Pesaro-Urbino Travel Guide: Art and culture

Urbino Palazzo Ducale

Urbino is the Renaissance of the new millennium. Its Ducal Palace, built for the grand duke Federico da Montefeltro, with its stately rooms, towers and magnificent courtyard forms a perfect example of the architecture of the time.

Today, the building still houses the Galleria Nazionale delle Marche (The Marche region National Gallery) with precious paintings by Piero della Francesca, Laurana and Raphael, whose house has been transformed into a museum. Not to be missed, are the fifteenth century frescoes of the oratory of San Giovanni and the “Presepio” or nativity scene of the Oratory of St. Giuseppe.

The city of Pesaro is the home of the precious mosaics of its cathedral, the Pinacoteca (art gallery), the Maiolica Museum and the Oliveriano Archaeology Museum, Villa Imperiale, on the hill of San Bartolo and Villa Caprile. Fano, instead, has its Corte Malatestiana, its Pinacoteca (art gallery) and Archeological Museum, and the tombs of the Malatesta family. Fossombrone houses the Quadreria moderna Cesarini (Cesarini Gallery of Modern Art).

In Pergola, the Museo dei Bronzi dorati (Gilded Bronzes Museum) and the Pinacoteca (Art Gallery). In Urbania, Palazzo Ducale (the Ducal Palace) houses the Biblioteca storica (Historical Library), the Museum and Pinacoteca (Art Gallery). Pennabilli has its Museo Diocesano (Diocesan Museum). In Apecchio, the Fossil Museum and in Cagli, the church of St. Domenico and its frescoes by Giovanni Santi, father of Raphael. The church of St. Maria d’Antico in Maiolo houses the Madonna delle Grazie by Luca della Robbia.

San Leo

Saint Leo, with its intriguing Fort, still steeped in the legend of Cagliostro, is perched on a rocky outcrop looking out over the province and, at the same time, back through the centuries. In addition to the castle, there are also medieval churches and other religious buildings. In the hills overlooking the sea stands the still-intact citadel of Gradara, with its fascinating castle evoking the love between Paolo and Francesca, immortalized by Dante in his Divine Comedy.

The Castle of Mondavio stands proud, dominating the valleys of the river Metauro and the Cesano. Still today, it is possible to breath the atmosphere of times gone by: the rooms of the castle are “alive” with waxworks of cavaliers and their ladies, complete with costumes and lighting of the era.

The Castle at Sassocorvaro had a very important historical function, in that many of the outstanding Italian works of art were hidden and preserved here by Giuseppe Rotondi during the Second World War. Piandimeleto is the location of the “Castello dei conti Oliva”, while in Carpegna, at the foot of the mountain of the same name, stands the monumental Palazzo dei principi (Princes’ Palace).

Other important fortifications designed by Francesco di Giorgio Martini can be found at Montecerignone and Sant’Agata Feltria. Along the route of the river Metauro stand the three Corti Ducali (Ducal Courts) of Fossombrone, the Palazzo ducale (Ducal Palace) and the Barco of Urbania, the latter being the hunting lodge of the Montefeltro family, and the Municipal building and tower at Sant’Angelo in Vado. High up the river Candigliano, the Castle of the Brancaleoni family overlooks the small hamlet of Piobbico. The solitary castle of Frontone stands on the slopes of monte Catria looking down on its hamlet.

Pesaro – Photo © Foundling House

In addition to the Romanesque cathedrals of Pesaro and Fano, other religious buildings that merit particular attention are the Abbey of San Vincenzo at Furlo, the Abbey of Lamoli at Borgo Pace and the Abbey of S.Tommaso in Foglia, just outside Pesaro, the church of S. Agostino at Cantiano, the church and Duomo of San Leo, the church of S. Sisto at Carpegna, that of S. Cassiano at Macerata Feltria and that of Ponte Messa at Pennabilli.

A meeting place of faith and history is the thousand-year old Eremo di Fonte Avellana. The sanctuary, which stands at the foot of monte Catria, was founded by San Pierdamiani and where the poet Dante was once a guest.

Other ancient centers of devotion include the Francescan sanctuary of the Beato Sante at Mombaroccio, the sanctuary of the Madonna del Faggio at Carpegna, the image of the Madonna delle Lacrime at Pennabilli, the Crucifix by Giotto at Talamello, the temple of the Madonna del Sasso, near Pergola, the church of the Madonna del Pelingo, between Furlo and Acqualagna, the Santuario del Crocifisso at Casteldimezzo, the Cristo Morto in the Oratorio della Grotta at Urbino, the Santuario della Madonna delle Grazie in Pesaro, and the Santuario della Madonna del Ponte Metauro in Fano.

Where to stay in Pesaro

Hotels, B&Bs, apartments and villas: search and make reservations here.

Where to stay in Urbino

Hotels, B&Bs, country houses and villas: search and make reservations here.