If you are like me, you probably do not know much about Gubbio or where it is located. Here is a quick rundown:
Gubbio “(Italian pronunciation: [ˈgubbjo])” is located in the far northeastern part of the Italian province of Umbria. “It is located on the lowest slope of Mt. Ingino, a small mountain of the Apennines…it was an important town of the Umbri in pre-Roman times, made famous for the discovery there of the Iguvine Tablets in 1444, a set of bronze tablets that together constitute the largest surviving text in the Umbrian language.” Like many European towns, Gubbio is an ancient, once-influential Italian town. They had a rise to power during the Middle Ages. The people of Gubbio engaged in wars and experienced turbulent times, eventually becoming part of Italy in 1860.
If it were not for two soon-to-expire Hyatt Hotel free night certificates, I do not think we would have ever found Gubbio. The Park Hotel Ai Capuccini, where we stayed, and which was recently added to the Hyatt Hotel Brand, is a former 17th Century monastery. I knew I would love this hotel when reviewers said things like,
“the hotel is too modern. Sure, the building is in keeping with the 17th century architecture. Unfortunately, the rooms have USB ports, which distract from the historic ambiance.”
I was like, “Dave, the bad reviews are regarding how up to date the rooms are, which distracts from the 17th century feel. I am like, distract me all you want. I think this hotel has just the right amount of history, minus the doilies and overly ornate taffeta drapes. Dude, sign me up!”
Since 2009, we have had a tradition of leaving town for the Thanksgiving holiday. In 2013, we altered that tradition and started leaving the country, usually to Europe. Our first Thanksgiving out-of-town trip was to Italy. Since Eli is a senior in high school and this may be our family Thanksgiving-in-Europe swan song, we were looking for a full-circle moment, especially since Rome is one of Eli’s favorite places.
When an inexpensive airfare deal showed its face in April 2019, we jumped. By October, we had booked out our Italy trip including our Gubbio nights. In truth, we are roll-of-the-dice travelers. If our Italian dream did not work out, we would have found another awesome adventure. Thankfully it did.
Further, I get totally bored with returning to the same hotel or same destination year after year. I do not understand why every local Utah high school student, since the beginning of high school trips, spends their Senior trip at Newport Beach or Lake Powell. Additionally, I think it is great that my friends own property on Bear Lake, a lakeside cabin community, which covers a little bit of Utah and about the same amount of Idaho. Bear Lake is beautiful. Nevertheless, if I were relegated to the same places, I think I might combust. I really enjoy the mystery a new place offers. Sure, we have been to Italy before. The Italian Alps near Mont Blanc in the west and the Dolomites in the east blow my mind. I actually will backpedal on my whole “I get bored with the same place” sentiment. My condition: if these Italian mountain destinations are included in the deal, I could return to either the Dolomites or the Aosta Valley year after year. So maybe you would still argue that Italy is no longer a mystery. Alas, we have never spent time in Umbria.
On our most recent trip, we knew we were flying in and out of Florence, Italy. We also wanted to make a pilgrimage to Rome’s Giolitti, our favorite gelato spot. A friend of a friend mentioned how much they love San Marino. So we figured we would probably love it too (and we did). On a recent trip, when we were near Florence, we explored the west side of Tuscany, visiting towns such as Sienna, San Gimignano, Lucca, and Pisa, (which are all amazing towns, by the way). We have also spent time in the Cinque Terre (on another Thanksgiving trip). In fact, I have vivid memories of eating our Thanksgiving meal in the Cinque Terre town of Di Volterra, Italy. I watched in full blown amazement as Dave ate a weird fish. (Out-of-town Thanksgiving meals make for some awesome stories, which definitely need to be included in another post).
Ultimately, I think the free hotel nights in between San Marino and Rome dictated our path. We delayed our trip two days so Eli wouldn’t miss as much school and we were on our way. It is always a little sad when Kyle is not there. We are glad we were able to travel to Abu Dhabi to see him this past October.
The downside to Gubbio was the jetlag. I only wish I was a little more coherent or we had stayed longer. The hotel was exactly as reviewed: a refurbished monastery. I LOVED it. Go Hyatt! The Aveda toiletries were a super bonus. It really was one of the times I wanted to hijack a housekeeping cart. I didn’t, but I thought about it often.
The town of Gubbio is beautifully fortified into a mountainside. We parked in a little parking lot near the Teatro Romano ruins, which is the second-largest surviving Roman Theater in the world. Then we walked into town. For you Pokemon Go players, Gubbio has many Pokestops. We walked up the narrow, cobblestone streets, past churches and shops. We tried to walk to the highest point. Years ago a friend mentioned that one of the best ways to see a city is to walk to its highest point. Since then we have actively heeded his advice. I often mention these experiences. Gubbio’s views did not disappoint. We made our way to a plaza which was located high above the town. Then we looked out into the Umbrian Valley. It was exquisite. We love finding towns and moments like these: the less mentioned but often more satisfying finds.
Back at the hotel, while Dave and I explored the massive hotel, a very jet lagged Eli took a nap. Along one of the crazy halls, Dave found these maps. We realized that the maps were outlining little road trip loops you can take. The next day we decided to make the trek. Somewhere in there, we stopped at the local grocery store, to grab lunch for the road. Then we drove outside of Gubbio and up into the Apennine Mountain range. We were blown away. The Italian Alps and the Dolomites are spectacular. We had no idea that the Apennine Mountain range would be so beautiful and cool. We found our way to another monastery. We drove past a ski resort that was being built. Of course we saw cows and we drove through fog. I felt like I was in a movie or a dream. In truth, I only wish we would have found some more hotel points and stayed in Gubbio so we could continue exploring magical Umbria.