Three laps to receive a “madman’s licence”
A typical example of local Gothic architecture, the Palazzo del Bargello in Gubbio was the seat of the local police chief in medieval times. It is known for the so-called “Porta del Morto” (Door of the Dead) on its façade, used as an exit for the “dearly departed” according to some, or for security reasons according to others. The building is also famous for the 16th-century Bargello Fountain, dating back to the 16th century but rebuilt in the 19th century, in front of the building.
Traditionally, anyone who completes three laps around it and is splashed with water from the fountain symbolically receives a “madman’s licence”, which is why the attraction is also nicknamed the Fountain of Madmen. The ritual is inspired by the “birate”, or fast laps around the main flagpole in Piazza Grande during the Ceri Festival. After completing the ritual, you can purchase your licence at the souvenir shops along Via dei Consoli.
There is a scientific explanation as to why Gubbio is considered the city of madmen. Geological studies have found it was once contaminated by iridium, a silvery-white, very hard metal belonging to the platinum group. The “madness” of the locals can therefore be traced back to this highly toxic chemical.