If one day you just can’t face yet another pre-Renaissance holy picture, give the Ducal Palace (Galleria Nazionale delle Marche) a miss (I’m assuming you’ve seen the Pieros and the Raphael and the Studiolo and the Justus of Ghent/Pedro Berruguete portrait of Duke Federigo and his son), stroll round town
and have a look at the other sights.
While researching this section I came across, or rather, really read properly, a book we’ve had for years: Urbino, the story of a Renaissance City, by June Osborne: Frances Lincoln, 2003. (University of Chicago Press in the USA.) It is a good guide, beautifully illustrated by Joe Cornish’s photographs, to the art and history of Urbino under Federigo and Guidobaldo, but hasn’t got a map of the modern city and its surroundings. Anyway, I have borrowed a lot from JO and acknowledge my debt here.
You walk through the Porta Valbona,
up a steep hill, the Via Mazzini, from the car park in Piazza Mercatale, formerly the site of the cattle market, and arrive in the Piazza della Repubblica. As you go up the Via Mazzini look out for a little alimentare, or grocery, on the left, where they sell good ready made pasta sauce al cinghiale, (wild boar), De Cecco pasta,(the best) and will advise you on what pasta to serve with what sauce. They also usually sell the traditional Urbino cheese, casciotta, but they didn’t have any the day I was there.
Just ahead of you and to your right is the eighteenth-century Palazzo del Collegio Raffaell0, part of which is now a caffè, as you can tell from the word Caffè written in huge metal letters across the centre front of the facade. It’s a nice place to sit and watch the world go by but the staff are charmless. Penetrate into the cortile and you will find yourself in another world. The cortile has been recently beautifully restored, as only the Italians know how, and is now the home of Le Botteghe del Montefeltro , shops selling local produce. They also offer light meals and the one on the left (with your back to the Caffè) is a nice place to have lunch in spring and summer. We had a good tagliere (chopping board: Marchegiano equivalent of a platter) of salumi (cold meats)and some sweet raw fave, or broad beans, a traditional Italian, or Marchigiano, spring delicacy. In autumn the other shop does half-heartedly offer a tagliere, but it’s not as nicely presented. There is also an excellent Feltrinelli bookshop.
Just next door to the Collegio, on the other side of the Via Battisti, is the Franciscan church of San Francesco (obviously) with its delightful C14 portico and campanile (bell-tower). The painter Raffaello/ Raphael’s (1483-1520) father, Giovanni Santi (early 1440s-1494), is buried here.
More to follow on San Francesco, the Museo della Città and the two Oratori.
And here it is. Quite the strangest and most interesting part of S Francesco is the small brick-lined chapel to the memory of Urbino’s war dead. In it have been collocated, apparently at random (oops, did I say dumped!):-a mid ‘400 German 3-person Pietà; a 16th century crucifix, and two arches of carved stone, all presumably rescued from the eighteenth century reconstruction of the church.
Were you to carry on up the steep hill you would come to Raphael’s birthplace, which do not despise just because it hasn’t got any paintings by the master.As June Osborne says, it is quite moving to see the stone where the young Raphael perhaps used to grind paints for his father. There is also a delightful Madonna and Child, attributed sometimes to the young Raphael and sometimes to his father.
However, we are not going to visit the house today. Instead, we are going to carry on up the hill along the Via Vittorio Veneto, and turn left, along Via Valerio, to the Museo della Città, in the Palazzo Bonaventura Odasi. I admit it is a long time since I visited it, because its opening hours are not convenient (weekday mornings only except Tuesdays – closed, and all day at weekends) – see my earlier post under “Useful info: opening hours” and my post on Jesi . Again, like the Collegio Raffaello, the palazzo has been beautifully restored and the museum is attractively presented.
Retrace your steps to the Piazza della Repubblica and turn right off Via Mazzini and then left. Downhill on your right you will find the Oratorio di San Giuseppe, and a bit farther on the Oratorio di San Giovanni.
(More to follow)