Urbino – le Marche

Urbino is a small, absolutely gorgeous, and wonderful place. Stepping into Urbino feels like entering a Renaissance painting, with its cobblestone streets winding through a labyrinth of medieval buildings and palaces. 

This town and nearby Urbania remain special places for my wife and me, with many happy memories. Visit, and you'll find yourself completely enchanted. 

UrbinoThe Palazzo Ducale and the Cathedral (duomo) of Urbino

Urbino was the first place I stayed in the Le Marche region and it was the first place we ever rented a beautiful Italian cottage.  We'd always stayed in B&Bs or hotels before and were a little nervous about changing, but, after our experience here, we fell in love with having our own place—it made us feel like locals. Our first real vacation in Italy as a married couple, our time here cemented my love for Le Marche and, of course, for my wife, Maria! 

Nearly thirty years later, and having now visited every region in Italy and many, many towns from the far north to the far south and most of the islands, I still rate Urbino as one of the loveliest of all the many lovely sights and towns I have seen in Italy, If there is one town in Italy that is seriously under the radar, it is Urbino, and it is easily on a par with more famous towns like Siena and Lucca. In fact, because of the lack of crowds it is even better.

Where to Stay

Hotels in Urbino are, on the whole, a pretty miserable lot. Don't worry though; we have discovered a truly wonderful place to stay. It's  about 20-minute drive away and is the Country House Ca' Virginia (click for more). The Virginia is a painstakingly restored farmhouse nestled in unforgettable scenery.  Stay here and you'll experience for yourself why life in Italy can be so very delightful. 

This is an ideal place to base yourself to explore the surrounding areas, from Urbino to San Leo (a delightful hilltop village) - you will need a car though.

About Urbino

Urbino is known as the cradle of the Italian Renaissance and remains as it was all those centuries ago. One of the best preserved Renaissance towns in all of Italy.

At the heart of Urbino stands the magnificent Palazzo Ducale, the Ducal Palace, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a masterpiece of Renaissance architecture. Built in the 15th century, this grandiose palace was the seat of power for the Montefeltro family, who ruled over Urbino during its golden age. The palace's imposing facade, adorned with intricate decorations and sculptures, hints at the opulence within. Inside, you'll find a wealth of artistic treasures, including works by renowned artists such as Raphael, Piero della Francesca, and Titian.

Don’t miss the following museums to see some of the accomplishments of the leading figures of the time: the National Gallery of Art, the Albani Museum, the Gessi Museum, the Archeological Museum, and the Typography Museum.

Drop by the university too. Founded in the 16th century, it played a pivotal role in shaping intellectual and artistic discourse during the Renaissance. Notable figures like Raphael and Bramante studied and worked here, contributing to Urbino's reputation as a center of learning and innovation.

Churches and cathedrals of great interest are the Urbino Cathedral, the Church of St. Francesco, the Church of St. Domenico, and the Church of St. Spirito.

Visit the fifteenth-century home of Raffaello Sanzio (Raphael), the famous Renaissance artist.

🖼️ Immerse yourself in the Renaissance atmosphere with the help of an expert guide who will lead you to the discovery of this small and elegant center including Palazzo Ducale

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Other illustrious names born here include Donato Bramante, Girolamo Genga, Federico Barocci, Federico Brandanti, and many more. It's quite a collection of famous names for a little place like this, and the things to see in such a small town leave many a city looking pretty poor.

But it is not only Urbino's past glories that make this town a great destination but also its vibrant present. The city thrives as a hub of creativity and artistic expression. Its streets are lined with artisan workshops, where skilled craftsmen practice age-old traditions passed down through generations.

In recent years, Urbino has also emerged as a cultural destination, hosting events and festivals that celebrate its rich artistic heritage. The Urbino International Film Festival showcases the best in independent cinema, while the Urbino Chamber Music Festival attracts world-class musicians and performers from around the globe. These events bring together locals and visitors alike, fostering a sense of community and creativity that is integral to Urbino's identity.

I spent a week here the first time I visited, and I still hadn't seen everything. I didn't want to leave either; the town is just so seductive.

The description of the town by Carlo Bo—the deceased president of the local university—is wonderful. I have tried to translate it to English, and although a lot is lost in translation, it still conveys the "special something" about the town.

Carlo writes: "There exist those towns where the souls remain forever open to discovery. This is Urbino, the city of emotions, unpredictable and incomparable. This is not only for the artistic patrimony, but for the city itself, for its extraordinary beauty, and for the very air that one breathes."

Whoever arrives in this magical town for the first time is in for an extraordinary surprise, a leap back in time, and a journey that lifts the spirit.

What to Eat in Urbino

Culinary delights await those exploring Urbino's gastronomic scene. From hearty, rustic dishes to delicate pastries, the city's cuisine reflects the bounty of the Marche region. Local specialties include crescia, a savory flatbread, and ciauscolo, a soft, spreadable salami. Pair these delicacies with a glass of Verdicchio, a crisp white wine native to the region, for a true taste of Urbino.

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