Urbino sights: what to see in the birthplace of Raphael in Italy
Urbino, despite its modest size, is one of the most picturesque, multi-faceted and interesting cities in Italy. Having the deepest historical roots and a number of impressive achievements, the city has been and remains an important cultural and educational center of the Marche region for hundreds of years. Urbino alone attracts millions of tourists every year. This interest is more than deserved, as the sights of Urbino are quite unique, and today we will talk about them.
For tourists Urbino attracts dazzling beautiful medieval architecture, interesting events and, of course, priceless historical monuments. Urbino is worth a visit if only to visit the house where the great Raphael himself was born.
How to get to Urbino
Getting to Urbino is not so easy. The first thing you should do is to fly to the nearest airport. The airports of Rimini, Bologna and Ancona can be a starting point.
True, you can fly from Russia directly only to the first two. Find the necessary tickets for convenient dates is easiest in the form below.
Then you can get by public transport. However, there are no train connections to Urbino and the nearest transfer point is Pesaro. From the train station in Pesaro to Urbino there are regular buses 46 and CD/CS.
From Monday to Saturday buses run almost every hour, but on Sunday the number of trips is much less: the first bus leaves at 09:15 and runs every three hours (the last one is at 20:15). Travel time will be 45-75 minutes, depending on the particular flight.
Tickets are sold at press kiosks or on the bus itself at a vending machine. If you are going to buy a ticket on the bus, have some change ready in advance, as the machine doesn’t give out change.
The historic center of Urbino is a UNESCO World Heritage Site
A good option is to get to Raphael’s birthplace by car. You can always rent a car at the airport of arrival or pre-book a transfer.
The shortest way to Urbino is along the S 423 freeway with the starting point in Pesaro.
Keep in mind that you will probably have to leave your car outside the walls of the old town when you arrive. You can do it in any of the parking lots and from there take a shuttle bus or a cab to the city center.
For those of you planning a holiday in Rimini, we recommend booking a tour to Urbino with our wonderful guide Victoria, about whom Blogoitaliano wrote a separate article.
Take into account that this excursion destination is one of the most popular and in demand, in the peak season convenient dates may be busy. Book your tour in advance!
Those planning a trip to the city of Urbino in Italy for more than one day should take care to find a suitable hotel in advance. There are not many hotels in Urbino. The most luxurious – 4-star hotels are located in the city center.
Those who want to save money should consider apartments or private villas. You can find an accommodation that meets all your wishes by clicking on the link below.
Needless to say, in the old town of Urbino almost every house and every building is a historical and architectural monument, worthy of the UNESCO “protection” list.
Nevertheless, only the historic center of the city is protected by this international organization.
Piazza Borgo Mercatale
Most excursions begin in Piazza Borgo Mercatale. It is not only picturesque but also close to the bus station.
There, on the square there is an information center for tourists, where you can get a free map and any useful information.
Go through the ancient Porta Valbona gate and then along Via Mazzini and you will reach Piazza della Repubblica.
Here, turn left and pass the church of San Francesco and you will reach Via Raffaello, one of the must-see places in Urbino.
Raffaello House Museum in Urbino
This Casa Raffaello is the house where the great Raphael Santi was born on April 6, 1483. The brilliant Italian painter spent his childhood and youth here, studying under his father Giovanni Santi, who at the time was court painter to the Duke of Urbino.
Today Casa Raffaello is the Raphael House Museum, with paintings by Giovanni Santi; the first of Raphael’s famous “Madonnas”, which he painted as a young man; and a collection of various historical objects from the 15th century family.
The Raphael Monument and Lookout Points
Continue along Via Raffaello and you will come to the Monument to Raphael where from the observation deck you can enjoy the magnificent panorama of the surrounding mountains.
The Monument to Raphael in his homeland of Urbino
Even more amazing views await you if you walk a little further to the northwest along the fortress wall, parallel to Via le Buozzi.
Just before you reach the Fortezza Albornoz, you will find a small gate in the wall that leads to the stairs to the Parco della Resistenza earthen wall. It is from there that the panorama with all the sights of Urbino is absolutely breathtaking.
The Ducal Palace and medieval chapels
Going up along Via Barocci you can visit the medieval chapels, the Oratorio di San Giovanni Battista and the Oratorio di San Giuseppe, known for their 16th-century frescoes.
The Oratory of St. John the Baptist impresses with the beauty of its frescoes
Amid the stunning architectural ensemble, the palace’s interior decoration is not at all disappointing – beautiful frescoes, a collection of sculptures full of fascinating artistry, a gallery of paintings from the Renaissance – all this can be enjoyed by visitors to the palace, for the price of admission ticket of 4 Euros.
By the way, the Palazzo Ducale is now home to the National Gallery of the Marche region.
Palazzo Ducale – the most famous landmark of Urbino
The Cathedral, a unique Renaissance structure, is also a must-see.
The first cathedral was built in the early Middle Ages – in 1021 – and since then it has radically changed its appearance several times.
The exterior of the cathedral was preserved till our days at the turn of the XVIII-XIX centuries. Then the complex was rebuilt by the Roman architect Giuseppe Valdera after severe damage during the 1781 earthquake.
Other sights in Urbino
Also, once in the city, you can’t miss the sights of Urbino such as:
- The National Gallery of the Marche with the best Renaissance art collection in the region,
- The University, known far beyond Urbino since 1506. By the way, thanks to the University, the population of Urbino almost doubles during the school season.
- the church of St. Dominic, built in the 14th century.
- Palazzo Odasi, which now houses the Urbino City Museum and the House of Poetry.
Festa del Ducea
Urbino is interesting not only for its sights, but also for its festivals.
