Gubbio – Introduction

Gubbio, Italy, is located in the Provincia di Perugia, Umbria.  It was chosen by Zeffirelli principally for the external location for the street fighting in the opening scenes and for the duel scene between Romeo and Tybalt. This hillside medieval town, with its hundreds of alleyways that have changed little for hundreds of years, was a wonderfully appropriate setting.  Most of the town walls and medieval gateways are still intact.

It is now very easy to get to.  It is just 40 minutes from Perugia airport by car, with a recently improved highway.  The town is built on three levels up the side of the lowest slope of Mt. Ingino, which forms part of the Apennines. The levels are accessed by quite steep stone staircases, although during the daytime there are public elevators that are easy to use.

The 1967 film locations are situated on the higher, third level within a fairly close proximity of each other at various places along the Via XX Settembre,  the main thoroughfare on the third level of Gubbio   I stayed in Gubbio in the summer of 2018, at the Hotel Relais Ducale.  This hotel is not only central for the locations, and is built on a number of levels, but also the back of the hotel features in the movie.  It is a former medieval palazzo in close proximity to the Palazzo Ducale that was the location for the Montague house external shots.

The shadows in the various film sequences suggest that the filming in Gubbio took place in the afternoon, to avoid the glare of the morning sunshine.

The relevant scenes and their external locations (shown in the Gubbio photo gallery of this website) are as follows:

Opening riot scenes

  1. The Montague faction led by Lord Montague leave the front entrance of the Palazzo Ducale and head down the Via S. Ubaldo towards the Via Ducale. (It should be noted that the Capulet’s house for the riot scenes was not filmed in Gubbio, but in the quadrangle of the Palazzo Piccolomini in Pienza, and then edited into the fight sequence).
  2. Two factions meet and fight in the Piazza Bargello, outside the Palazzo Bargello, which is at the far (north-western) end of the Via dei Consoli, an extension of the Via XX Settembre.
  3. The wounded Montague fighters are carried up the Via S. Ubaldo to the open door of the Montague house (Palazzo Ducale, situated opposite the Cathedral).

Romeo’s first appearance

  1. Romeo makes his first appearance, when he walks up the steep incline of the Via Ducale, situated off the Via XX Settembre. The Via Ducale was modified for filming in two ways: (i) a temporary  archway was constructed about half way up the street – to hide the electrical power cable that crosses the street at that point; and (ii) two artificial “stone” benches were constructed at the right side at the top of the incline, against the wall, which Romeo uses to lie on when he talks to Benvolio.  The house on the right of the archway shows the rear door of the third floor of the Hotel Relais Ducale and the windows of the fourth floor.  The wall against the benches are situated is the wall to the third level garden of the hotel.
  2. Benvolio (when he talks to Romeo) sits on a dwarf wall at the top of the incline, as the Via Ducale turns right to become the Via S. Ubaldo.
  3. When Romeo sees some of the wounded taken into the adjacent house, they are taken through the heavy wooden doors of the Museo Dicesano.
Gubbio - Robinson
G017 – Zeffirelli with Leonard Whiting and Bruce Robinson rehearsing the entrance scene of Romeo in the Via Ducale . Note Romeo’s “stone” bench in the background which fixes the location

Benvolio talks with Mercutio

  1. When Benvolio discusses with Mercutio the topic of Romeo’s behaviour, they are at the far end of the terrace at the top of the Palazzo dei Consoli (as indicated in the image below). The terrace has stone seating along its length and breadth, and Benvolio is sitting on this as he reads his book.  The Palazzo is situated in the Piazza Grande, which is part of the Via XX Settembre.  The central stone window pillar behind them in the camera shot is used to screen the traffic on the Largo Piero Luigi Menichetti, on the second level of Gubbio below them.Palazzo 2

The duel scene

  1. The death of Mercutio takes place in the main square on the film lot at Cinecittà movie studios, Rome.  Romeo races out of the main square (via the entrance to the film lot), and is next seen in an exterior shot.  The location of this in unknown, but the tiled porches to the houses and the old, heavy wooden door to one of the buildings are suggestive of Gubbio’s architecture.  I suspect it is within the vicinity of the Via XX Settembre, but I was not able to locate it, even after four days of searching all the back roads and alleyways.
  2. Romeo, in the next sequence, appears in a shot running from the end of the Via Monte at its junction with the Via Appennino. There is an ancient fig tree with its characteristic twisted trunk, which appears in the shot.  Romeo then stands at the doorway of the adjacent building and taunts Tybalt and his gang, who are walking up the Via Appennino.  The duel takes place in the vicinity of the fig tree and also adjacent to the old town wall that runs the length of the Via Appennino.
  3. A sword is later thrown into the air and the two gangs run down the Via Appennino toward the camera. The shot then cuts to the main square on the film lot at Cinecittà, where the two gangs enter via the main entrance to the film lot, and where Tybalt eventually meets his end.
  4.  The fig tree location can be found either by walking toward the furthest SE end of the Via Settembre XX where it meets the Via Appennino. Alternatively, it can be found by walking from the Palazzo Ducale (opposite the Cathedal) and following the Via S. Ubaldo until it forks.  The right hand fork is the Via Monte, which eventually leads to the fig tree and the junction with the Via Appennino.

Romeo escapes to Mantua

12.     Romeo leaves on horseback from the main door of the Montague house (Palazzo  Ducale) on the Via Ubaldo, at the top of the Via Ducale.

© Peter Hibbert and the Romeo & Juliet 1968 Movie Database, 2018.