What could you visit in Urbino? Many fine pieces and monuments: the ducal town is an enchanted, timeless place, where you can admire museum full of precious pieces, churches with unique charm, monumental squares that will bring you back to the splendours of Renaissance.
In every alley, every fork, History speaks up to the visitor, giving directions about how to discover a glorious past, that deeps its roots in the epic Montefeltro’s dynasty.
Squares And Monuments
In Urbino, when you start to pick something to visit, there are jewels you cannot miss:
- ALBORNOZ FORTRESS – the fortified rampard that protects Urbino since the middle of ‘300. Military check point of a far away era, today is an amazing view spot to enjoy the beauty of the Ducal Town. Military defence in the past, now is a peaceful spot : two souls that makes the fortress a really unique place which can give emotions to anybody who comes here.
- RINASCIMENTO SQUARE – the ancient town’s beating heart, its driving force. Born after the middle of 1500, while the Della Rovere family was in charge after The Montefeltro’s, it was the actual place where the Ducal Town’s life was vital and dynamic. In Urbino, if you’re still wander what to see, you cannot miss this spot. You will also discover another game: il “Gioco del Bracciale”, a ball game played with fists, a tradition that spreads in several areas of Marche Region.
- THE GOTHIC PORTALS – There are only three elements that bear testimony to 14th century Urbino. These are the portals of Casa Porfiri, located in nearby lower courtyard of Palazzo Bonaventura – Odasi; the Oratorio della Croce, in via S. Chiara; and the old Palazzo dei Montefeltro, today headquarters of the university. Although these structures no longer represent this period faithfully, some of the original stone structures are still visible.
- FORMER HOSPITAL OF SANTA MARIA DELLA MISERICORDIA – All that remains of this great 15th century building is an arcade consisting in three arches and its columns with their lovely pietra serena capitals. It stands on the site of a previous 14th century construction built by the Confraternità della Misericordia di Pian di Mercato. The building was used as a hospital until the beginning of the 20th century, after which its functions were transferred to the former Convent of Santa Chiara.
- PALAZZO BONAVENTURA ODASI – The Odasi family probably gained possession of the building after the mid-fifteenth century, when the Bonaventura family sold it to move to the ancestral home of the Montefeltro family. Today it houses the central offices of the University of Urbino. Toward the end of the 15th century, the building was subject to significant remodeling, concomitantly with the owner’s growing prestige in that Ludovico Odasi was tutor to both Federico da Montefeltro’s son, Guidobaldo I, and Francesco Maria I della Rovere.
The core of the original structure corresponds to the portion of the building which surrounds the lower courtyard. It dates back to the 14th century and was completely renovated during the century that followed. From the upper courtyard, one reaches the beautiful 15th century arcade, characterized by elegant ionic columns and a lovely wooden coffered ceiling.
- PALAZZO PASSIONEI PACIOTTI – UNIVERSITY OF URBINO – THE CARLO AND MARISE BO FOUNDATION – The present-day structure was completed at the end of the 15th century, after the Passonei family purchased it from Federico da Montefeltro and had it modified. From the mid-16th century, the building became property of the Paciotti family, and was again modified. In 1841, it became a school for girls. In line with canons that were typical of Urbino, the structure opens onto a landscape that can be enjoyed from the inner courtyard. The original 15th century project is attributed to Luciano Laurana , while further work was done by Francesco Di Giorgio Martini, his assistant, Cozzarelli, and others who had worked on the construction of the Ducal Palace. In the 20th century, the building was renovated based on a project by architect Giancarlo De Carlo, and is the headquarters of the Carlo and Marise Bo Foundation.
- PALAZZO ALBANI – This building was inhabited by the Albani family from the 15th century and looks onto via Bramante. The Palazzo was built in several steps; it was expanded in the 16th century and later restored in the 18th century without altering the original structure. Various architects participated in the reconstruction work, amongst whom Luigi Vanvitelli. After1852, the building lay abandoned for a period of time when the Albani lineage came to an end. Today, Palazzo Albani belongs to the University of Urbino “Carlo Bo”.
- PALAZZO CORBOLI – Palazzo Corboli’s richly decorated staterooms and important frescos by Francesco Antonio Rondelli and Antonio Romiti, both artists from Urbino, bear evidence to the importance and prestige of this building. A 16th century stucco ceiling by Federico Brandani can be seen today in the National Gallery of Le Marche – Ducal Palace. The ancestral home of the Corboli family now houses the offices of the Ente Regionale per il Diritto allo Studio Universitario di Urbino (Regional Institute for the Right to Higher Education-University of Urbino).
- THE HELICOIDAL RAMP AND THE DATA – ORTO DELL’ABBONDANZA – The lower western façade of the Ducal Palace, the large square known as Mercatale, the lower portion of the Ramp, and the Ducal Horse Stables, were completed in the 1480s.The Ducal horse stables and helicoidal ramp which connects this to the Ducal Palace were designed by architect Francesco di Giorgio Martini. The Data, as the ducal stables were called, could hold 300 horses. It is 127 metres long and 13 metres high; it had a vaulted ceiling and large windows that, still today, provide natural light. In the mid-nineteenth century, the structure was used as the city’s granary, thus the name Orto dell’abbondanza (Garden of Plenty).
The Ramp, instead, led from the lower square to the vaulted rooms of the Data, and from here, to the heart of the city centre and the Ducal Palace. On a walkway which ran along the tops of the city’s walls, one could also reach the Colle delle Vigne (Vineyard Hills). The upper portion and roof of the Ramp were demolished in the 19th century to make space for the construction of the theatre.
- BENEDICT THE XIII FOUNTAIN – This fountain is almost directly opposite the entrance to Palazzo Albani. It was built in 1729 and dedicated to Pope Orsini, Benedetto XIII, by the inhabitants of Urbino in recognition of the help the city received from him. The fountain lies beneath a decorative pediment with festoons and scrolls surrounding a central papal coat of arms.
- THE LION FOUNTAIN – Fonte di Lavagine, also called Del Leone (The Lion Fountain) or Barberina, is located in the small square between via Sant’Andrea, and via Cesare Battisti. It was once commonly used by washerwomen and locals, and probably represented the end point of the old aqueduct. This monumental fountain from the early 18th century was commissioned by Cardinal Annibale Albani and was built against the reinforcement wall beneath the botanical gardens. The ashlar façade of the fountain presents three alcoves; the central alcove was originally occupied by a statue of a river nymph.
- THE RAPHAEL MONUMENT – The Monument was created in the late 19th century by the Turinese sculptor Luigi Belli. The statue was originally located in Piazza Duca Federico. In 1947 it was moved to Piazzale Roma, also known as “Pian del Monte”. Busts of illustrious men associated with the history of Urbino are also located in this park.
- BOTANICAL GARDENS – This area was once a large fenced in garden adjoining the nearby Convento di S. Francesco. In 1798, under Napoleonic occupation, the area was transformed by local administration into Botanical Gardens to be used by the University of Urbino. The entrance, designed by Vincenzo Ghinelli, was built in 1846. Today, the Botanical Gardens are used by the University of Urbino “Carlo Bo” for research and teaching purposes.
- PIAZZA DELLA REPUBBLICA – This square is the heart of town life, main scene of the town economic and social development. In Roman times, when the square was located outside of the city walls, it was called “Pian di Mezzo”, changed afterwards in “Pian di Mercato” from the Italian word for “farm market”, which used to take place here. Over time, it became the meeting point of four main streets: two going downhill – Lavagine and Valbona; and two going uphill – towards the Mountain and the Hill. Corso Garibaldi, a more recent main street, also converges here; in the middle of the square was erected an obelisk – now situated elsewhere. The square as can be seen nowadays was built in the XIX century, widening the already existent one. All main streets end up here, where the fountain designed by Diomede Catalucci in 1908 can be admired at the middle of the square.
- CORSO GARIBALDI – Corso Garibaldi was designed by Vincenzo Ghinelli to connect the town theatre to Piazza della Repubblica. This new street was part of an important project to modify the urban layout and road network. The aim was to improve connections between the historical centre and streets outside the old walls of the city to meet the needs for mobility that were already evident in the 1800s.
The greatness of the Ducal town is actually inside its immense cultural heritage. In Urbino there is no doubt on what you could visit, on top of the monuments already mentioned: here the museums, essential steps in a vacation in the Duke’s town.
