Of all my “snapshots” to-date, this will be the sketchiest.
I can’t report in any depth about the memorable city of Urbino in a single blog post. My goal is to tantalize you to learn more on your own, and tempt you to consider seeing this beautifully preserved Italian town for yourself. Because it doesn’t get a great deal of attention from — at least — American travelers, I hope this glimpse suggest a new path of inquiry for your future travel.
Urbino is in the Marche region, inland from Fano, the coastal city I described recently. It’s a walled medieval/Renaissance city on a hillside, with one of the most dramatic aspects one could desire:
Urbino has long been a center of learning and culture, thanks especially to Federico de Montefeltro, Duke of Urbino from 1442 – 1482. His palace is one of the highlights of the city, both as architecture itself, and for the wealth of the artwork its museum, the Galleria Nazionale delle Marche.
The Marche region isn’t as familiar as Rome, Florence, Venice or Tuscany and Umbria are to Americans, and Urbino is off the customary travelers’ track. We had a car and made a stunningly lovely drive from Tuscany, skirted Arezzo, and crossed mountains and forests to get there.
Starting from left: Blue=Florence, Green=Arezzo, Red=Urbino, Black=Fano (subject of recent post).
A car is probably advisable for this trip, because it not only gets you there at your own pace, but allows you to explore the Marche region.
Urbino is relatively small, about 16,000 residents. The historic town is compact, and despite the presence of modern shops and cafes in the old buildings, you can walk the streets and still get a vivid impression of what a resident would have seen 500 years ago.
Urbino is the home of the University of Urbino, founded in 1506. It’s also a cathedral city. The cathedral church, Santa Maria Assunta, was begun in 1021, then rebuilt in the 15th Century at Federico’s direction from a design by the indefatigable Francesco di Giorgio Martini. The West Front facade, shown here, dates from about 1782.
Like most old cities that are still thriving, Urbino has an outlying district with contemporary conveniences for shopping. Because we were spending a week in a house with a kitchen, we found an excellent grocery for supplying what we needed to cook many of our meals for ourselves. Still, it’s the ancient streets, houses and views of the old town that demand as much of one’s time and attention as one can spare.
There are innumerable local restaurants, well worth exploring. Our final night, we treated ourselves to a memorable dinner at La Trattoria del Leone. I’m delighted to find it still extant; just follow that link.
Ancient city, home of artistic masterworks, university town, and welcoming people; Urbino is unforgettable.
Urbino is also an excellent base for exploring more of the towns and countryside of the Marche.
That will be the subject of my next snapshot.
© Brad Nixon 2017. Piero della Francesco Flagellazione © Galleria Nazionale delle Marche 2005