Sunday, November 15th
The road to Urbino is a very long winding road with hundreds of switchbacks. It’s a lot of fun with our manual transmission (not according to Marsha and Lidna though). It’s also a little intimidating with groups of motorcycles flying past on the curves and BMWs pressing on your tail as they are trying to see just how much their suspensions can take. Combine all this with a complete pea-soup fog for the first half of the trip can sap your (and everone’s) energy for the day. But the fog lifted and the rest of the ride opened the beautiful views and blue skies into Urbino.
We parked on the lowest level of the town and took a very, very steep and long street up to the piazza that faces the back of the Ducal Palace.
This was the official entrance for touring the site, but we also wanted to see the iconic front with its two towers and connecting balconies. So we walked down a different street paved with brick and ridges every few steps to prevent you from bob sledding all the way down on your butt.
The front is majestic and does reflect the grandeur that expresses itself inside. Unfortunately we couldn’t get back far enough with our camera to show you.
Since it was lunch time we waited to go inside until after. As we walked to the central Plazza della Repubblica on our way to the restaurant, we discovered an impromptu memorial in support of the horror in Paris.
Linda expressed it best: “This is a University town. Perhaps this generation will have more success in bringing us closer to the ideal of tolerance, respect and recognition of the value of difference, grounded in an understanding of our common humanity. Something to hope for at a time when this seems even more difficult to achieve.” Here, here.
Linda’s friends and neighbors, Susan and David Colby had recommended that we book a meal at a restaurant in the center of town, Trattoria del Leone. It looked so good that we decided to make it our main meal of that day. So, we ordered it all. It turned out that the restaurant sourced everything locally (even a map showing where everything came from by the door). It was all delicious.. We ordered a variety and tasted around, a pattern that emerged. A great surprise was the wine. We asked for a typical, good local wine. We were recommented a local Sangiovese (actually from the adjacent Marche region) that was spectacular…as good as or better than the Barolo we had the other night. Bonus – I believe it was $11!
Back to the Ducal Palace. (Per Linda’s notes): The Ducal Palace, built during the second half of the 15th century was notable both for its architecture and interior decoration and for the art on display in its rooms. Designed to impress and to celebrate the humanities, the arts and sciences, over war, the scale of everything was large in proportion and actual dimension and the decorative elements created by some of the best artists in the area and beyond. Large windows were a feature of almost every room, with great views to the outside and a beautiful source of light. Although the duke most responsible for the construction of the palace promoted the Renaissance ideals noted above, one of the symbols connected to his family was an exploding grenade, a reminder of the military might that led to this peaceful reign. Subsequent family members were not as successful in managing this city-state, it declined and by the 17th century became a papal state.
Some of the art in the palace was commissioned by the Duke and his heirs but much has been placed here by the state because of its origin in Umbria and/or its connection to the ducal family. Among the very impressive original decorative elements are doors of inlaid wood.
You could spend many visits just examining these extraordinary works.
Our visit ended with a quick tour of the underground floor (kind of like Downton Abby’s “downstairs”) – it’s where all the work was done to support the royals above. There were stables, a laundry room and a bath for the dutchess (very elegant compared to the rest of the downstairs). It was kind of bare at the moment, but it is being restored and will eventually have interpretive signs that we really could have used. Ah well, we were in on the ground floor.
We were just a little late to see and tour the synagogue and ghetto – they were a few stories down from the palace, and it was getting late and dark. Jews were accepted as equals, living and working among the general population until the mid-17th century, when the ghetto was established.
There was a beautiful sunset as we walked back down to the car. It’s reflection on the buildings and the walls and the special light on the trees and beautiful hills beyond gave us a real sense of how fortunate we were to be standing there.
We wound dizzily back down, now with the dark obscuring our view, not fog. Back to the Yoga Borgo for some refreshment and rest before starting another busy day.