The most significant event of the year is the Festa del Duça. It is a colorful costume festival whose key theme is a re-enactment of one of the greatest military victories in the history of Urbino.
It is about the events of the 15th century, when the troops of Duke Federico da Montefeltro defeated the forces of the Duke of Milan, Francesco Sforza.
The festival is organized every year in the second half of August. During these days in Urbino there are numerous dance and theater performances, open screenings of historical films, fairs in the central squares of the city.
It’s all with stunning visuals and authentic medieval entourage – costume shows, itinerant musicians, music from a bygone era, and lots of other things of great interest.
The scale and detail of the reconstruction of the fifteenth-century city is amazing. If you come to Urbino during these days you can get a lot of impressions from the costume shows of tournaments and battles, visit the tavern in not only historical but also gastronomic reconstruction.
The open restaurant areas will offer you a variety of dishes cooked in strict accordance with the authentic recipes of the Renaissance.
Finally, the centerpiece of the Festa del Duça is a theatrical costume show, a reconstruction of the final battle between the troops of the two dukes, in which Federico da Montefeltro won a glorious victory, although he lost his right eye.
Photos by: Ad de Roij, Sailko, Sergio D’Afflitto, Diego Baglieri, Mattis, GueQuattro
Urbino is a jewel of the Renaissance. It is a city on a hill in central Italy, which in a short time gained great cultural importance, and then it fell into decline again, thanks to which, fortunately, it has preserved its appearance of the 16th century. The city center is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Urbino fascinates visitors with the magical shape of its rooftops and the harmonious fusion of landscape and palace.
Save on a trip to Urbino!
This town, more than any other, is linked to a single name: since 1213, the aristocratic Montefeltro family was in power here and in the 15th century was granted the title of duke. Duke Federico da Montefeltro (1444-1482) made Urbino an ideal Renaissance city and one of the centers of Italian humanism. The brick city has remained virtually intact since then and has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1998. In the fifteenth century it was home to artists such as Paolo Uccello, Piero della Francesca, Melozzo da Forli and Giovanni Santi, father of the great Raphael, a native of Urbino (born 1483). Raphael’s friend Baldassare Castiglione at the court of Duke Federico wrote his treatise Il Libra del Cortegiano, one of the famous literary works of the Renaissance, in which the author describes the ideal of a humanistically educated “universal man”.
Urbino is the birthplace of the painter Raphael Santi and his family home is now a museum. On one of the walls is a fresco attributed to Raphael. Raphael even influenced the development of majolica, for which his hometown is still famous 500 years later.
Urbino is today a provincial town, where life is centered around the University which was founded in 1506 and other educational institutions; 20 thousand students outnumber the town inhabitants (15 thousand).
What to see
The Palazzo Ducale, the Ducal Palace, towers over Urbino. The palace has become a model for all Renaissance palaces, and is well worth a visit for its collection of some of the most extensive Renaissance art. The palazzo houses the National Gallery of the Marche. It seems fitting that the duke who built the palace was a legendary condottiere, but Federico II da Montefeltro was respected throughout Europe as a fine diplomat and a sophisticated patron of the arts and literature. Prominent humanists, scholars and artists, such as Piero della Francesca, gathered to his court. His painting The Scourging of Christ is one of the highlights of the gallery. The scale of the palace is not too obvious when viewed from the city. It has 500 rooms, and the Duke’s Studiolo is a masterpiece of marquetry in the style of optical illusion. Beneath the palace is a labyrinth of passageways and caves that housed servants’ quarters, kitchens, and stables.
The cathedral adjoined the ducal palace. Its construction, begun at the same time as the palace, was finished in 1604 with the construction of the dome. During the earthquake of 1789 the cathedral was badly damaged and in 1789-1801 it was rebuilt in the Classical style. Its interior is decorated with 17th- and 18th-century paintings, including works by the Urbino Baroque painter Federico Barocci (around 1535-1612). The right transverse aisle leads to the cathedral’s museum. Also worth seeing is the Oratorio della Grotta with the tomb of Federico Ubaldo, son of the last Duke of Urbino. The entrance is on the left side of the cathedral.
On the other side of the Piazza Rinascimento, decorated in 1737 with an Egyptian obelisk, there is the former Dominican church of San Domenico, for which in 1451 the architect Maso di Bartolomeo realized a Re-Renaissance portal decorated with a terracotta sculpture of the Virgin Maria by Luca della Robbia. The original is in the Ducal Palace. The center of Urbino’s urban life is the Piazza della Repubblica (Piazza della Repubblica), below the palace and the cathedral. At the end of the square there is the massive building of the Collegio Raffaele of the beginning of the XVIII century. Today here is located the museum of Physics, where the ancient scientific instruments are exposed. A little further along, in Via Raffaello, is the house where Raphael was born and lived for the first ten years of his life. At the end of the narrow Via Barocci, departing from the Piazza della Repubblica, are the chapels of St. Joseph and St. John the Baptist, the Oratorio di San Giuseppe and the Oratorio di San Giovanni. In one of them you can admire the sculptural composition of Federico Brandani (XVI c.), depicting the Nativity of Jesus, in the other – the magnificent frescoes of Lorenzo and Jacopo Salimbeni, completed by 1416.
About 20 km south-east of Urbino, between Calmazzo and Aqua Lania, the Furlo Gorge is situated with impressive sheer walls. At its narrowest point is a 37 m long tunnel. The Via Flaminia, one of the ancient Roman roads, runs through it. The inscription at the entrance says that the tunnel was built in 76 AD by the Emperor Vespasian. The inscription in front of the entrance reads that the tunnel was built in AD 76 by the Emperor Vespasian.