10 things to do and see in Urbino

A complete and detailed guide about 10 things to do and see in Urbino in 1, 2 or 3 days

10 things to do and see in Umbria
10 things to do and see in Urbino

The National Gallery of the Marche preserves a painting that is the symbol of Italian art: it’s the “Ideal City” attributed, according to the critics, to Piero della Francesca, Leon Battista Alberti, Luciano Laurana, Francesco di Giorgio Martini and other artists.

If you want to know what is Urbino for the Italian and world art, you have to admire that painting. It  embodies the dream of Federico da Montefeltro, shared by the artists around him, to build the ideal city of the Renaissance. Wandering through the narrow streets, palaces and squares, you can  realize that the Duke is not gone so far from his goal. The historic center of Urbino, in fact, is also included on the  UNESCO World Heritage List. In a few hundred square meters there’s a  heritage that marked the art and architecture of Europe for many decades. On this page we suggest you  10 things to do and see in Urbino.

If you are looking for a hotel in Urbino, we suggest you to choose among those offered by Booking.com. There are about 20 hotels with prices, pictures  and comments of guests already stayed there. Go to Booking.com

Palazzo Ducale in Urbino

1

Palazzo Ducale is not just a “palace”: it is a small fortified city built by Federico da Montefeltro starting from 1444.

Palazzo Ducale in Urbino
Palazzo Ducale in Urbino

Federico was a cultured and refined man and he wanted the Ducal Palace in Urbino to be more beautiful than  other princely residences of Italy. It was not just a way to show his power: he wanted to transform Urbino in the “ideal city” and the palace was supposed to be its highest expression.

Moreover he loved the artists and wanted a place to house them and let them work . Several architects were engaged for more than 30 years to build that place. Maso di Bartolomeo (Palace of the Jole, apartment of Melaranci and part of the yard), Luciano Laurana (arcaded courtyard, the staircase of honor, the Library, the Hall of Angels, the Audience Hall, the Soprallogge , the sacred area with the small study) and Francesco di Giorgio Martini who completed the pending work. The two finest examples of this work are the “Façade of the turrets”, perhaps the most photographed point of Urbino and “The small office” rightly defined a ‘treasure chest of beauty, refinement, of perspective … “. Today the Palazzo Ducale houses the Galleria Nazionale delle Marche with works by Raffaello, Tiziano and Piero della Francesca.

Where: down town centre
How to get there: by feet
When – Hours:
Friday: 8:30 am  to 2:00 pm (ticket office closes at 12:30 pm)
Tuesday to Sunday: 8:30 am to 7:15 pm (ticket office closes at 6:00 pm)
Never: Christmas, New Year.

National Gallery of Marche in Urbino

2

About 80 rooms of Palazzo Ducale are used as museum and house  the works of the National Gallery of  Marche.

National Gallery of Marche in Urbino
National Gallery of Marche in Urbino

The collection contains works from 1300 to 1600, mostly paintings but also furniture, sculptures, tapestries and drawings. The main works are located on the first floor, divided among the apartments where the Duke and his family lived. In the apartment of the Duke there are two masterpieces by Piero della Francesca: The Flagellation of Christ and the Madonna of Senigallia.

There also  several boardrooms where are exhibited the “Ideal City”, the Communion of the Apostles of Justus of Gand and the Host desecration by Paolo Uccello. There is also a work  by Raffaello (Portrait of a Gentlewoman) next to the Resurrection and the Last Supper by Tiziano. On the second floor there are works of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries of Barocci, Gentileschi, Guerrieri.

Where: Palazzo Ducale, city centre of Urbino
How to get there: by feet
When – Hours:
Friday: 8:30 am  to 2:00 pm (ticket office closes at 12:30 pm)
Tuesday to Sunday: 8:30 am to 7:15 pm (ticket office closes at 6:00 pm)
Never: Christmas, New Year.

