Things to see in Urbino - What to see in Urbino







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Things to see  - What to see in Urbino           (Back to Urbino main information page)  

Urbino is also renowned for the Palace of the Dukes of Montefeltro (Palazzo Ducale) called "the most beautiful house of the Renaissance" by art critic Sir Kenneth Clarke.

The palace is associated with a famous book (XVI century) describing the social activities taking place there in the Renaissance, The Book of the Courtier by Baldassare Castiglione. The book is set in the palace, reckoned it to be the most beautiful in all Italy, and it does accounts that fifteenth-century Urbino was an extraordinarily civilized place, a measured and urbane society in which life was lived without indulgence.

The palace?s Facciata dei Torricini overlooks the surrounding countryside, representing a monument to Federico. It comprises a triple-decked loggia in the form of a triumphal arch flanked by twin defensive towers

Undoubtedly, the Palazzo Ducale is one of the best Museums in Italy, housing works by Raphael, Piero della Francesca, and Giovanni Bellini.

Once inside, the visitor will find one of the most kindly and exhilarating palaces encounter in Italy with a magnificent courtyard, the Cortile d'Onore, decorated with glad-hearted sobriety.

Designed by Dalmatian-born Luciano Laurana, who was selected by Federico after he'd failed to find a suitably bold artist in Florence, it' is at once elegant and restrained. Each element, from the furling Corinthian capitals to the inscription proclaiming Federico's virtues, is exquisitely crafted.

Pilasters on the first floor echo columns on the ground floor, pale stone alternates with dark, and the whole is enhanced by the subtle interplay of light and shadow.

The spacious rooms instill a sense of calm and house the Galleria Nazionale delle Marche, a remarkable collection of paintings including Piero della Francesca 's two great works: the Madonna of Senigallia , a subtly colored, haunting depiction of foreboding in which Mary flanked by two angels offers up her child; and one of the world's greatest images of the Flagellation of Christ , where at the back of a cubic room Christ is being almost casually beaten, while in the foreground stand three figures: a beautiful boy and two older men, on the left is Ottaviano Ubaldini (Federico Montefeltro's senior counsellor), while on the right is Ludovico Gonzaga (grandfather of Federico's son-in-law), both of whom had been bereaved at the time the picture was commissioned. Indeed the picture represents a masterwork of Christian faith.

Here is also Raphael's compelling La Muta (the Silent One), an anonymous portrait of a gentlewoman.

Other great pictures here are Piero della Francesca's Madonna di Senigallia and a famous vision of the Ideal City by an unknown hand (possibly by a scholar of Piero della Francesca), much used by art designers to illustrate books on the Renaissance expressing an ordered ideal city of heavens.

Further, Paolo Uccello?s last work, the six-panelled Profanation of the Host, a representation of angels and devils arguing over the custody of the woman's soul hanged for having sold a consecrated host to a Jewish merchant.

From the three most intimate rooms of the Duke's apartment the visitor will have an insight into Federico's personality. A spiral staircase descends to two adjoining chapels, one dedicated to Apollo and the Muses, the other to the Christian God. Typical dualism of the Renaissance thought in which mythology and Christianity were reconciled with pagan deities seen as aspects of the omnipotent Christian deity.

The best preserved of the palace's rooms is Federico's Studio, indeed the most unusual room, made with intarsia (inlaid wood) based on designs by Botticelli. Shelves laden with geometrical instruments appear to protrude from the walls while the upper half of the room is covered with 28 portraits of great men ranging from Homer and Petrarch to Solomon and St Ambrose.

Off the cortile is the room that housed the remarkable Federico's library, which took fourteen years and over thirty thousand ducats gathering books from all over Europe, and employing forty scribes to make illuminated copies on kidskin, which were then covered in crimson and decorated with silver.  Much of them disappeared into the hands of the Vatican after Urbino fell to the papacy in 1631, and all that is left of the room's former grandeur is a representation of Federico's power, the Eagle of the Montefeltros surrounded by tongues of fire, symbolizing the artistic and spiritual gifts bestowed by Federico.

Next door to the palace, the town's Duomo is a neoclassical replacement for Francesco di Giorgio Martini's Renaissance church, destroyed in an earthquake in 1789.

There's a museum inside with the Barocci's Last Supper, with Christ surrounded by the chaos of washers-up, dogs and angels.

From the Fortezza Albornoz there is a great view of the town and the countryside.

Close by is the Oratorio di San Giovanni whose facade is a stunning cycle of early fourteenth-century frescoes, depicting the life of St John the Baptist and the Crucifixion.

On Via Raffaello, the Casa Natale di Raffaello, birthplace of Urbino's most famous son, displays the ?stone' where Raphael and his father Giovanni Santi mixed their pigments and sizes. There's only one work by Raphael, an early Madonna and Child and minor works by his contemporaries and Santi.

Another fine Renaissance church just outside Urbino, is that of San Bernardino, built atop a hill 2km south of town and considered the resting place of the Montefeltros.

A rarely visited but nevertheless delightful stop is the Orto Botanico, a small, walled botanic garden full of rare plants.


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