Late in the morning on June 2nd, la banda piccola announces the festivities, little drummers pounding out la passione, young puff-cheeked trumpeters blasting the notes of the ceri songs beloved by all Eugubini.


Two young capitani on horseback, swords drawn, lead the three ceri groups. Arms linked, excited young boys in satiny yellow shirts (they’ll carry the piccolo Sant’Ubaldo cero) head the ceretti “families.” Emotional san giorgiari (in royal blue) follow and then eager sant’antoniari (in black).


Martino (third grade) in his royal blue San Giorgio shirt told me he’d awakened at five. “I couldn’t sleep for the excitement.” His father Giorgio, who used to run the San Giorgio cero until he broke a leg, told me that Martino watches his treasured collection of DVD’s all year. Only two themes: i Ceri – and Gubbio’s soccer team.


Federico, Matteo and Marco – all three in sant’ubaldaro canary yellow shirts – were sipping fruit juices in a café as they described the emotions. Federico: “Grande. I’m just worried that our Cero might fall.” 


Another san giorgiaro in royal blue, Giorgio, hugged a younger boy also in blue, telling me, “I’m running for the third year and my cousin Emanuele will run when he’s a bit bigger.” Little Emanuele grinned and nodded emphatically.


Alessio in yellow proudly presented me to his friend, Juan, from Columbia, hugging him: “I’ve run for three years and now Juan is a sant’ubaldaro too!”


All soon dashed off to join their friends in the parade, arms around each other as the stream of bright yellow, royal blue and black-shirted young boys headed towards Palazzo dei Consoli, the 14th century city hall, for the race start. Their sisters, little and big brothers, grandparents, mothers – and fathers – joined the flow.


The families are there to witness the l’alzatella (the little raising up) of the ceri. The lifting of the full-sized Ceri on May 15th is dubbed l’alzata and is most emotional moment of any Corsa dei Ceri. Having seen the Corsa dei Ceri Piccoli however, I wonder if the greatest emotion for a Ceraiolo is to heft up the Cero on May 15th, or to see his six-year old son lift his own piccolo cero on June 2nd?

– Many thanks to Photostudio Gubbio for the final four photos!!

All three Piccoli Ceri, one after another - PHOTOSTUDIO GUBBIO
And here comes San Giorgio! PHOTOSTUDIO GUBBIO
St. Ubaldo leads and San Giorgio, Sant'Antonio follow - PHOTOSTUDIO GUBBIO

Santubaldari run their Cero - Photostudio Gubbio

Anne Robichaud

by Anne Robichaud

An authorized Umbrian tour guide, Anne and her husband Pino worked the land for many years in the 1970’s so rural life, rural people, rural cuisine are una passione for her. See Umbria from “the inside”: join her May 2017 ten-day tour centered on discovering Umbria, Anne’s Umbria.

See www.annesitaly.com for more on her Umbria tours. Do see www.stayassisi.com for news on the Assisi apartment – and Assisi countryside guest house – she and Pino now rent out.

Anne writes frequently on Umbria and other areas of Italy. Read about her annual U.S. Feb/Mar cooking classes and lectures, as well as her numerous Italy insights on her blog.

31 Responses to “A Glorious Festa della Repubblica”

  1. Gian Banchero

    The photo of the father holding his son who’s in the blue shirt with the red bandana, is pure Renaissance, beautiful…

  2. Kris Harris

    Amazing pictures! The children are so excited and honored to be a part of this celebration…love it.
    Craig and I can’t wait to see and experience you’re incredible slice of Italy!
    Until then,

  3. Linda Boccia

    Too much male testosterone with the emphasis on war and violence. And why not include females if the festivities are that wonderful? As participants and not s bystanders. And yes, I am very familiar with Italian history and the various wars between city states, regions and the occupations of various groups!!

  4. Anne Robichaud

    Linda, no violence AT all during CERI events May 15 – end of May – June 2nd: this is about honor to their patron saint, Ubaldo…a “race” only in the sense of fast running: Ubaldo is ALWAYS first, Giorgio is 2nd, Antonio last…and ALL are headed up to the Basilica di Sant’Ubaldo in his honor (he died May 16th, mid 11th c..and the vigil is most sacred, hence the race on the 15th).
    Girls can run the piccoli if they wish…the other ones are too heavy but girls often run as “braccieri”, i.e. shoulder supports to the ceraioli. ps ALL the Ceretti hugged each other when inside the Basilica di S. Ubaldo at race end

  5. David Fleming

    How lucky we in the States are to experience this unique festival through Anne’s vivid account. Pictures are fantastic!!