- THE DUCAL PALACE – NATIONAL GALLERY OF LE MARCHE –
In 1444, upon the death of Oddantonio, Duke of Urbino, Federico, his step-brother, took power and decided to build a new residence for the Montefeltro family. The initial construction work involved an area which was already occupied by a number of homes and today corresponds to the eastern wing of the Ducal Palace, housing the Appartamento della Jole.The construction of the Ducal Palace was carried out in various stages throughout the life of Federico (1422-1482), all under his direct supervision. The first phase can be attributed to Maso Di Bartolomeo, supported by a group of skilled workers from Florence, and later to architect Luciano Laurana. From the 1470s on, architect Francesco di Giorgio Martini continued the work even after the death of Federico. Among the numerous artists involved in the construction were Michele di Giovanni da Fiesole, also known as “Il Greco”, Pasquino da Montepulciano, Francesco di Simone Ferrucci, Domenico Rosselli, and Baccio Pontelli, along with artists such as Botticelli, who did the preliminary drawings for the wooden intarsia work of the studiolo, and Giuliano da Majano, who executed the woodwork. Since 1912, the Palace has housed the National Gallery of le Marche. Its collection of artworks includes Portrait of a Lady (Ritratto di Gentildonna), also known as La Muta, by Raphael; The Flagellation of Christ (La Flagellazione) and Madonna di Senigallia, by Piero della Francesca; The Ideal City (La Città Ideale) and Miracle of the Desecrated Host (Miracolo dell’Ostia Profanata), by Paolo Uccello; The Last Supper and The Resurrection, by Titian; and numerous other masterpieces.
Monday: from 8:30 am to 2:00 pm (ticket office closes at 1:00 pm)
Tuesday-Sunday: from 8:30 am to 07:15 pm (ticket office closes at 06:15 pm)
Closed on: 25th Decembrer, 1st January
Ticket office and reservations Phone: 0722 322665
- RAPHAEL’S BIRTHPLACE – RESIDENCE OF THE SANTI FAMILY – In the mid-15th century, Raphael’s grandfather purchased a portion of the structure from the Confraternità della Misericordia di Pian di Mercato. Giovanni Santi, Raphael’s father, had his studio just near the entrance to the family’s home, today street number 57. Here, we can still see the artist’s worktable and the small entranceway close by, at street number 53. The room where Raphael is believed to have been born is on the first floor, above the workshop. In the late 1500s, Urbino architect Muzio Oddi dedicated a memorial plaque to this great artist, which can be seen here. There is also a fresco of Madonna and Child attributed to Raphael; this was originally located on the ground floor. The inner courtyard, in which we find grinding stones to grind pigments and a 16th century basin, was most likely functional to the studio. Today, important works can be admired here. Among the most noteworthy are: Giovanni Santi’s Saint Sebastian, a Madonna attributed to Giuliano Romano, and modern replicas of some of Raphael’s works.
You’ll find, in town, two religious buildings where beauty is shining through, while transmitting the greatness of the past:
- THE CATHEDRAL – The splendid Cathedral of S. Maria Assunta, designed by Francesco di Giorgio Martini in the 15th century, was restructured in the neoclassical style of the late 18th century by architect Giuseppe Valadier. The paintings, sculptures, and liturgical furnishings in the church are significant examples of artwork in Urbino from the 16th to 19th centuries. The apse chapels are adorned with golden stucco work and paintings by artists of the school of Federico Barocci. Barocci’s greatest masterpiece, The Last Supper (1590-1599), was commissioned by Duke Francesco Maria Della Rovere II of Urbino for the chapel of SS. Sacramento.
The apsidal chapels were left untouched during the 18th century reconstruction and have preserved their decorative baroque features.
- MONASTERY OF SANTA CHIARA – ISIA (Institute of Graphic Design) – This building is of extreme importance for the city of Urbino, second only to the Ducal Palace. Early sources reveal that it was commissioned by Elisabetta Feltria, daughter of Duke Federico da Montefeltro, who entrusted the project to Francesco di Giorgio Martini in 1482. The church is typical of those designed by Martini in that it is based on a circle inscribed in a square. The double-tiered loggia and two wings that enclose the garden add to the grandeur of the structure.
In the 16th century, it became the Ducal Mausoleum, burial place of Francesco Maria I Della Rovere, whose tomb was designed by Girolmo Genga and executed by Bartolomeo Ammannati.
