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|Urbino is one of the most attractive towns in The Marches, indeed in Italy, and a not-to-be-missed destination for the anyone in search of great Italian art and architecture. The Ducal Palace of Urbino is one of Italy's most beautiful Renaissance buildings and it houses a splendid collection of art. For anyone staying in Florence, Siena or the Chianti wine territory, it is possible to visit Urbino in a single day if you have your own car or arrange a minibus tour. The latter makes economic sense especially if you are a group renting an agriturismo in Chianti. Further information below.
The Ducal Palace of Urbino
|During the second half of the 15 C, Urbino was the home of one of the most illustrious courts in Europe. Duke Federico da Montefeltro gathered around him the greatest painters, poets and scholars of his day and housed them in the Ducal Palace which still stands as an eloquent testimonial to this quintessential Renaissance man.
The Roman town of Urvinum Mataurense ("the little town on the river Mataurus") became an important strategic stronghold
during the Gothic wars of the 6 C and was captured from the Goths in 538 by
Count Belisarius on behalf of the Byzantine Emperor. Pippin presented Urbino to the
Papacy and around 1200 it came into the possession of the nobles of nearby
Montefeltro. They had no direct authority over the
municipality, but, by means of intrigue, Bonconte di Montefeltro was elected podestà in 1213, with the result that the Urbinese rebelled, formed an alliance with the independent
municipality of Rimini in 1228, and by 1234 were masters of their city again. In the struggles between
Guelphs and Ghibellines,
by now associated with individual families and cities, rather than the struggle between Hohenstaufen emperors and the Papacy as they had been, the
13 C and 14 C Montefeltro lords of Urbino were leaders of the Ghibellines of the Marche and in the Romagna.
The most famous member of the Montefeltro family was Federico, Lord of Urbino 1444 to 1482, a very successful condottiere, a skillful diplomat and an enthusiastic patron of the arts and literature. At his court, Piero della Francesca wrote on the science of perspective, Francesco di Giorgio Martini wrote his Trattato di architettura ("Treatise on Architecture") and Raphael's father Giovanni Santi wrote his poetical account of the chief artists of his time. Through the descriptions in Il Cortegiano ("The Book of the Courtier") written by Castiglione, Federico's brilliant court, set standards of what characterised a modern European gentleman that were valid for centuries.
dispossessed Guidobaldo da Montefeltre, Duke of Urbino, and Elisabetta Gonzaga in 1502, with the connivance of his father,
Pope Alexander VI. After the Medici Pope Leo X's brief attempt to establish a young Medici as
Duke, thwarted by the early death of
Lorenzo II de' Medici
in 1519, Urbino was ruled by the dynasty of Della Rovere dukes.
In 1626, Pope Urban VIII definitively incorporated the Duchy into the papal dominions, the gift of the weary last Della Rovere Duke in retirement after the assassination of his heir, to be governed by the archbishop. Its great library was removed to Rome and added to the Vatican Library in 1657. The later history of Urbino is part of the history of the Papal States and, after 1870, of the Kingdom (later Republic) of Italy.
• Palazzo Ducale, begun in the second half of the 15 C by Federico II da Montefeltro. It houses the Galleria Nazionale delle Marche, one of the most important collection of Renaissance paintings in the world.
Piero della Francesca. The Senigallia Madonna
Palazzo Albani (17 C)
Churches of Urbino
The Duomo (Cathedral) is a church founded in 1021 on the site of a 6 C religious edifice. The
12 C was turned 90 degrees from the current one, which is a new construction also started by Federico II and commissioned to Francesco di Giorgio Martini, author of the Ducal Palace. Finished only in 1604, the Duomo had a simple plan with a nave and two aisles, and was destroyed by an earthquake in 1789. The church was again rebuilt by the Roman architect Giuseppe
Valadier, the works lasting until 1801. The new church has a typical neo-classicist appearance, with a majestic dome. It houses a San Sebastian from 1557, an Assumption by Carlo Maratta (1701) and the famous Last Supper by Federico Barocci (1603-1608).
Famous natives of Urbino
Donato Bramante was born nearby and witnessed Laurana's work going up while he was a youth
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