Urbino is one true jewel among the the many historical sites in Italy. A World Heritage Site notable for a remarkable historical legacy of independent Renaissance culture, especially under the patronage of Federico da Montefeltro, duke of Urbino from 1444 to 1482. The town, nestled on a high sloping hillside, retains much of its picturesque medieval aspect, only slightly marred by the large car parks below the town. It hosts the University of Urbino, founded in 1506, and is the seat of the Archbishop of Urbino. Its best-known architectural piece is the Palazzo Ducale, rebuilt by Luciano Laurana.
The clay earth of Urbino, which still supports industrial brickworks, supplied a cluster of earthenware manufactories (botteghe) making the tin-glazed pottery known as maiolica. Simple local wares were being made in the 15th century at Urbino, but after 1520 the Della Rovere dukes, Francesco Maria I della Rovere and his successor Guidobaldo II, encouraged the industry, which exported wares throughout Italy, first in a manner called istoriato using engravings after Mannerist painters, then in a style of light arabesques and grottesche after the manner of Raphael’s stanze at the Vatican.
Urbino Cathedral is a Roman Catholic cathedral dedicated to the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary. The first cathedral on the site was built here in 1021, to replace an earlier one located outside the city walls. Under the patronage of Count Federico da Montefeltro, it was rebuilt in the 15th century, based on a design attributed to Francesco di Giorgio Martini. Construction was not finished until 1604. The west front, using stone quarried from Furlo, was designed by Camillo Morigia and completed in 1782. It was ornamented with five statues, representing the three theological virtues of Faith, Hope, and Charity, between Saint Augustine to the left and Saint John Chrysostom to the right. On January 12, 1789, a powerful earthquake toppled the cupola, and made a reconstruction necessary. The project was entrusted to Giuseppe Valadier, and completed by 1801 in the present Neoclassical style.
Valadier’s Neocassical interior is on a Latin cross groundplan and has a central nave between two side aisles, under a barrel vaulted roof. The crossing of the transept supports an impressive coffered cupola. As to works of art, the cathedral contains two canvases by Federigo Barocci, a Saint Sebastian in the north aisle, and a Last Supper in the Chapel of the Holy Sacrament. There is also an Assumption of the Virgin (circa 1707) by Carlo Maratta, and a Nativity (1708) by Carlo Cignani. On the pendentives of the cupola are depicted the Four Evangelists (18th century), possibly by Domenico Corvi and Giuseppe Cades. The main altarpiece, by Christopher Unterberger, represents the Madonna between the city’s patron saints.
The Ducal Palace is a Renaissance building, one of the most important monuments in Italy, and it is listed as UNESCO World Heritage Site.The construction of the Ducal Palace was begun for Duke Federico III da Montefeltro around the mid-fifteenth century by the Florentine Maso di Bartolomeo. Luciano Laurana, an architect from Dalmatia who had been influenced by Brunelleschi’s cloisters in Florence, designed the façade, the famous courtyard and the great entrance staircase. Overcoming the exigencies of the clifflike site, which made an irregular massing of architecture necessary, from the 1460s onwards Laurana created what contemporaries considered the ideal princely dwelling. After Laurana’s departure from Urbino in 1472, works were continued by Francesco di Giorgio Martini, who was mainly responsible for the façade decoration. The Ducal Palace is famous as the setting of the conversations which Baldassare Castiglione represents as having taken place in the Hall of Vigils in 1507 in his Book of the Courtier. The palace continued in use as a government building into the 20th century, housing municipal archives and offices, and public collections of antique inscriptions and sculpture.
Built in the 14th century in roman gothic style, the church of St. Francis initially had a nave with trussed ceiling and an aisle with vaulted ceiling, a few step higher. In the left aisle there was a third cloister. On the left there is a small square, called Piazza delle Erbe, created in 1894 on the area of the old cloister-cemetery. From the square it is also possible to see the bell tower decorated in gothic style. The interior of the church is divided into a nave and two aisled with a Latin cross plan: at the centre of cross there is a blind vault dome. In the right aisles up to 1740 there was the so called “Gentleman Chapel”. The friars built two convent structures including two cloisters now disappeared. The first one was demolished in the 17th century because it was unsafe. The second one was larger, with octagonal columns, and was demolished during the reconstructions of the 18th century (1748-90).San Francesco church is considered the Pantheon of the city because it contains the remains of several famous people. Outside there is the magnificent 15th century Bell Tower, decorated with double lancet windows and arches, with the pyramidal steeple, but without the four lateral
spires, and the opposite loggia.
The native home of Raffaello was closed that day so we just spent some time strolling around town, and even if it was not an easy walk, up and down, it was such a pleasure….