Urbino slipped off the map in the 16th century after a golden age of around 150 years, when this perfectly formed Renaissance city, today home to a flourishing university, flourished under the rule of the Dukes of Urbino, the Montefeltro family.
The second Duke, Federigo, was the epitome of Renaissance man, a condottiere (mercenary), humanist and patron of the arts. In 1465 he used the cash earned by fighting for Florence, Naples and Pope to build the Palazzo Ducale, one of Italy’s most beautiful palazzi, a harmonious palace on a human scale, set around courtyards and dominating the walled city. Today it houses the Galleria Nazionale delle Marche, a fine gallery containing two masterpieces, the Madonna della Senigallia and the Flagellation by Piero della Francesca. These are housed in the Duke’s private apartments, which include his study, entirely lined with stunning intarsia (inlaid woodwork). His portrait hangs nearby – he was always painted in profile, having lost his right eye in battle.
Away from here, you can visit the birthplace of the artist Raphael, view the Cathedral, climb to the Fortezza Albornoz for great city views, or simply enjoy the Piazza della Repubblica, the heart of the traffic-free centro storico.