Driving past sunflower-covered fields, you feel as though you have stepped into a fairy tale. Upon seeing the monstrous Palazzo ducale, it's as if you've stepped back in time too. Nestled in the Apennines of Le Marche region is a small Renaissance town, Urbino. Its the birthplace of Raffaello Carboni, who was born in 1817, and was one of the revolutionists and a writer during his time, dedicated to Italian nationalism and freeing Italy from the grips of Austrian rule. Visitors can visit his family's home, which has been turned into a museum. It is also well-known for its main attraction, and first ever, Palazzo ducale, or the Ducal Palace, which housed Federico da Montefeltro III, who was duke of Urbino from 1444 to 1482. The little town houses the Universita' di Urbino, which has a constant international flow of students. I've found that upon mentioning Urbino as where I've studied abraod, few Americans have heard of this treasure, although it is quite important to the history of Italy. It flourished during the Renaissance during the 15th century, attracting scholars and artists from Italy and around the world. Due to its richness in both cultural and historical aspects, it has since become a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Unlike its rival, Florence, you should know some Italian in order to get around. I've found that most of those who live in town do not speak English, like in Florence, and if they do, it's quite limited. Studying in Urbino, or even just visiting, is a great way to practice your Italian, if you're looking to perfect it.
Learn all about Urbino in this month's Off the Beaten Trail, from cafes to the night hot spots for those living in town to la Festa del duca. The town is even building a brand new mall just outside the main walls. It's also just an hour bus ride away from Pesaro, one of Le Marche beach towns, and Urbino is a perfect base for exploring the region. A one-way bus ride just costs 2 euros!
Piazza della Repubblica