“Have you ever been to Urbino? If your answer is no, you should feel guilty because you will be missing out on an important dimension of italian civilization. This is said not only because of its artistic heritage, but also because of the physognomy of the city, its air and the extraordinary beauty of its land. Urbino is an enchanted landscape” – this is how Urbino was described by Carlo Bo, outstanding chancellor of the university that bears his name.
We no longer wanted to feel guilty therefore we dedicated a week end toward the end of August to visit this jewel in the Italian region of Marche, which perfectly maintains the appearance decided upon by Duke Federico of Montefeltro.
A refined and well-educated humanist, friend of mathematicians and artists, Federico was first a count then became the city’s duke from 1444 to 1482.
He is responsible for the construction of the symbol of his power and of the entire Renaissance: the Palazzo Ducale building.
Unfortunately, the restauration of the splendid facade of the Torricini did not allow us to fully enjoy the most famous landmark of the city; therefore, we decided to walk the Piero della Francesca panoramic trail and admire bell towers, roofs and towers surrounded by the green hills rising up among the valleys of Foglia and Metauro rivers.
Once we arrived at Pian del Monte, where the Fortezza Albornoz is located, which today holds the arechaeology museum and the Bella Gerit (the ducal armory), we went down the narrow streets and the piole (the steps) to reach the earth of the Reinassance village and the home where Raffaello born.
This dwelling, typical of the 15th century, is famuse above all for the fresco depicting “La Madonna col Bambino“, considered by some to be the first work by the artist under the guidance of his “artist father” Giovanni Santi, who also had his studio here.
Not too far away there are two important oratories: St. Joseph’s, built in the 16th century and ordered by the confraternity named after him, and St. Jhon the Baptist’s of the 14th century with its late-Gothic, perfectly kept frescos, work by Lorenzo and Jacopo Salimbene from San Severino Marche.
To get an other point of view of the city we thought we would visit the Museo della Città (the city museum), located just steps from the two symbolic buildings of Urbino: the Duomo (city’s cathedral) and the Palazzo Ducale.
At first you are impressed by the singular combination.
The marble of the cathedral’s 18th century facade contrasts with the bricks of the adjacent building designed by Luciano Laurana and Francesco di Giorgio Martini.
Before submerging ourselves in the Montefeltro atmosphere, we thought it would be right and proper to pay homage to the local cuisine by tasting the crescia sfogliata (a typical flatbread) from which the more famous – but less noble – piadina romagnola came to be.
In our opinion, you must not miss out one of the typical cheese of the area, the Casciotta di Urbino, DOP (Protected Denomination of Certified Origin).
This was our lunch break with Crescia flatbread and Casciotta cheese.
Re-enegized by a quick lunch, we then moved to the Palazzo Ducale where a guide showed us through the building Cortile d’Onore (Main Forecourt) and the Scalone Monumentale (Main Staircase), and next to the various apartments. The Palazzo is divided into several apartments and there we found several masterpieces of Piero della Francesca, Pedro Berruguete and Paolo Uccello.
Duke Federico’s study is unforgettable: its walls hold fine, perfectly kept inlays made by Flemish artists.
To satisfy the palate as much as the eyes, we decided to have dinner in a well-reviewed restaurant: the Taverna degli Artisti.
As an appetizer we ordered mixed cured meat and cheeses, accompanied by the ever-present crescia.
As first course we had two types of pasta: chitarrine (this pasta resembling guitar strings) with radicchio and formaggio di fossa (literally “cheese of the pits” because is ripened in special underground pits) and strozzapreti (literally “strangle priests”, an hand rolled elongated pasta) with mushrooms.
As a second course, straccetti all’urbinate (Urbino-style finely sliced meat) on a bed of Swiss chard and formaggio di fossa.
This was a restaurant with a very good price: quality ratio and also excellently located, just steps from one of the entrances to the historical city center: Porta Santa Lucia.
After a brief walk through the streets of the city, submerged in an almost unreal silence, we returned to the hotel, sated and satisfied.