Urbino is a walled city in the Marche region of Italy, south-west of Pesaro, a World Heritage Site notable for a remarkable historical legacy of independent Renaissance culture, especially under the patronage of Federico da Montefeltro, duke of Urbino from 1444 to 1482. The town, nestled on a high sloping hillside, retains much of its picturesque medieval aspect.
The most famous member of the Montefeltro was Federico III (or II), Duke of Urbino from 1444 to 1482, a very successful condottiere, a skillful diplomat and an enthusiastic patron of art and literature. At his court, Piero della Francesca wrote on the science of perspective, Francesco di Giorgio Martini wrote his Trattato di architettura ("Treatise on Architecture") and Raphael's father, Giovanni Santi, wrote his poetical account of the chief artists of his time. Federico's brilliant court, according to the descriptions in Baldassare Castiglione's Il Cortegiano ("The Book of the Courtier"), set standards of what was to characterize a modern European "gentleman" for centuries to come.
In 1502, Cesare Borgia, with the connivance of his Papal father, Alexander VI, dispossessed Duke Guidobaldo and Elisabetta Gonzaga. They returned in 1503, after Alexander had died. After the Medici pope Leo X's brief attempt to establish a young Medici as duke, thwarted by the early death of Lorenzo II de' Medici in 1519, Urbino was ruled by the dynasty of Della Rovere dukes.
The conflict ensued after the end of the War of the League of Cambrai (1508–16), when Francesco Maria I della Rovere decided to take advantage of the situation to recover the Duchy of Urbino, from which he had been ousted in the previous year.
In the early 1517 he presented himself under the walls of Verona to hire the troops which had besieged the city, now to be returned to the Republic of Venice. Della Rovere set off with an army of some 5,000 infantry and 1,000 horses which he entrusted to Federico Gonzaga, lord of Bozzolo, reaching the walls of Urbino on January 23, 1517.
He defeated the Papal condottiero Francesco del Monte and entered the city hailed by the population.
Pope Leo X reacted by hastily hiring an army of 10,000 troops under Lorenzo II de' Medici, Renzo di Ceri, Giulio Vitelli and Guido Rangoni and sending it against Urbino. Lorenzo was wounded by a bullet from an arquebus on April 4 during the siege of the Mondolfo castle, and returned to Tuscany. He was replaced by Cardinal Bibbiena. The latter was however unable to control the troops, and, defeated with relevant losses at Monte Imperiale, was forced to retreat to Pesaro.
The war was however ended by the lack of money of Francesco Maria della Rovere, who soon found himself unable to pay the troops hired at Verona. After some unfruitful ravages in Tuscany and Umbria, he began to seek for a diplomatic settlement with the pope. In September they signed a treaty by which della Rovere was relieved of all ecclasiastical censures and was left free to retreat to Mantua with all his artillery, as well as the rich library collected in Urbino by the former duke Federico III da Montefeltro.
- The Duomo di Urbino is a church founded in 1021 over a 6th century religious edifice. The 12th century plan was turned 90 degrees from the current one, which is a new construction also started by Federico II and commissioned to Francesco di Giorgio Martini, author of the Ducal Palace. Finished only in 1604, the Duomo had a simple plan with a nave and two aisles, and was destroyed by an earthquake in 1789. The church was again rebuilt by the Roman architect Giuseppe Valadier, the works lasting until 1801. The new church has a typical neo-classicist appearance, with a majestic dome. It houses a San Sebastian from 1557, an Assumption by Carlo Maratta (1701) and the famous Last Supper by Federico Barocci (1603–1608).
- Raphael's House The Renaissance painter Raphael was born in Urbino (in 1483) and the house where he was born is now a delightful little museum - a simple fresco of the Madonna and Child in one of the rooms may have been one of his earliest works. You will find it in Via Raffaello that runs up from Piazza della Repubblica.
- Albornz Fortress The small fortress at the top of Urbino is a great place for views of the town and surrounding hills. It was built in the fourteenth century and was the defensive point for the walls, built in the sixteenth century. It's now a library and public park.
- Oratorio di S. Giovanni Battista in Via Barocci is a small church entirely decorated in 1416 with wall-to-ceiling frescoes by the Marchegiani painters Jacopo and Lorenzo Salimbeni. Ignore the fact that few outside the Marches have ever heard of the brothers; just enjoy the brilliance of their earthy vision of the life of St John the Baptist and a terrifying Crucifixion - or just count the number of playful small dogs you can spot in the lively scenes.
- The Ducal Palace is a Renaissance building in the Italian city of Urbino. One of the most important monuments in Italy, it is listed as UNESCO World Heritage Site. The construction of the Ducal Palace was begun for Duke Federico III da Montefeltro around the mid-fifteenth century by the Florentine Maso di Bartolomeo. The new construction included the pre-existing Palace of the Jole.Luciano Laurana, an architect from Dalmatia who had been influenced by Brunelleschi's cloisters in Florence, designed the façade, the famous courtyard and the great entrance staircase. The palace continued in use as a government building into the 20th century, housing municipal archives and offices, and public collections of antique inscriptions and sculpture. Restorations completed in 1985 have reopened the extensive subterranean network to visitors.