How could I help it? I idealized Urbino. Even though I’ve long maintained a vigilant stance against romanticizing people and places alike, this was Urbino: Renaissance mecca for humanists, scholars, art and architecture. The location, in the isolated and mountainous region of Italy’s Marche, combined with being a university town filled me with visions of earnest, bright young students lounging in bookshops and perhaps chatting in Latin underneath harmonious arcades.
Well, there were plenty of students. Earnest and bright young scholars? Not so much. There were no bookstores and all the town’s action seemed centered on church (old people) and drunken carousing (students). Finally, I got a clue: the Renaissance left Urbino 500 years ago.
Federico da Montefeltro, aka Dude with the Righteous Nose, brought high culture to Urbino while ruling as lord and Duke of Urbino from 1444 to 1482. He hired the architect Luciano di Laurana to build an astonishing palace. The building itself is a landmark of Renaissance architecture and inside there are lots of goodies, including a superb art gallery and small, exquisite study of trompe-l’oeil intarsia. (Alas, we have no pictures due to the palace’s photography ban).
After several hours enjoying Senior-Lord-Duke-Righteous-Nose’s palace, we sampled crescia, the street food of Urbino. Our crescia, a sort of stuffed flat bread, were made fresh to order and we pronounced them delicious. Belly’s full of crescia, we walked through Urbino, past beer-swilling students, enjoying the Renaissance era street plan and we were delighted to spot a flyer announcing a free music recital that evening from the university’s music department.
Later that night we eagerly awaited the beginning of the recital inside a gorgeous old theater with red velvet seats. We waited. And we waited. A few people finally showed up. The recital started quite late…and was terrible! These were university level musicians!??! Thank goodness for the intermission, when we made our escape back to our hotel where the roar of drunken partying students under our window accompanied us throughout the night.
I don’t want to sound too down on Urbino: it is lovely and the Palazzo Ducale is a must visit destination. And it’s not like I object to students having a bit of fun, though it’s hard to see how much decent scholarship is happening at this particular party school. Federico da Montefeltro, Renaissance man and classical scholar, must be rolling in his grave.
Arcaded courtyard of Palazzo Ducale.
West facade of Palazzo Ducale.
View of the Duomo, which is adjacent to the palace.
Is anyone going to show up to this recital?
All of the historic center of Urbino is a UNESO World Heritage sight.
Crescia, the street food of Urbino.
How we got to Urbino: bus from Pesaro.
Where we slept: Albergo Italia Urbino. Price: €70 for a double. Recommended: yes.