Urbino is a walled medieval city in Le Marche Italy and, together with Pesaro, it’s the capital of the Pesaro and Urbino Province. This evocative hilltop village is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is one of the most important Renaissance sites in Italy.
At the top of the list of art destinations in Italy, it’s also the birthplace of Raffaello Sanzio, a historical Italian painter, and architect of the High Renaissance. There’s no doubt: if you are seeking an in-depth cultural experience of Italy, Urbino is a must-see.
Federico di Montefeltro, Duke of Urbino in the 15th century, is the most renowned ruler that contributed to the formation of the town. During his reign, this territory reached the greatest period of artistic splendor. Also in this epoch, the medieval residence of Montefeltro was embellished to become the Ducal Palace, which is the main attraction of the city.
One of the things that impressed me most at this village was the evocative atmosphere: you can really feel the heartbeat of the Italian Renaissance and imagine the future of the new generation, thanks to its famous university. It combines dream and reality, where past & future meet the present.
Are you ready to start the tour? Travel back in time and visit this magical city.
Top things to do:
Visit the Ducal Palace (Palazzo Ducale) and the National Gallery of Marche (Galleria Nazionale delle Marche)
Palazzo Ducale, one of the most impressive examples of Italian Renaissance architecture, is the main attraction of the town. Built in the XV century, it was the Duke’s main headquarters. The term “Palace” doesn’t do this building justice: it is a magnificent small city safeguarded by defensive walls.
The Ducal Palace hosts the National Gallery of the Marche, that exhibits some of the most important masterpieces of the Renaissance art. Raffaello Sanzio, Piero della Francesca, and Paolo Uccello are just some of the most famous artists represented here.
I recommend you stop for a few minutes to observe the famous painting named “The Ideal City”. Painted between 1470 and 1490 and kept at the National Gallery, it seems to be a real mystery. Why is it empty of human activity? Who is the real painter?
Don’t miss the Raffaello’s House (La Casa Natale di Raffaello)
Urbino is the birthplace of Raffaello Sanzio, and the house where he was born is now a museum. Once you arrive in the central square, you can go up to one of the main streets and you’ll arrive there. Giovanni Santi, Raffaello’s father, a poet, and painter bought the house in the 15th century. Here, Santi organized a small atelier for this son, where Raffaello started learning the principles of painting.
Visit the Urbino Cathedral (Duomo)
This Cathedral, adjacent to Pallazzo Ducale, was built by Bishop Mainardo in 1063.
With an impressive façade made with glowing white stone from Furlo, this cathedral was dedicated to the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
In the 15th century, the cathedral was rebuilt again and at the end of the 18th century took its definitive neo-classical style. This is a must-see!
Oratory of St. John the Baptist (or Oratorio di San Giovanni Battista)
This small chapel, built in the 14th century, preserves a significant Gothic fresco cycle in Le Marche, realized by the medieval painters Lorenzo and Jacopo Salimbeni.
The oratory frescoes demonstrate the early adhesion to the international gothic style and include Crucifixion and many important scenes life of St John the Baptist. A perfect place to perceive religion as the soul of art and culture!
Go out for a happy hour amongst the students
In this place, I had the impression of seeing the past and the future mixed together.
Thanks to the famous university, the students’ presence in the city evokes an atmosphere full of life. So, I suggest you taking your little dose of local life and going out for a drink amongst the students!
Taste La Crescia sfogliata
No, don’t call it piadina, even if it has a similar appearance! It tastes different and it’s delicious. My favorite one? Crescia with sautéed vegetables and local cheese. Don’t forget to add la crescia to your must-eat list!
Take a tour with a brilliant tour guide
To understand and feel the history os this city nothing could be better than a capable guide. This is one of the cases where a good tour guide can make your travel experience unforgettable. I was very fortunate when visiting this village: I did a tour in the Ducal Palace with an excellent local guide that moved me. So, I suggest this experience for all travelers: who can forget such an emotionally-rich story?
Go to the Fortezza Albornoz and enjoy the stunning landscape of the city
This impressive view seems to never end. If you see the splendor of Urbino from the top, certainly you’ll understand immediately why it’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The Fortezza Albornoz dominates the city and offers the most complete overview of the city to its visitors. It’s breathtaking!
Tap into the rhythms of the art on an unforgettable journey through Urbino!
Where is it located & map
The town is situated in the Marche region of Italy, in the province of Pesaro andUrbino (central Italy).
How to get to the city
The city is not connected to the train station, so the easiest way to get there is by car or by bus.
Distances to / from the city: Ancona 100 km, Rome 270 km, Rimini 60 km.
The nearest bus station is situated just outside the train station in the nearby town of Pesaro (approximately 45 min ride).
TIPS FROM A LOCAL
UrbinoIncoming agency owner
Federico was the first person from Urbino I’ve met: he’s very proud of his job and city.
I’ve asked him some questions: let’s check it out!
If you could only recommend one thing to a visitor while in your town, what would it be?
I really love my town, so it is very difficult to recommend just one thing. But I would say that no one can miss a walk in the historical city center, included in the list of UNESCO heritage sites. It can really transmit the essence of a city, that was the cradle of the Renaissance, and today is home of one of the oldest universities in Italy. Walking, listening to the sounds, the smells, seeing many young people walking inside the historical walls, can give a peaceful and quiet atmosphere which is the essence of traveling.
What is the best place to try la crescia here, in your opinion?
I could say there are many places where it’s nice to try La Crescia, and I loved to have it at least once a week. Maybe one of the top places you can find it at Ragno D’Oro bar and restaurant, in front of the Raphael Monument (open just in summer time) or even a great La Crescia Baciocca’s style, that you can taste at Caffè degli Angeli, in the Borgo Mercatale square.
If you should describe your town in one phrase, what would it be?
I’d like to describe my city with one phrase of one of most important author and poet, Paolo Volponi, who wrote in a letter to a friend:
“To continue to love and live in Urbino it is necessary to join, beyond the threads and the network of any description and relationship, with the wandering images, astral or artistic, of the city; challenge every time the vertigo of the stone eagle above the abyss of the tip of the torricini. And here you could start many references with the kites, the winds, the towers, the pigeons, the hills, the landscapes, the sparrows, the passages, etc …”
I think it’s something deep. I think it’s something true.
How can you not agree with Federico?