In this mausoleum, both Gentile Brancaleoni and Battista Sforza, the late wives of Federico da Montefeltro, had already been laid to rest. In the 1860s, the monastery became a school and from 1904, a hospital, during which time it was significantly transformed. Today it houses the ISIA– a higher education institute for graphic design.
- THE CHURCH OF SAN FRANCESCO – The church and convent are located on a site once belonging to the Abbey and Convent of S. Angelo dei Benedettini. The first structures were composed of three cloisters that were later modified. The cemetery-cloister, which flanked the left side of the church, was modified in the 19th century when work was done to open the Piazza delle Erbe (today known as Piazza San Francesco). The original church with two naves was built in the 14th century. The church and convent were greatly modified during the 18th century into what we see today; it now has three naves. The church is considered the “pantheon” of Urbino for the illustrious citizens buried here: Giovanni Santi and Magia Ciarla, the parents of Raphael, and painter Federico Barocci (1535-1612) . A masterpiece by Federico Barocci, The Pardon of Assisi (Perdono di Assisi) , occupies the main altar. The paintings in the transept depict Saint Peter Baptising Saints Processus and Martinianus by Giuseppe Passeri , and St. Peter Baptising the Centurion Cornelius by Ercole Procaccini.
- SAN BERNARDINO CHURCH AND CONVENT – According to early sources, the church was built under Federico da Montefeltro to serve as his mausoleum; both Federico and his son, Guidobaldo, are entombed here. The project, designed by Francesco di Giorgio Martini, is an archetype of Renaissance architectural forms; it includes solutions already used by the architect, such as the small dome in the center of the transept and the lovely arcade of ridged columns in pietra della Cesana, a locally quarried stone. These columns are similar to those of the Ducal Palace. In 1811, Napoleonic troops moved the large alter piece, The Madonna with Child, Angels, Saints and Federico da Montefeltro, Duke of Urbino, executed by Piero della Francesca between 1472 and 1474, from the main alter of the church to Brera (Milan).
The monumental complex includes the convent and church of San Donato. The convent is organized around two open spaces: the cloister and the courtyard. The cloister is Francesco di Giorgio Martini’s first architectural achievement. The 13th century church, greatly transformed over the centuries, holds the sepulchral monument to Guidantonio da Montefeltro. The entire complex dominates the hill bearing the same name, San Donato, and provides a splendid view of the eastern slope of the city of Urbino, which lies approximately two kilometers away.
- CHIESA DI SAN DOMENICO – The Church of St. Domenico goes up again to 1362 and was consecrate in the 1365. On the facade it is present a double stairway that converges toward the portal, work of the Florentine Maso di Bartolomeo (1449 -1451). The fanlight, representative the Madonna with Child and Saints on blue background, is work of Luca Della Robbia (1451).The inside of the Church is composed from an only aisle, completely referred in the Seven hundred one and part of the decorations that the walls dressed again they have gone lost. To the sides of the greatest altar they are able they admire two scne of Francis Vanni, that represent Angels. On the greatest altar the Madonna dominates with hisr Child, St. Domenico, Saint Caterina from Siena and Saint Rosa from Lima, work of Giovanni Conca.
Urbino’s pride, regarding cultural and artistic events, is the Raffaello Sanzio Theatre, construction date during late 1800. Its location is very peculiar, just on top of Mercatale Area, now main junction of city traffic. The main point of this building is the fact that its accomplishment included also the surrounding area, and the job was done by a local architect, Vincenzo Ghinelli. In the area’s general improvement by Ghinelli, it was also included the half circle shaped little square facing the theatre, the Pincio downhill, that had to actually be a garden, and the archs of Corso Garibaldi. Sanzio Theater hosts every year important prose seasons, concerts and kid’s shows.
Great historical spots for a great vacation then: what are you waiting for, book your stay in Urbino! Choose the all inclusive, the offer or the location that you like!
A growing interest in history is leading an increasing number of people to discover the experience of Confraternities. The reason is not to forget and not to lose that valuable heritage developed over the centuries.
They have accompanied the human path with an incredible variety of creative works that today are the basis of the social structure in our country.
The Oratories that contain these works are spread all over the old towns and they still preserve jealously the signs of that history, extraordinary signs which are often quoted among the main chapters of Italian art history.
