Our Bike Across Italy trip stops in the most incredible villages, including Gubbio, where every spring they celebrate the lively, colorful Festival dei Ceri. Read more here about this illustrious event happening during our May 2017 trip--and other Spring festivals across Central Italy.
So, the real story behind the Festival of the Ceri is that it’s one of the most ancient folkloristic festivals you will find in Italy and it reveals both religious and pagan origins; a pagan festival in honour of Ceres, Goddess of the Harvest, Glory of Communities, Renaissance Power. Others speculate that in 1154, these were celebrations after the victory of Gubbio against 11 allied cities. The most likely story is that of the Eugubini themselves, named after Ubaldo Badassini, Bishop of Gubbio in the12th century, felt inspired to celebrate. Beloved by his people, Ubaldo died on May 16, 1160 and the locals responded with a pilgrimage including illuminated candles. Since that year, the procession del transito (movement) has been organized on the eve of Ubaldo’s death, with the offering of votive candles.
Which of these legends is true? We may never know.
What’s most notable (and fun for us on tour) is that every May 15 on the eve of the day of mourning, the people of Gubbio take part in a great, lively, mystical procession, carrying these huge candles all around the town and up to the top of Mount Ingino (where, since September 11, 1194 the body of Saint Ubaldo lies in the church which bears his name). This is an event not to be missed. Join our May Bike Across Italy trip and you shall see it all!
Other May Festivals in Central Italy
Sagra della Fragola (Strawberry Festival, Manciano). Actually held in the tiny nearby village of Marsiliana (where you will also find some incredible ancient, Etruscan ruins), the Strawberry Festival - Sagra della Fragola - happens the last Sunday in May.
La Barabbata is celebrated May (in Marta) on the shores of Lake Bolsena. In this procession, men wear costumes representing the old trades and carry their tools while white buffalo pull floats carrying the fruits of the trades.
Festa della Fava e del Pecorino (Broad Beans and Sheep Cheese Festival, Isola di Giglio)-in May.
Sagra del Carciofo - Festival of the Artichoke. May 5-7 in Montelupone (Le Marche).
Calendimaggio (Assisi). Calendimaggio is celebrated in early May in Assisi, Umbria. A spectacular evocation of Medieval and Renaissance costumes and life. The two ancient medieval wards, the "Parte di Sopra" and the "Parte di Sotto", engage in a spectacular challenge which takes the form of theatre shows, concerts, songs and choruses, dances, processions, archery, crossbow and flag-waving displays. The districts compete in a singing contest among the spectacular floral decorations, flags, torches and candles.
La Palombella, in Orvieto, is a festival representing the descent of the Holy Spirit on the Apostles. The festival is held on Pentecost Sunday (7 weeks after Easter) in the piazza in front of the duomo and ends with a fireworks display.
La Notte dei Pirate - The Night of the Pirates (Porto Ercole), May 5-8. An event for locals and tourists alike kicks off at 19:00 with a large number of free plates of roasted fish on the beach of the port, and continues for three days finishing with the presentation of "Piatto d'oro" (a plate of gold) to the best crew and for the best decorated pirates den. This event is great for kids.
Orbetello Bike Festival! Three days dedicated to cycling that include very easy, easy and difficult routes in the company of local expert bikers and guides. If you are feeling Italian and adventurous, you can even partake in the MTB competition to become champion of Orbetello! More information at: www.orbetellobikefestival.com.
Festa al Prugnolo - Blackhorn Festival (Montieri) May 13 & 14. On the Saturday, a day of nature amongst the woodlands surrounding this Tuscan hill town during which you can learn the secrets of the most prized of mushrooms, the "Prugnolo", followed by a tastings of local typical products based upon the Prugnolo, and then a dinner of local foods with music. This one is definitely for mushroom lovers! On the Sunday there are gastronomic food stands, markets, shows, local artisans, and the opportunity to purchase Maremma foods directly from the farmers and artisans that produce them. With both a lunch and dinner of typical local dishes and specialities.
The Wedding of the Trees, Sposalizio dell'Albero, takes place May 8 in the northern Lazio town of Vetralla. A couple of oak trees are decorated with garlands, horsemen offer bouquets of the first spring flowers and new trees are planted while everyone enjoys a free picnic lunch. The ceremony revives Vetralla's sovereignty over the forests and continues the right of each citizen to a cubic meter of firewood annually.
Cantine Aperte, open cantinas, is a big wine celebration throughout Italy the last weekend of May. Many cantine or wineries are open to guests and have special events.
'Night of Museums' is held on a Saturday in mid-May. Museums in many Italian cities are open late, often with free admission and special events.