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.
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
Once inside, the visitor will find one of the most kindly and
exhilarating palaces encounter in Italy with a magnificent
the Cortile d'Onore, decorated
with glad-hearted sobriety.
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.
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.
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
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
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.
museum inside with the Barocci's Last Supper, with
Christ surrounded by the chaos of washers-up, dogs and angels.
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.
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.
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.
visited but nevertheless delightful stop is the Orto Botanico,
a small, walled botanic garden full of rare plants.
Urbino main information page)