What to do in one day in Urbino, in Marche?
Elegantly situated in the hills of the Marche, we find the beautiful Urbino, a jewel of the Italian Renaissance. The city is a hub of art, culture and history, and enchants even the most demanding tourists. Today we are going to take a walk through the splendid Urbino.
Watch this amazing video about Urbino
Today we are going to the Marche (Marcas) region. It is a region little known by the large tourist public, but it is home to really special cities, such as Urbino.
Urbino was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1998, and offers us a thousand scenarios, ranging from the Middle Ages to the Renaissance. The city has about 14,800 inhabitants and is spread over an area of 228 km². Urbino is also the birthplace of some famous Italian names, ranging from Raffaello, the famous Renaissance painter, to Valentino Rossi, MotoGP rider. Today I take you to discover a magical, poetic city that will win your heart over! Ready? Let’s go!
1) What to do in one day in Urbino, in Marche? THE DOGE’S PALACE
A must-see, of course, is the Doge’s Palace. The name of Palace, to be honest, does not ‘fit’ perfectly in this true fort. We are talking about, practically, a small town within another. The site was built at the request of Federico da Montefeltro and began to be built in 1444. Federico wanted the Doge’s Palace in Urbino to surpass, in beauty, all the other royal residences in Italy. Evidently, his desire was not only a way to expose his power to the world, he also wanted the city to be recognized as the ‘perfect city’, impenetrable, insurmountable and, for that, he would need a truly majestic fort: and so it was done! Furthermore, Federico was passionate about art and wanted to welcome artists to the city so they could work without distractions.
A little more about Palazzo Ducale
The construction of the site brought together several architects and took over 30 years. The most famous interventions, without a doubt, were those carried out by the hands of Maso di Bartolomeo, who created the Palazzetto della Jole (“Iole’s Small Palace”), the Melaranci apartment and part of the courtyard; Luciano Laurana, who was responsible for the arcaded courtyard, the Grand Staircase, the Library, the Sala degli Angeli (“Hall of the Angels”), the Sala delle Adienze (“Hall of the Adienze”), the Soprallogge, and study area; and Francesco di Giorgio Martini who completed the outstanding work masterfully. The two most beautiful legacies of this work of art are, without a doubt, the Facciata dei Torricini (“Façade of the Turrets”) and Lo studiolo (“The Small Study”), which is defined as a “chest of beauty, refinement, perspective.”
The National Gallery of the Marche
The Doge’s Palace currently houses the National Gallery of the Marche with works by Raphael, Titian and Piero della Francesca. The Museum uses 80 rooms in the Ducal Palace to house works of art from a collection that ‘walks around’ between the 1300s and 1600s. The works are predominantly paintings, but you can also see furniture, sculptures, tapestries and drawings. The main attractions are on the first floor, and are organized in the rooms where the duke and his family used to live. In one of the rooms, we can admire two masterpieces by Piero della Francesca: the Flagellation of Christ and the Madonna of Senigallia. Awesome!
2) What to do in one day in Urbino, in Marche? THE STUDIOLO DEL LUCA
Then head to Studiolo del Duca and its reception rooms where the “Ideal City”, the Communion of the Apostles, by Justus of Ghent, and the Profanation of the Host, by Paolo Uccello, are exhibited. Of course, a work by Rafaello could not be missing, which, in this case, is the Portrait of a Lady, which is next to the work Resurrection, by Titian, and the Last Supper. On the second floor, we find works from the 16th and 17th centuries, by artists such as Barocci, Gentileschi, Guerrieri.
The ticket to visit the site costs 8 euros and, if you want to access Rocca di Gradara, it costs 12 euros. You can buy the ticket online by clicking here!
3) What to do in one day in Urbino, in Marche? THE CASA DI RAFAELLO
Since we are in Raffaello’s hometown, of course, we cannot fail to mention The Casa di Raffaello, located in the artisans’ quarter. Raffaello was born here on March 28, 1483 and spent his childhood in the workshop of his father, an artist at the court of Federico da Montefeltro.
A little more about the Casa di Rafaello
The site was purchased by the Raffaello Academy, in 1873, and since then it has gathered several works related to the artist’s life. On the ground floor you can visit the workshop of his father, Giovanni Santi, which is now used for temporary exhibitions; on the first floor, there are some replicas of paintings by Raffaello and small tributes by other artists to the great painter of Urbino. When we arrive at the “Room of Raphael”, we can see a fresco representing the “Madonna with the Child“, considered a ‘juvenile’ work, which was made by the artist with his father. On the first floor, there is also a small patio with a well and a washbasin.
