Located on a small and gently rolling hill in the Marche region, Urbino still harmoniously breathes and proudly bears witness to its glorious Renaissance past. Along with 15 th century dwellings, the magnificent Urbino Ducal Palace and rosso forlivese clay-bricks, the story of the gem of the Renaissance will be told.

Façade detail of one of the many Renaissance intact buildings in Urbino

Façade detail of one of the many Renaissance intact buildings in Urbino
Picture taken by me during the #makeheritagefun day in Urbino

“Chi vuol vedere le belle d’Urbino,
Ci vada il giorno di San Crescentino!”
“Those who want to see the beauties of Urbino
should go there the day of Saint Crescentino!”
(My translation)

The city of Urbino is nestled on a hillside of the Marche region in the centre of Italy. Nowadays, it is home of one of the most ancient universities in the world, the University Carlo Bo of Urbino founded in 1506, though it is possible to gaze at its past shaped by splendour and short yet pivotal historical importance: the Renaissance cultural period.

The Court of Urbino knew a true flowering during the beginning of the 15 th century, when the successful condottiere Federico da Montefeltro used its vast influence and wealth, derived from armed conflicts, to shape the city as he pleased. The Renaissance is a cultural period that it is said to have had its cradle in the city of Florence, Tuscany region, from which it spread firstly across Italy and, afterwards, across Europe. Smaller courts such as Urbino developed their characteristic arts and architectures.

Federico da Montefeltro, the great warrior who lived from 1422 to 1482, brought magnificence in the Court of Urbino transforming it into a centre of humanist learning and culture. One of the patrons of this Renaissance period exemplified his passion for the liberal arts and the classical literature through the construction of buildings, squares and public daily spaces that embody the renewed interest in classical antiquities, the clarity and proportion of ancient past architectures.

Historic Centre of Urbino. Picture taken by me

Historic Centre of Urbino.

Duke Federico amassed and lavished its huge fortune on the finest artists and architects of the period, e.g. Raphael, Giovanni Santi and Piero della Francesca. He was a real Renaissance mercenary who brought Urbino at its apogee at the beginning of the Italian Renaissance art and culture, with a focus on liberal arts and architecture. For some lustra, Urbino became one of Europe’s most illustrious and renowned courts.

UNESCO declared Urbino World Heritage Site in 1998 after the inscription of its historic centre into the World Heritage List of Humanity. Among the reasons behind the inscription and the declaration of the Urbino Historic Centre as of Outstanding Universal Value (OUV), there is the fact that Urbinois a remarkable historical example of the Renaissance culture, representing the pinnacle of this cultural period artistically and architecturally. The Court of Urbino influenced and attracted artists and humanist scholars but also fostered cultural developments across Europe.

The most remarkable example of the monumental Renaissance culture in Urbino is the Ducal Palace or Palazzo Ducale. The construction of the building started in the mid-fifteenth century over the pre-existing Palace of the Jole. It may be said that the Renaissance found its architectural symbol and reached its pinnacle with the Ducal Palace, both its high and dark windows above the white Corinthian columns of the cortile directing one’s eye towards the classical and quintessential beauty of the palazzo.

Urbino Cathedral and Palazzo Ducale

Urbino Cathedral and Palazzo Ducale

The Ducal Palace features several rooms reflecting its commissioner devotion, the Duke Federico, to classical and humanistic studies such as reading Greek literature or studying humanistic writers and religious figures. Federico used to sit and study in his studiolo, a small room with remarkable trompe-l’œil shelves and unique intarsia works, directed towards the city of Urbino and the Montefeltro’s rural lands. Moreover, the palazzo Ducale houses the National Gallery of the Marche with suggestive and important Renaissance art works such as the Ideal City (anonymous), a painting based on neo-platonic ideals, the Madonna of Senigallia by Piero della Francesca and La Muta (mute lady) by Raphael.

From a lofty high-windowed studiolo in a Marchegian emblematic palazzo, the Renaissance reached its quintessence. Sadly, a cultural stagnation started in Urbino from the 16 th century, causing its Palace treasures to be moved to Rome and Florence. A few masterpieces and its pristine architecture sharpen the melancholic but, still, beautiful memory of a past cultural flowering. Undoubtedly and for a few decades, Urbino had truly been the pearl and ideal city of the Renaissance.

Historic Centre of Urbino – UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1998

An Urbinate way towards the Parco della Resistenza

An Urbinate way towards the Parco della Resistenza

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Located on a small and gently rolling hill in the Marche region, Urbino still harmoniously breathes and proudly bears witness to its glorious Renaissance past. Along with 15 th century dwellings, the magnificent Urbino Ducal Palace and rosso forlivese clay-bricks, the story of the gem of the Renaissance will...