A view of Urbino. Photo: Stefano Valeri/Dreamstime
Ancient walls, Renaissance culture galore and a local cuisine that is literally mouth-watering: Urbino, a small Medieval town in the Marche region, is a lovely spot for a day trip or, even better, for a weekend getaway.
Halfway between Florence and Ancona, Urbino is also a hip college town: its University was founded in 1506, making it one of the oldest college towns in Italy. Although modern and happening,   thanks to its quaint location, nestled on a sloping hillside, it retains much of its medieval charm and yet has much to offer to its visitors. 
A visit to the town should start with beautiful Palazzo Ducale, the town’s amazing Ducal Palace built in the mid 15th century for Duke Federico III da Montefeltro. Today the palace is home to the Galleria Nazionale delle Marche, one of the most important collections of Renaissance art in the world that showcases masterpieces by great artists such as Santi, Raphael –who was born in Urbino- and Piero della Francesca.
The palace is a work of art itself and features a series of rooms that reflect Duke Federico’s love and interest for Classical studies. Perhaps the most intriguing is the studiolo, the small study that faces the country around the palace, designed to aid meditation and contemplation. The room, although small, is beautifully decorated with wood work and trompe-l’oeil, while the benches and shelves around it showcase musical and scientific instruments, weapons and antique furnishings. 
The Orto Botanico “Pierina Scaramella” is also worth a visit and a delightful way to spend a morning or afternoon: this wonderful botanical garden, established in 1806, is maintained by the University of Urbino and offers visitors the opportunity to admire both medical and ornamental plants and flowers. The entrance is free.
Gorgeous churches of historical importance are also plentiful in and around Urbino: the most famous is the Chiesa di San Bernardino, about a mile out of the city center on the hill of San Donato, where the Dukes of Urbino are buried; worth a visit is also the town’s cathedral, the Duomo di Urbino, with its beautiful neoclassical façade and baroque interior.
Although culture and the arts are definitely important in this town, there’s also a “lighter” side to Urbino that is easy to discover and fall in love with. Local cuisine is probably one of the most unknown by foreign tourists and always turns out to be a very pleasant surprise to visitors with its rich variety and wide range of offers. Because of the geography of the Marche –the region extends from the Adriatic seaside to the hills and mountains bordering with Umbria and Tuscany- gastronomic offers are varied and sure to please everyone.
The “vincisgrassi”, a type of lasagna made with meat sauce, mozzarella and béchamel will make pasta lovers happy, as will the “crescia”, a type of pizza made with cornmeal, cooked on a hot stone and served with local cheeses and cold cuts. Meat lovers, too, will rejoice as beef and pork dishes are abundant and prepared following the rural tradition: one above all is the maialino arrostito, a fire-roasted piglet with crunchy skin that gives way to juicy meat and a stuffing of fennel, garlic and rosemary. 
As for accommodations, one of the best ways to immerse oneself in the quiet lifestyle of Urbino is staying at a local agriturismo, farms turned into bed & breakfasts. Many of them are located just outside town, on the green rolling hills of the surrounding area and grow their own vegetables and animals. For more information about lodging at an agriturismo: www.agriturismo.it/it/agriturismi/marche/pesaro_e_urbino
The best way to reach Urbino is by car, by taking the A14 highway that links Bologna to Taranto. Otherwise trains and buses connect it to nearby Ancona, to Rome and Florence. The nearest airport is in Bologna and is served by several national, international and low cost airlines.  
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