An introduction to Urbino
Urbino is a walled city in the East of Italy, in the region of Le Marche. Located just south of Rimini and northwest of Ancona, the town lies in the middle of a relatively hilly area and is indeed nestled on a high sloping hillside. It has retained much of its picturesque medieval aspect, which are marred ever so slightly by the large car parks below the town. It is the home of the University of Urbino “Carlo Bo”, founded in 1506. The city has a permanent population of around 15.500 people, which is roughly five thousand less than the official enrolment of the university. The city is also the seat of the Archbishop of Urbino. The historic old town has been a World Heritage Site since 1998. In terms of seismic activity, the land around the city is considered a medium to high risk area and has been of high interest to vulcanologists since 1511 and the largest shockwave recorded in the area happened in June 1781 and registered a 6.23 on the Richter Scale. In 2006 the city celebrated its 500-year anniversary and released a limited edition special commemorative stamp to mark the occasion. Urbino is also the birthplace of the motorcyclist Valentino Rossi.
Urbino is one of the oldest Jewish communities in Italy. It prospered thanks to the protection which was placed upon it by Federico da Montefeltro, a very successful condottiere, a skillful diplomat and an enthusiastic patron of art and literature. The community was only established during the course of the 17th century, when the city passed into the Papal States. As a testament to the history and the vitality of the community, there still remain the two synagogues, of which one is still in tact, and the ancient cemetery at Gadana.
The city’s best-known and most visited architectural structure is the Palazzo Ducale, which was rebuilt by Luciano Laurana. It is one of the most interesting examples of Italian Renaissance as a whole. It is home to the National Gallery of Le Marche and is characterised by the small towers, which define the façade of the building.
The House of Raffaello, or La Casa Rafaello, found at number 57 of the same street is another popular attraction. There you can admire a fresco made by Raffaello in his youth, as well as the environment and furniture of the famous artist’s humble abode. A monument to him, created by the sculptor Luigi Belli at the end of the 19th century, originally located on the Palazzo Ducale square (Piazza del Palazzo Ducale), can now be found at the top of Via Raffaello. It was moved there in 1947.
The city's cathedral was designed in the neoclassical style by the architect Giuseppe Valadier. It was built between the end of the 18th and the beginning of the 19 centuries and contains some important canvasses of Federico Barocci.
A visit to the "Pierina Scaramella" botanical gardens should also be considered.
Accommodation in Urbino’s student residences
Urbino’s student residences, known as Case dello Studente or Collegi, are owned and run by the local administrative entity called the ERSU Urbino, which is responsible for many aspects of student life, including accommodation and dining as well as many social and cultural activities. It should be understood that these residences are designed primarily for students and not children or adults expecting a high level of luxury. However, with this in mind, the residences do meet a level of comfort that we expect most visitors to be happy with, and we will welcome any feedback where this is not the case.
Getting to Urbino
Urbino is most easily reached from the Adriatic coast. It is not part of the railway network but the town is linked to the east coast of Italy via the town of Pesaro, located around 25 miles (40km) to the northeast – buses for Urbino leave from just outside Pesaro railway station. Generally, times are quite irregular, with roughly two buses per hour. Some are slow, local services and others, costing a little bit more, provide a faster connection with an estimated journey time of about 45 minutes. The latter are marked by the indication “corsa rapida”. Bus tickets can be purchased from little bars and kiosks between the railway station and the bus stops (towards the right as you leave the station) – they have large signs advertising the tickets. Timetables are displayed at the ticket office, or “biglietteria”, of the main bus station further ahead, and also on the website of the company that runs the services, Adriabus.
In Urbino tickets are bought at a tobacconists in Borgo Mercatale, opposite the bus stops and just outside the town walls. It may also be possible to buy tickets on the bus, but you will need the correct change. During the summer, there are also additional tourist bus services to Urbino leaving from other places, such as Rimini. Car parks for visitors can be found dotted all around the walls. Please note that you cannot drive into the city centre without a special permit.