Winter Weg: Snowin’ Urbino

Week 6: Part 4: Day 41

21st January, 2017

One of our planned goals when visiting this region was a day trip to the hometown of the artist Raphael and the architect Donato Bramante – the remote town of Urbino.

Today, with our host’s son Oliver as our local guide, the seven of us set off with a brisk walk to the train station, then hopped on a local bus . We were not disappointed when this UNESCO World Heritage Renaissance town came into view. This pretty Medieval walled city, sits on a slopping hillside (1,650 feet above sea level) and was all the more enchanting today, covered in a thick blanket of snow.

UNESCO World Heritage Urbino

When we got there we enjoyed a hearty, early lunch outside the walls – before setting out to explore. We entered via one of the towns four gates, “The Old Gate” and ascended the steep slope up Via Mazzini to Piazza della Repubblica. This picturesque town has few pieces of level ground with a myriad of steep narrow laneways, surrounding it’s pretty paved streets.

Old Gate, Urbino

Urbino has a long and turbulent history.

The modest Roman town of Urbinum Mataurense (“the little city on the river Mataurus”) became an important strategic stronghold in the Gothic Wars of the 6th century, captured in 538 from the Ostrogoths by the Byzantine general Belisarius, and frequently mentioned by the historian Procopius…Now, It it is known for hosting 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. – Wiki

Most of the day was spent exploring the famous Ducale Palace a monument to one mans vision – the Duke of Montefeltro. It is a pretty building with notable architectural details. We entered via it’s picturesque courtyard. The architect Luciano Laurana patterned it after the Medici palace in Florence, with the same soaring arches atop Corinthian columns. If given the choice the boys would have probably opted to spend all day playing in the snow here.

The staff kindly let us hang the boys wet gloves, beanies, etc on the radiators and they dried as we explored inside.

As the palace is built on the edge of a cliff, it is worth firstly looking out the window for breathtaking views of the lower town. The cluster of houses below was once the Jewish ghetto.

Ducal Palace with a friend

The palace has five levels and several hundred rooms, so we only managed to see a small part of it.

The construction of the Ducal Palace was begun for Duke Federico III da Montefeltro around the mid-fifteenth century… The new construction included the pre-existing Palace of the Jole. The solid rock hillside salient was impregnable to siege but was problematic for carving out the foundation of a palace…A central element in this plan is the studiolo (a small study or cabinet for contemplation), a room measuring just 3.60 x 3.35m and facing away from the city of Urbino and towards the Duke’s rural lands. Its beautifully executed intarsia work, surrounding the room’s occupant with trompe-l’oeil shelves, benches, and half-open latticework doors displaying symbolic objects representing the Liberal Arts, is the single most famous example of this Italian craft of inlay…Downstairs from the studiolo are a twinned pair of chapels, one Christian and one pagan. – Wiki

The palace is extensive and the interior is filled with many wonders, like the exquisite inlay marble in the tiny Chapel Of Forgiveness.

The boys particularly enjoyed the displays of historical games.

The fun continued with even more hands-on activities, in the cavernous basement level. Here, we were delighted to discover volunteers, dressed as the Duke and members of his court, demonstrating historical crafts such as printmaking.

It was fortunate that with a bevy of tired boys and the hour getting late, we discovered the lift. So for a small fee we swiftly descended from Corso Garibaldi to where we began. We all enjoyed hot drinks at the same restaurant, then waited for the bus. Prunella watched the ice skating with Oliver, till it was time to say good bye to wondrous Urbino and head homeward…

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