  6. Gian Banchero

    Oh cara Linda Boccia, per favore, relax, I’m yet to have read in an article about womens’ celebrations as being an estrogen celebration that must be tempered by the inclusion of males… Boys eat off the presence of older males, this is a need that’s made manifest at about the age of seven. Though women indeed have an important part of a boy’s life it’s very difficult, but not impossible, for them to lead young men into mature adulthood. Celebrations as such reinforce needed bonding.

  7. Silvana Schsuter

    Grazie Anne . . . what a delightful and joyous display of family and community unity in the enjoyment and participation of the inhabitants. Great pictures.

  8. Louise Ostrov

    What a great account of the event. Our group of 8 can’t wait for you to lead us on some adventures!

  9. Angela Melczer

    Love this post! Lovethe faces of these cherubs and the colorfuk photos are the best!

  10. Jan Johnson

    Thank you Anne. Family and community pride – Italian characteristics that many other nations would benefit from remembering. Just another reason why I love Italy!

  11. Suzanne and Jack

    Thank you for bringing these festivals to us through your descriptive writing. Having experience the race of the Ceri on May 15 (2011) I can imagine the excitement, colour and passion these young enthusiastic children bring to their day.
    Your writings continue to delight. Thank you.

  12. Mary Cappiello

    Loved your descriptive with these pictures, Annie. You can just see and feel the pride and happiness of the different generations at this celebration from your telling of it.

  13. Beautiful, Anna! As always you have captured through your words and touching photos the passione of Italiani for their history, family and tradition. These beautiful qualities capture us all when we visit bella Italia and keep us coming back for more. Grazie, Anne for capturing it so vividly for us!

  14. Tom & Cissy Wilson

    Hi Annie. Thanks for this submission. Thanks, too, for your delightful tour of Perugia, Spello, Assisi and environs last. The Wilson family thoroughly enjoyed your guidance and the people we met along the way. Kind regards.

  15. Susan Pigorsch

    Dear Anne,
    The biggest highlight of my daughter’s freshman year of college may be the discovery of Umbria in June, thanks to your generous tutelage. Your beautiful corner of the world has made the impression of a lifetime, beginning with everyday things like washing hands in a 17th century marble sink and shucking fava beans. The backpackers are off to discover Rome and Athens, but I’m sure they’ll be back to explore more of Assisi with you on a future adventure. You’ve captivated their imagination … and mine as well. It’s time for me to start planning a visit, too! Thanks again for everything.

  16. J. Kevin Crocker

    What fun Anne. One of these years school will be out early enough for me to make it to the Corsa die Ceri, but in the meantime I must take in this event. I was not even aware. Next year!! Again, Anne you always bring in so much color with your articles. Always a treat to read them.

  17. Dominick Preziosi

    It is always such a pleasure to read Anne’s posts, and of course view the beautiful photos. I get a sense of being in Italy with each read – the people, traditions, passions, culture etc. Thanks for making my day!

  18. The pagan ancient ceri race in gubbio is one of the most fascinating traditions I came across in Italy. I was sorry I never got to see it. Thanks so much for bringing it to life here!

  19. Stephanie

    Oh, I love the smiling sea of faces on those kids! All that youthful energy must really rub off on you, Anne! Again, I am always struck by the passing on of these beautiful traditions to the next generation. I really want to visit Umbria in spring and witness all those amazing celebrations. Thanks for sharing.

  20. Marianna Raccuglia

    Ah, dear Anne, Another wonderful history lesson! How nice to see children so involved and so interested in participating in this event. Your photos capture the moments beautifully!

  21. Janet Eidem

    This takes me right back to Italy and Gubbio. Thanks so much for re-posting. Gubbio is a special place, noble.

  22. Sandi Spector

    Thanks so much for republishing, since must have missed the note last year. Knew it could only come from Annie. Maybe we can make this event, even if we can’t come to the Adult Version on the 15th.

  23. Maria Ingham

    Feste and family, especially children, that’s Italy! Beautiful and informative entry.

  24. Fantastic, Anne – thanks for reposting! Sure beats the heck out of sitting aorund all day playing Grand Theft Auto or something . . .

  25. Lynn Cowhig

    Anne, you make it seem as if we were there, but alas, only in dreams. Looks like lots of joy this day.

  26. Judi Dalton

    I think you could organize a whole tour around these festivals.

  27. Anne Robichaud

    Judi, hope to organize a tour for 10 maximum early next May….and we WILL take in Assisi’s wondrous Calendimaggio festival (and not only!)

  28. Janine Belveal

    Very descriptive account of a tradition held dear by the people of Gubbio. The photos enhance the narrative drawing you close to the event. Anne’s enthusiasm is exceeded only by her genuine love of this region of Italy and of its people and traditions.


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