Gubbio is an ancient town whose origins go back to the height of the Umbrian civilization, as can be seen from the Eugubine Tablets (seven bronze tablets with writing in the Umbrian language, preserved at the Civic Museum in Palazzo dei Consoli). The Romans gave it the name Iguvium, and later Eugubium. Destroyed by the Goths (552), who were succeeded first by the Byzantines (592) and then the Lombards (772), it rose again in the 11th century, when it was established as an independent commune. In the 12th century, Gubbio, under the spiritual guidance of Bishop Ubaldo, the great protector of Gubbio, won a war against Perugia and other nearby towns. Thanks to its thriving industry (specialized in majolica pottery), it reached its greatest splendor in the 14th century, during which time many monuments were built and it took on the medieval appearance that still has today. In 1384 it became part of the Duchy of Urbino, and went with Urbino to the Papal States in 1631.
Gubbio is one of the most ancient towns in Umbria, remaining marvelously well-preserved over the centuries, with many monuments that bear witness to its glorious past. Architecturally it represents the zenith of medieval civilization and of society in the 1200-1300s, with the system of the guilds.
Evidence of its ancient origins is provided by the Eugubine Tablets, one of the most important archeological records in Italy – seven bronze tablets with writing in the Umbrian language preserved at the Civic Museum – and the Roman Theater standing just outside the city walls. The monumental Basilica of Sant’Ubaldo, which holds the remains of the town’s patron saint, towers over Gubbio, with its architectural masterpieces that stand as symbols of the power of this medieval city-state.
Construction began in the early 14th century on the superb complex that includes the Palazzo dei Consoli, symbol of the town and home of the Picture Gallery and Archeological Museum, the Piazza della Signoria and Palazzo Pretorio, which serves today as the Town Hall. Also deserving mention are Palazzo Beni, the Bargello with its famous fountain, and the Palazzo del Capitano del Popolo. The Renaissance Ducal Palace, attributed to Francesco Giorgio Martini, documents the town’s brilliant period under the rule of the Montefeltro dukes. Also interesting are the Cathedral (12th century), Santa Maria Nuova, with the Madonna of the Belvedere by Ottaviano Nelli inside, the Church and Convent of Sant’Agostino (13th century) with frescoes by Nelli, the Church and Convent of San Francesco, San Giovanni, characterized by the Romanesque façade and bell tower, San Pietro and San Domenico.
Also of interest are Piazza 40 Martiri with the Church and Ospedale dei Bianchi, the Loggia dei Tiratori and the Church of Sant’Andrea or Monastery of di San Marziale.
Sights outside the walls are the Roman Mausoleum, the Church of San Secondo, the Church of Madonna del Prato and the Church of the Vittorina.
Natural attractions include the Mt. Cucco Park nature area and the fascinating Bottaccione Gorge, with the rocks that, according to one theory, reveal the secrets of the disappearance of the dinosaur 65 million years ago.
The history of Montone, which begins in the 9th century, is intimately connected with the vicissitudes of the Fortebraccio family, which ruled the area. In 1200 the family decided to overcome politically and peacefully the struggles for controlling the territory disputed between Perugia, Gubbio and Città di Castello: it ceded all of its possessions to Perugia and in exchange received the title of “Perugian nobles” and other privileges. In 1368 the most famous of the Fortebraccios was born in Montone: Andrea, later known as Braccio da Montone, who became one of the most celebrated condottieri. Following his death and after various vicissitudes, Montone became subject to the rule of the Church. It became an autonomous commune once again only after the birth of the Kingdom of Italy (1860).
The building of greatest artistic interest in Montone is the Gothic Church of San Francesco (14th century) with a single nave and polygonal apse. Inside are numerous Umbrian frescoes, some attributed to the master Bartolomeo Caporali, and interesting wooden sculptures. The church is also the home of the Municipal Museum, which holds paintings, silver, and sacred vestments of great artistic value and, on the ground floor, the Ethnographic Museum, with over 600 items from Eastern Africa.
The Municipal Historical Archives, one of the most important in Umbria for its extensive collection of documents, is also in the historic center, in the former convent of Santa Caterina.
Another important religious building is the Parish Church of San Gregorio, Montone’s oldest church, built in about 1000 AD in the Romanesque-Byzantine style: it has an unusual round apse with frescoes from the Umbrian school. Also worthy of a visit is the Collegiate Church, built in 1310 and restored during the 17th century; on Easter Monday the relic of the Holy Thorn is put on display.
Just outside the center one finds the Rocca d’Aries, an imposing castle which has been returned to its ancient splendor by painstaking restoration work.