4) What to do in one day in Urbino, in Marche? THE ORATORY OF ST JOHN
Another must-see is the Oratory of St John, with its simple but elegant 1900’s Gothic façade. Once there, it’s impossible not to be surprised by the impressive work “Crucifixion“, which covers the entire wall of the apse. There, too, our eyes are drawn to the three crosses, with Jesus in the center and the two thieves at the side; the details are incredible and the more we look at the image, the more we understand the Passion of Christ. The expression of Jesus is something that gives us all the despair of the scene and, even if unintentionally, transports us ‘inside’ the painting.
A little more about The Oratory
The oratory is named after the frescoes on the right wall, which in both the upper and lower orders illustrate the life of St. John the Baptist. On the left wall we also find Our Lady of Humility painted in a splendid way. Leaving there, on the same street, you can also visit another oratory: the Oratory of St Joseph. Here you can see the beautiful stucco nativity scene dating back to 1560 and made in natural size; this is considered the oldest nativity scene in the world. The church of the Oratory, on the other hand, has a single nave and was built on a rectangular floor plan. The walls, apse and vault are frescoed with paintings by Carlo Roncelli and everything there is really beautiful. The ticket costs 5 euros for the two oratories or 3 euros to visit just one of them.
5) What to do in one day in Urbino, in Marche? THE DUOMO DI URBINO
Of course, talking about any Italian city without mentioning its Cathedral is almost a crime, so don’t miss the Duomo di Urbino, even if you only see it from the outside (I’ll explain why). This is the most important church in town, of course, but I have to say it might not be the prettiest.
The Duomo has been undergoing massive restoration for years, but the works seem to be endless. It was supposed to end in 2018, but that’s not what happened. As a matter of fact, the Duomo “suffering” is not any novelty: the first construction of the site dates back to 1021, but soon afterwards it underwent several renovations. After the earthquake of January 12, 1789, the Roman Giuseppe Valadier was in charge of rebuilding the current cathedral in neoclassical style.
Paintings by Federico Barocci
Inside the church there are two beautiful paintings by Federico Barocci: the Martyrdom of St. Sebastian and the Last Supper. The most interesting part of the Cathedral, however, are its caves, which over the centuries hosted a brotherhood. In the period of World War II, to protect themselves from bombs, soldiers took shelter in caves dug there; in the caves you find several chapels, in addition to the so-called ‘Corridor of Forgiveness’ which, according to an ancient Urbino tradition, was the path taken by pilgrims asking forgiveness for their sins during Easter Monday.
From there, take the opportunity to take a walk through the historic center of the city, which is very charming.
Urbino Attractions Map
More about Urbino
It is impossible not to mention the helical ramps as well. Urbino is essentially a vertical and steep city with narrow streets. In 1400, it was ideal for preparing ambushes for attacks, so Federico da Montefeltro ordered the construction of a bastion at the foot of the Turrets of the Doge’s Palace, and thus placed the famous helical ramps there.
Thanks to this admirable work of engineering, the duke was able to reach the ducal stables directly from the palace, but in 1800 the Raffaello Sanzio Theater was built there, which was not very well accepted, as it presents an architecture that ‘discords’ with the rest of the city. However, this has not changed the ramps, which were restored in the 70s and are today an elegant gateway for those who wish to arrive in and out of the historic center.
- Right in front of the theater entrance, you find a slightly curved wall. If you stand at both ends of the wall and speak very softly, the person on the other side can hear you! The wall was not made with this purpose, but it’s worth the ‘fun’ and this was discovered by the ‘gossips’ who discovered the ‘phenomenon’ by accident.
BONUS: VISIT GRADARA
Once in Urbino, pay a visit to Gradara. For fans of Dante’s ‘Divine Comedy’, Gradara has great meaning. The story of Paolo and Francesca takes place in the castle of this medieval village. The story goes that they became lovers and met their death at the hands of Gianciotto Malatesta. Dante writes the story evidencing lust, but causes the reader a kind of pity and empathy for a love full of truth and beauty. In addition to the history of lovers, Gradara is worth a visit because it is an incredibly preserved village, full of beauty and tranquility. If you’re in Urbino, include Gradara in your itinerary, you won’t regret it.
Urbino to Gradara
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What to do in one day in Urbino, in Marche? Despite being little known, Urbino is a city that deserves attention. If you’re nearby, don’t miss this city full of charm, which welcomes us so well and presents itself in such a friendly way to its visitors!
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