Last week I took a road trip and ventured into the Italian region of Le Marche with some of my fellow North Americans from the master program. One of the guys actually has lived in Italy for a few years and has a natural gas car at his disposal, so we were able to travel 2 hours outside of Bologna to the quaint town of Urbino for relatively cheap.
I've actually wanted to go to Urbino for quite some time, but never managed to make it on my own since it's kind of a pain to get to without a car. Urbino has no train station and is literally in the middle of the countryside. The only way to get there without a car is to take the train to Pesaro (which is still an hour away) and then catch a bus inland. So when we were talking about doing a trip last week on a day we didn't have school, I immediately suggested Urbino.
Urbino is not very well known, but it's actually a very important Renaissance city in Italy. The Duke Federico, who ruled from 1444 to 1482, was a rich patron of the arts and Renaissance man himself. Apparently the prospect of being attacked by him was so frightening that towns around him paid him off in order to avoid conflict with the powerful Duke and his strong Urbino. The Duke then used that money to fund artists and enrich his lovely hilltop town of Urbino. The main site of interest in Urbino is the Duke's Palace (Il Palazzo Ducale) where the Le Marche Art Collection is housed. The palace itself is beautiful, with some of the most incredible wood work I have ever seen, but unfortunately wasn't allowed to photograph. :(
The most famous room in the palace is the "Studiolo" room (little study room) in which a combination of beautiful pieced together wooden panels and an array of paintings of popes and philosophers make the small room into an overwhelming masterpiece. I unfortunately wasn't allowed to take pictures in the room and I'm afraid to post random pictures from the internet here due to possible copyright issues, so I recommend you google "studiolo palazzo ducale" yourselves to take a look. Or you could just go to Urbino and see it for yourself! It's definitely worth the trip.
Other famous facts about the town is that the painter Raphael was born here and there's also a prominent university that specializes in Sociology.
The small town is cute and very typically Italian. It was lovely to walk around in the spring country air and be touristy in a place without many tourists.
Besides the Duke's Palace, the highlight of the day for me was definitely lunch. We ate at a little restaurant suggested to us by the woman that worked at the ticket booth in the palace. I can't even describe how incredible it was. I had one of the best pasta dishes I have ever had in Italy. I got strozzapreti (which literally translates to "strangled preists"...) in a cream sauce with mushrooms, sausage, and TRUFFLE OIL. I will be dreaming about this pasta for weeks to come, seriously.
I leave you with a few sights from Urbino...
For more photos from Urbino (and my photos in general...) check out my new Flickr photo stream!