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Merri Travels

Exploring Gubbio

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Tuesday July 1 2008

In some of these old preserved medieval towns in Europe, like Assisi and Gubbio, if you look, you can find some old historic trails that too many tourists don't seem to find and that people these days don't seem to use.

I went into the old part of the town, where the ancient walls beckoned from up high. I found a road that wound up and up, that eventually led me right up to some remains of the old walls. A barricade across the road said No passagio - and I wasn't sure if that was for cars or people, so I turned back. But, in so doing, I spied a small, barely used trail, but definitely a trail, leading up behind the old wall, and below a no-trespassing orchard. So I followed it, the way partially covered by grass and blackberry vines.

It led along behind the old city wall - its defense and sight holes still intact - for a ways before the trail became way too overgrown to attempt to pass in sandals. So I turn around, and as I backtracked, I ran my hand along the ancient walls - I always have to touch these old structures. I used to do rock work for the Forest Service - building steps and walls in the mountains... but my walls were at the most 10 feet long and 5 layers high, not 3 miles long and 2 feet thick and 40 feet high. I know what a pain in the butt it is to fetch rocks to build a small wall, from further away the higher you build. We fetched all our rocks by hand. Maybe the ancients used horses. Maybe they didn't. It was still all built by hand; at some point a human had to lift, carry, and place each single stone in the proper position - and sometimes you go through 5 or 6 rocks before one fits just right, or you have to shape one with your 5 lb hammer or geo pick or sledge hammer, and then you bust it in the process and have to start all over. And you're bound to smash a finger or toe along the way. I'm fascinated by these massive old walls and buildings, and I can feel the hard work and sweat and blood that went into everything.

There are at least 30 old centuries-old palaces and churches you can visit in Gubbio, with any number of ornate altars, tombs, preserved frescoes, and preserved saints to view. The bells clanging and bonging from the churches below the city walls at noon are an aural extravaganza.

At the other end of the town, the Ranghiasci Park rises to meet the old city walls under shady maples and oaks and chestnut trees. Above these walls runs an old aqueduct that is still, some 2000 years later, being used. I haven't figured out how to get up to that yet.


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