The Renaissance castle-town of Mondavio is a magnificent jewel, named among the most beautiful small towns in Italy. Located in the picturesque rolling hills of Le Marche, the town was built as a military stronghold in the Pesaro-Urbino province between the Metauro and Cesano Rivers, and its hilltop position offers sweeping views from the mountains to the Adriatic Sea.
Documents indicated a named settlement here dating to 1178 and it appears in the Vatican registry from 1289. The name is thought to derive from Mons Avium, or mount of the birds for the variety found here. The town seal bears a white dove. There was a monastery and church, but not much else until the Renaissance period when the territory was under the domain of powerful lords of the Malatesta, della Rovere, and Piccolomini families. Because of the constant power struggles over the territories of central Italy, the stalwart fortress was constructed in the 1400s by the della Rovere dukes. With its massive towers, heavy bulwarks, drawbridge and rooftop walkways, it was formidable. The castle is a must-see, as it is exceptionally well preserved and also used for exhibitions and events.
The town hall-Palazzo Municipale- is in the former monastery and contains priceless frescoes and artwork and interesting architectural features. Teatro Apollo is a petit opera house theater outlined with ordered rows of loggia boxes, still providing the community with a full line-up of theatrical shows and concerts.
The Civic Museum is in the former cloister of the monastery with paintings, sculptures and manuscripts on display. The castle holds a military museum and a historical museum dedicated to the fortress's architecture and history.
Every August Mondavio throws a big Renaissance-style banquet, and in the autumn the grape harvest and area's wines are celebrated with food, drink and dancing, in November to coincide with San Martino observations.
Despite its small size with only 4,000 residents, the town has an active life amidst its well-kept streets, along with a handful of restaurants and cafes to enliven the picturesque atmosphere.
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Explore nearby towns
A perfectly preserved medieval center of brick buildings and stately palaces makes Corinaldo a beautiful place.
The cute, compact town of Montemaggior al Metauro sits on a "balcony" in northern Le Marche.
Monterado is a brick-built hilltop hamlet in northern Le Marche.