About Urbino

Raphael's self portraitRaphael (Raffaello Sanzi)'s self portrait

Throughout the world, Urbino, birthplace of the great Italian artist Raffaello, is the best known city of Le Marche. Plan to be enthralled and amazed by the spirit of history that still haunts its magnificent buildings; this is not a place for a fleeting visit. Wander through the winding streets and stairways within its walls and find more fascinating treasures with every turn.

Urbino experienced a great cultural flowering in the 15th century, attracting artists and scholars from all over Italy and beyond, and influencing cultural developments elsewhere in Europe. Owing to its economic and cultural stagnation from the 16th century onwards, it has preserved its Renaissance appearance to a remarkable extent.

During its cultural preeminence, Urbino attracted some of the most outstanding humanist scholars and artists of the Renaissance, who created there an exceptional urban complex of remarkable homogeneity, the influence of which carried far into the rest of Europe. Urbino, the "ideal city,"  represents a pinnacle of Renaissance art and architecture, harmoniously adapted to its physical site and to its medieval precursor in an exceptional manner. Urbino is so harmoniously adapted to its physical surroundings and its medieval past that the whole city is simply breathtaking.

Federico da MontefeltroFederico da Montefeltro, painted by Piero della Francesca

During the Renaissance period Urbino reached a very high cultural level because many scholars and artists lived and worked there. Some of the leading humanists of the time, such as Leone Battista Alberti, Marsilio Ficino, and Giovanni Bessarione, and mathematicians like Paul van Middelburg, came together at the court of the Montefeltro Duke Federico III, who ruled Urbino from 1444 to 1482, to create and implement outstanding cultural and urban projects. Federico, the “New Prince,” was a military commander and a patron of the arts. He surrounded himself with distinguished artists, such as Maso di Bartolomeo, Luciano Laurana, Francesco di Giorgio Martini, Luca della Robbia, Paolo Uccello, Piero della Francesca, Melozzo da Forlì, Antonio del Pollaiolo, Ambrogio Barocci, and Giovanni Santi. During his reign the city became a center of European importance: Federico, whose court became a favored staging post between Rome and other European cities, maintained diplomatic relations not only with the other Italian rulers but also with Louis IX of France and with Ferdinand II of Aragon and Naples. Urbino became a cultural and architectural model for other courts, and so elements from Federico’s palace can be recognized in the castles of Mathias I Corvinus in Hungary and that of Stanislas II in Prague.

Ducal PalaceDucal Palace

The ducal palace, designed as a city within a city, is a monumental building of uncommon beauty; it has retained all the elements associated with the life of the court and is now the Galleria Nazionale delle Marche.

Ducal Palace - courtyardDucal Palace - courtyard

It provides an exceptional overview of Italian art from the Middle Ages to the Renaissance. The decoration of its rooms has a distinctive character, from its inlaid doors, bas-reliefs, friezes, and portals, and is a museum in itself. The rooms also contain tapestries, wooden sculptures, and paintings by, among others, Piero della Francesca, Paolo Uccello, Giusto da Gand, Luca Signorelli, Giovanni Santi, Federico Barocci, Raphael, and Titian.

Painted panels and precious religious furnishings from the churches of the city and diocese are displayed in the Diocesan Museum. Raphael’s birthplace, an example of 14th century domestic architecture, contains paintings and a fresco of the Madonna and Child, originally attributed to Giovanni Santi and later to Raphael. These make up the outstanding heritage of painting and sculpture constituting the nucleus of Urbino’s monumental secular and religious heritage.

The university was founded in 1506 by Duke Guidobaldo as the Collegio dei Dottori. Its original function was to house the administration and the judiciary of the city, as well as create an economic basis for the state. It is housed in the Palazzo Bonaventura, an ancient residence of the Montefeltro family.

Urbino stands comparison with other Italian and  European “cities of art” such as Rome, Florence, and Venice by virtue of the cultural and artistic supremacy which it enjoyed during the Renaissance and the richness of its urban fabric, its architecture, and the works of art to be found there. Urbino established productive relationships with these cities, by diplomatic means and through the movement between them of artists and craftsmen, with the result that its own artistic elements were significantly influenced. This led to the spread of the so-called “court culture,” typical of the Renaissance.

Beautiful landscape of UrbinoBeautiful landscape of Urbino

Urbino was founded in 41 AD by the Romans who were attracted to its healthy air and climate. One can enjoy a superb view of the surrounding mountains to the south and the Adriatic sea to the east. The city of Urbino offers a breathtaking view of the fertile valleys beneath it. Little has changed in the area over the centuries. Grape vine, fruit trees and sunflowers typically grow wherever the earth can be tilled.