The Race of the Candles: Inside Italy's Festivals

If you’re a traveler that is looking for adventure mixed with rich history, then The Race of the Candles is the perfect festival destination for you.

Photo © iStock/fabio82

It’s a tradition that has been carried on since 1242, and perhaps the most amazing part is that little about the festival has changed over the centuries.


Gubbio, Italy


The ancient festivity is held each year in Gubbio, Italy beginning on May 3rd and culminating on May 15th.


Corsa Dei Ceri, or the Race of the Candles, is one of the most popular festivals worldwide as well as one of the most exciting. Contrary to popular belief, it’s got nothing to do with actual candles. It consists of teams of young men carrying three ‘Ceri’, enormous wooden biers each weighing nearly half a ton and topped with the statue of a different Saint, through the steep streets of Gubbio and up Mount Ingino to the Basilica of St. Ubaldo. The winner of the “race” is determined not by which group finishes first, but by the team that exhibits the most skill.  It is an experience not to be missed.

Each year, thousands of spectators gather to watch the incredible feat of strength and rich tradition and to partake in the colorful celebration that accompanies the event.  Gubbio also boasts of a myriad of restaurants, Bistros and Cafés that serve traditional Umbian dishes like torta al testo, to add a tasty addition for those traveling to see the festivities.  

Travel Safety Tips

As with any world event of this size, however, participants should exercise caution and follow safety guidelines to ensure the experience is both memorable and safe.  A few good tips to keep in mind:

  • Designate a meeting place in case someone gets lost.
  • Carry hand sanitizer to combat germs and avoid getting sick.
  • Dress in layers.
  • Pack bottled water.
  • Carry cash and credit cards in a concealed place, to avoid being pick pocketed.
  • In case of a stampede, always move with the crowd while working your way to the outside.

The nearest hospital is Gubbio Hospital (Ospedale Gubbio) located at via S. Francesco (Tel: 075 942 2111).

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