Your first glimpse of the stately city of Urbino and you'll understand why it's been named a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The brick-built historic center is a beautiful example of Marche Renaissance style. But it's not for the weak-legged! This town is built steeply on its hill and a walk around the center involves at least a couple of ascents and descents.

The golden brick gleams in the sunlight and gives the city a refined and dignified presence on its hill. This was designed as an "ideal city" - rebuilt and styled by Federico Montefeltro who ruled Urbino from 1444 til 1482. The diplomat and duke was a great patron of the arts, using local as well as Umbrian and Tuscan artists to enrich his city. Urbino was the birthplace of the master painter Raphael, and the great Renaissance architect Donato Bramante was born nearby. The Montefeltro duke surrounded his court with artists and writers, bringing a cultural and intellectual depth to the city. The University of Urbino was founded in 1506, and is still an important center of higher learning. Indeed, there are so many students around town that the city almost seems to exist for the university!

The centerpiece and artistic hub of Urbino is the Palazzo Ducale. Montefeltro's grand palace is like a fairytale castle with slender twin towers forming a gorgeous skyline. Inside you'll find the National Gallery of the Marche, with rooms filled with art, along with a network of rooms, cellars and stables to explore below. The city's heart is Piazza della Repubblica, a triangular space with some outdoor cafes and restaurants and a hip, lively vibe thanks to the students who hang out here. Nearby is a small but pretty botanical garden. Don't miss the Oratorio di San Giovanni, a church covered from floor to ceiling in incredible frescoes, definitely a artistic highlight. The Albornoz Fortezza caps the city and has a park. Nearby Fermignano was the Renaissance-era industrial center for Urbino, where bricks and ceramics were (and still are) produced. It has a good weekly market.

Urbino is a lovely city surrounded by green hills and mountains, about an hour from the Adriatic Sea and not far from the Tuscany border. You'll find a unique Renaissance center with plenty of restaurants and interesting architecture to enjoy.

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