Raffaelo’ House in Urbino

3

Raffaelo’s house has only a few original works of the great painter from Urbino, almost all of them were painted when he was young, but they worth a visit because the history started there. Located in the artisan district, in this house Raffaello Sanzio was born March 28, 1483 and spent his childhood being formed in the workshop of his father, an artist at the court of Federico da Montefeltro.

Raffaelo’ House in Urbino
Raffaelo’ House in Urbino

After ups and downs, in 1873 the house was purchased by the Academy Raffaello and since then it houses works related to the life of Raffaelo and his time. On the ground floor there is the shop of his father Giovanni Santi, used today for temporary exhibitions. On the first floor there are copies of paintings by Raffaello and tributes to other artists to the great painter from Urbino. In the Bedroom of Raffaello  there is a fresco depicting a “Madonna and Child” considered an early work made together with his father. On the first floor there is also a small courtyard with the well and the basin where the colors were  grinded for the works.

Where: Via Raffaello Sanzio 57
How to get there: by feet in the old town centre
When – Hours:
During summer (March to October): 9:00 am  to 1:00 pm  and 3:00 to 7:00 pm , Sunday 10:00 am  to 1:00 pm
During winter (November to February): 9:00 am  to 2:00 pm , Sunday 10:00 am  to 1:00 pm
Holidays 3:00 to 6:00 p.m. after phone verification at 0722/320105
Never: New Year and Christmas.

Oratorio San Giovanni in Urbino

4

Don’t be fooled by the banal gothic façade of the early 1900. The Oratory’s masterpiece is well hidden beyond the front door and is painted on the walls: it’s the cycle of frescoes of brothers Lorenzo and Jacopo Salimbeni from San Severino (1400 approximately), the most important interpreters of the late Gothic style in Marche region.

Oratorio San Giovanni in Urbino
Oratorio San Giovanni in Urbino

It immediately struck by the “Crucifixion” that covers the entire wall of the apse: the eyes go to the three crosses following  the classic iconography rules. Jesus at the center and the two thieves to the side, but little by little you look at the details, you realize how much humanity turns around the Passion of Christ. Despair and indifference, enliven the scene, carrying the religious reality to the earthly one. The oratory takes its name from the frescoes on the right wall in the two orders, down and up, illustrating the life of St. John the Baptist. On the left wall is painted a Madonna of Humility.

Where: Via Federico Barocci
How to get there: by feet
When – Hours: 10 am – 12.30 pm and 3-5.30 pm  Monday to Saturday, 10 am -12.30 pm  Sunday, Sunday afternoon on request.
Never: Christmas and New Year
Tickets: € 2,50

The Cathedral of Urbino

5

The Cathedral of Urbino is the most important church in the city but certainly not the most beautiful one. The story was not generous with churches that have been built in this place: the first construction dates back to 1021, replaced by a new church built by Francesco di Giorgi Martini, the architect of Federico da Montefeltro, who worked for many years also at the Doge’s Palace.

The Cathedral of Urbino
The Cathedral of Urbino

After the earthquake of January 12, the Roman architect Giuseppe Valadier built the current cathedral in neoclassic style. Inside there are  two beautiful paintings by Federico Barocci: The Martyrdom of Saint Sebastian and the Last Supper. The most interesting part of the cathedral are the caves that over the centuries have hosted a Brotherhood. During World War II, to protect some works from the bombs and the Germans, the caves hosted the works of the Treasury of St. Mark’s Basilica in Venice. In the caves there are several chapels and of Forgiveness Corridor: according to an ancient tradition of Urbino you could have forgiveness from sins walking in  this corridor during the Easter Monday.

Where: old town centre
How to get there: by feet
When – Hours:
Weekdays and holidays: 7:30 am  to 1:00 pm / 2:00 to 8:00 p.m.
Never: Christmas and New Year
Grotte del Duomo
When: Saturday and Sunday 9:30 am  to 1:00 pm  2:30 to 6:30 pm
Tickets: Museum + Grotte del Duomo € 3,50

Church of San Bernardino in Urbino

6

Two kilometers from the historic center, in the countryside, there is the Church of San Bernardino. The church, also known as the Mausoleo dei Duchi (mausoleum), was built by Federico da Montefeltro to house his remains after death.