Among the many Oratories, we would like to call attention to three of them, easily available for a visit:
- THE ORATORIO DELLA GROTTA – offers among its treasures a beautiful Pietà sculpted in marble by Giovanni Bandini in 1597 and commissioned by Francesco Maria II della Rovere. Its origin can be related to the establishment of a religious confraternity (gathered by father Recalchi, minor Observant from Verona, who came to Urbino in 1500) that started its activity in several places until the aristocrat Girolamo Staccoli from Urbino asked Guidobaldo I for some rooms in the basement of the Cathedral.
- ORATORIO DI SAN GIOVANNI (St. John’s Oratory) – It was frescoed in 1416 by the brothers Lorenzo and Jacopo Salimbeni from Sanseverino. It is an extraordinary example of international Gothic which represents the last connection between medieval painting and the new renaissance discoveries.
- ORATORIO DI SAN GIUSEPPE (St. Joseph’s Oratory) – The jewel of this Confraternity, which stood out for helping the people sentenced to death and their families, is the Federico Brandani’s Nativity, a group of lifesize plaster figures sculpted between 1545 and 1550.
- ORATORIO DELLA MORTE – The Oratorio della Morte (Oratory of Death) , erected in the 16th century, was built as the seat of the Confraternity of Death. It had previously been located in the Church of S.S. Annunziata, outside the city’s walls. Bartolomeo Ammannati, a Florentine sculptor, created the great ashlared stone portal of the Oratorio. The main alter of the structure is rectangular in shape and houses the renowned Crucifixion by Federico Barocci (1535-1612), commissioned by the Confraternity at the end of the 16th century.
- ORATORY OF THE FIVE HOLY WOUNDS – The Oratory dates back approximately to 1643, however its small entrance portal is 18th century in style. The interior architecture is sober, with a richly vaulted ceiling. The papier-mâché Christ on the cross in the central niche and the series of ten paintings of Scenes from the Passion of Christ by artists of the baroque tradition are particularly noteworthy.
University of Urbino
The origins of the University of Urbino are interweaved with the history of the Duchy that carries the same name. At the beginning of the XVI century, the Duchy was Vicariate of the Saint Roman Church, governed by Guidobaldo I from Montefeltro from 1482 to 1508, and by Francesco Maria I Della Rovere from 1508 to 1538. A series of events linking the interests of the Vatican with the nepotism of Pope Giulio II seem to be at the heart of the foundation of the first Public Study center, which will determine the fate of Urbino along the centuries, up to the present.
On April 26th 1506, Guidobaldo I issued a decree willing to re-order the Board of Doctors of Philosophy of Urbino, followed by the Papal Bull “Ad Sanctam Beati Petri Sedem Divina Dispositione Sublimati” issued by Pope Giulio II on February 18th, 1507. These establishing documents are the most important of the Urbino Magistracy that has, among others, the power to nominate Doctors of Philosophy.
It is important to notice that even if Guidobaldo from Montefeltro had all the powers of a Vicar of the Church, his land was under the jurisdiction of the Chancellor of Marca and the Ambassador of Perugia and Bologna, for the peculiar geography of the territory.
The Papal Bull empowered the Montefeltro family, and separated it from the Chancellor of Marca and from the Ambassadors s of Bologna and Perugia. The result was the creation of a single Magistracy responsible for the Duchy of Urbino and the territories of Senigallia and Mondavio, along with the recognition of the same level of authority as the Chancellor of Marca to the Board of the Doctors of Philosophy.
As proved by a significant number of documents, the Board of Urbino had the power to nominate Doctors of Philosophy, and its fame grew rapidly. Its prerogatives were widened by the Papal Bull “Sedes Apostolica Gratiarum Abundantissima Mater” issued by Pope Pio IV on February 22nd 1564.
The Bull is an important step for the Univeristy of Urbino, since it gave it the power to nominate Doctors of Law and Poetry, and the ability to give Bachelors’s degrees, diplomas, doctorate and teaching degrees in civil rights, utroque jure, medicine and all other faculties.
Immediately, Duke Guidobaldo II Della Rovere spread the news in the entire Country and on August 17th 1565, dictated that nobody was entitled to get degrees or Academic grades elsewhere, and that nobody was allowed to work unless proven to have gained the necessary Academic degree.