Gubbio’s Corsa dei Ceri Piccoli

The Corsa dei Ceri is one of the most ancient festivals in all of Italy; second only to Siena’s Palio in popularity. It’s a wild event that takes place on May 15th of every year, in which teams of runners race through the streets of the town carrying 700 pound carved wooden columns affixed with images of one of three saints, before ascending the steep path to the Basilica di San Ubaldo at the top of Mount Ingino.

Throughout the year the ceri rest within the Basilica di San Ubaldo. This will give you an idea of their massive size and weight.

In a brief blog post there’s no way to adequately describe the complex and arcane rules of the race, the pageantry surrounding the all-day festival, or to convey the excitement of the event, but on the second of June the townsfolk of Gubbio conduct a mini version – the Corsa dei Ceri Piccoli.

It’s mini only in the scale of the participants and the size and weight of the Ceri they carry. The Corsa dei Ceri Piccoli is designed to introduce the children of Gubbio to the traditions of their ancestors. The smaller Ceri are still heavy, the pageantry still grand, and the enthusiasm just as electric.

You might be awakened shortly after sunrise by the sound of drums beating faster and faster. You can join the corps as they march through the streets, stopping below each captain’s window, calling them down to lead their group. The crowds swell and the enormous Piazza Grande fills until it’s elbow-to-elbow.

Once the ceremonies begin things happen fast. The Ceri with their saints charge down the steps of the Palazzo dei Consoli, captains raise ceremonial ceramic jugs filled with water and smash them at the exact moment as the ceri are raised on their scaffolds and the ceraioli (the carriers) take off running.

Somehow the crowd parts to allow the race to begin. You can see the cero being carried aloft by the young ceriaoli

If you’re allergic to cuteness you’d better stay away from Gubbio on June 2nd, because there’s no escaping it – beautiful children dressed in colors representing their saints are everywhere as their proud parents cheer them on.So as not to be outdone by their teenage counterparts even the tiniest residents of Gubbio get to carry their most mini of ceri. It’ll still be a few years before they can fully participate in the Corsa dei Ceri Piccoli, but they’ll be ready. If you’d like to take in the spectacle for yourself please join us on our 2020 Sojourn to Umbria!