Church of San Bernardino in Urbino
Church of San Bernardino in Urbino

Historians believe that the construction is the result of a collaboration between Francesco di Giorgio Martini, the architect of Federico da Montefeltro and the Bramante expressed by the simple style of the interior. Today the church doesn’t have any works but for many centuries the altar was embellished by the extraordinary ” Votive Altarpiece”, painted by Piero della Francesca between 1472 and 1474. The altarpiece is now known as “Pala di Brera” because it has been preserved since 1811 at the Milan Gallery

Where: 2 km far from the city centre
How to get there: by car in the direction of “Cesane sul colle” of San Donato.
When – Hours: weekdays and holidays 8 am – 6 pm
Tickets: free entrance

Helical ramps and Teatro Raffaello in Urbino

7

Urbino is a vertical city with narrow streets. In 1400 it was therefore the ideal place for those who wished to organize an ambush to the power people. The danger was clear to Federico da Montefeltro who commissioned, at the foot of the Palazzo Ducale Torricini, a bastion and inside some helical ramps.

Helical ramps and Teatro Raffaello in Urbino
Helical ramps and Teatro Raffaello in Urbino

Thanks to this masterpiece of engineering, the Duke could get to the ducal stables directly from the Palace. In order not to miss anything, at the bastion were added some guns that allowed to check the area under the Mercatale. In 1800 at the bastion was superimposed the Theatre Raffaello Sanzio, a choice that provoked controversy because it was considered a foreign element. Restructured in the 70s, nowdays the ramps are a slow and hard way to reach the old town

Urbino surroundings: Gradara

8

People who didn’t study the  Divine Comedy at school won’t remember  the name of Gradara. In the castle of this medieval village happened the story of Paolo and Francesca told by Dante. “Love, that exempts no one beloved from loving, he took delight in him so strong, that, as you see, it does not leave me.” He was Paolo Malatesta and she was Francesca da Polenta.

Urbino surroundings: Gradara
Urbino surroundings: Gradara

These two lovers were killed for Gianciotto Malatesta. Dante necessarily places them in the group of lustful, with a kind of compassion and understanding for her that tells the unfortunate story. Beyond the legend of the two lovers, maybe true maybe not, Gradara worth a visit because it’s a perfectly preserved village, almost unreal in its perfection and tranquillity, even though today is a bit too crowded especially in spring and summer.

Where: 32 km far from Urbino
How to get there: by car from Urbino: About 32 km towards Gabicce Mare

Things to eat in Urbino

9

Along with Ascoli, Urbino is the most important tourist destination of the Marche and one of the most visited cities of art in Italy.

Things to eat in Urbino
Things to eat in Urbino

Unfortunately it doesn’t have a very large capacity, especially in the historic center: there are fewer than 20 hotels, and some more rooms are just a few kilometers from the center. During high season (spring and autumn) can become difficult to find a cheap room. So we suggest you to book a bit in advance. As for prices, a room in a 3-star hotel in the old town starts from 50 euro per night.

If you are looking for a hotel in Urbino, we suggest you to choose among those offered by Booking.com. There are about 20 hotels with prices, pictures  and comments of guests already stayed there. Go to Booking.com

Where to sleep in Urbino

10

The products of the earth are the undisputed protagonists of the cuisine of Urbino. Halfway between the sea and the Apennines, with Tuscany and Emilia a few steps, no wonder that you often find mushrooms and truffles.

Where to sleep in Urbino
Where to sleep in Urbino

Seasonings are good for local fresh pasta like passatelli and perfect complement for game dishes. A typical product of Urbino is the Crescia, a kind of flat bread that goes with Salame di Montefeltro, the Prosciutto di Carpegna, the pecorino cheese and, above all, with Casciotta, a pecorino D.O.P. of ancient origins also loved by Michelangelo. Among the second triumph beef, especially the Marchigiana, the local breed that provides outstanding steaks.