Urbino is a fascinating little Medieval city in the Marche region. I have been there several times – one of the reasons is that there is a gelateria with olive oil ice cream. And another that many of my visiting friends want to see this little interesting place with so much history. Urbino was once a papal town and played always a huge role in religion and politics.
Although I have been several times there I always discover something new. This time I had the opportunity to see the Palazzo Ducale, the Ducal Palace.
The Ducal Palace is a Renaissance building of the 15th century. It is one of the most important monuments of the period and today listed as UNESCO World Heritage Site.
It is situated right in the middle of the little fortified Medieval city of Urbino and was once a very important city for the Catholic church when it became a papal city.
The construction of the Ducal Palace was commissioned by Federico III da Montefeltro, the rulers of this area. The new building would include the older Palace of the Jole.
The problem was that the rock was in fact impregnable to siege but also carving out a foundation for the huge palace would be nearly impossible.
Luciano Laurana from Dalmatia was asked to come in help. He was a very well known fortress builder and though knew how to built a foundation for such a big construction.
He left before the palace was done and today unknown designers and architects were operating on the palace. It is thought that the native Donato Bramante (he was born in Fermignano, a nearby town), one of the most famous architects at that time, was helping out. He was one of the designers and architects of St Peter’s Basilica in 1504.
The most famous room in the palace is the ‘studiolo’, a small study for contemplation. It is still nearly completely the same like it was originally.
I visited the National Galleries of the Marche, the ‘Galleria Nazionale delle Marche’. They have many artifacts of different epochs but mainly the paintings are from huge interests. Paintings of Paolo Uccello, Titian, Timoteo Viti, Melozzo di Forlì, Raphael (born a few streets further of the palace in Urbino) and Piero della Francesca. All these painters were already famous and well requested during their life-time.
The palace is wonderfully decorated. Very often I had to look up at the ceilings as they are spectacular. Rooms are big, delicately decorated without being overloaded. The many windows give the possibility to look out over the land on one side and into the streets of Urbino itself on the other side.
The Palazzo Ducale is open nearly every day of the year and the ticket costs 6,50 €. You should know that every first Sunday of a month the entrance is free in Italian museums. You can have also a ticket including the birth house of Rafaello, which I would recommend. It is just a few minutes walk away, a very small house on a few levels but it looks like he is still living there.
In the Ducal Palace there is a book shop in case you like to bring some souvenir or want to know more about Urbino and the rich history of the Marche. And if getting thirsty or hungry go to the cafeteria and restaurant.
I enjoyed a lot going through this old palace that seems so perfect. One of the reasons may be because it was always in use, as in a result also in a certain way well-maintained.
Urbino, Le Marche/Italy: