Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Our Trip to Urbino

Urbino is a picturesque Renaissance hill town, the capital of Le Marche region in central Italy. Last week we spent 4 days here where we caught up with Don and Yvonne Laird; our friends from Australia.  The hot weather has continued and we arrived after a 7 hour, 4 stage train and bus journey in 38⁰ heat!

Urbino is renowned for the Palazzo Ducale, the mid 15th century palace built for the Duke Frederico III da Montefeltro, considered one of the most important monuments in Italy, also known as the Galleria Nationale della Marche, which houses one of the most important collections of Renaissance paintings in Italy. This is an amazing example of early renaissance architecture, a must see to anyone visiting the area. Unfortunately interior photography is forbidden, however we did manage a few shots of the exterior.

Sightseeing is soooo hard in the heat!!

Our next highlight of Urbino is the Oratorio of Di San Giovani, we scaled these steps in the blazing heat.
The things I do for the Love of God!

Well at least for the love of the work of his interior decorators! Check out these frescos!  I need one of these for my loggia!

 Oratorio di San Giovanni (Veduta interna)

Not a bad way to end a hot day!
Did I mention Urbino is a university town? The university started in 1506, and it is currently graduation season here.

Graduation celebrations are a little different to how we do it in Melbourne, firstly there are b&w photocopied notices pinned around the town advertising the graduates celebration! All graduates wear a green laurel wreath (no cap and gown here), they appear to graduate on different days and times: some celebrations commenced after breakfast. They also can get a little messy, or wet as we see here!

We chose to end our day in the same piazza with a cooling Aperol Spritz, our aperitif of choice.

The Republic of San Marino
Day 3 we head off (with Don and Yvonne) in the hire car. I must mention a funny story – on arrivIng to pick us up, Don profusely apologised for the size (or lack of) of the 2 door car he has hired. Marino struggles to move the front seat forward to get in and REALLY squeezes himself into the back seat, only to find a door handle which he opens to reveal the back door. It’s a 4 door car after all. A real Mr Bean moment! We laughed and laughed!

Back to San Marino ……
It is the oldest republic in the world. San Marino has survived the Napoleonic Wars, the unification of Italy, and two world wars. Will it survive a visit by the ‘Marino’ Candusio? We visit the public palace and photograph the Guardi di Rocca. Marino gets a feel for the parliament – secretly I think he’s enjoying this. Unfortunately San Marino is a lot of hype with not much substance! We decide to move on.

 San Leo
A tiny dot on the map but what a find! An imposing town hanging off a cliff face which dates back to the year 1000! We stop here for a lovely lunch in the main piazza, and inspect a few of its monuments; the 4th century Parischurch of Pieve, the Cathedral circa 1173 dedicated to Patron Saint Leo (of course) and the Bell Tower. Monumental  - history overload!

But wait there’s more …….

Our final destination for the day, we head straight to the Chiesa dei Morti (the Church of the Dead). Quite gruesome really, a very small church dedicated to the mummies that were found buried in the churchyard. Although not in the best shape, they are in actual fact on display (EEK!)

We all need sweetening after this! Mmmm Gelato all round!

We then head home for an evening Aperol Spritz!

Day 4, our final day. We start with a trip to Gradara, yet again another medieval walled town (we do love them) with a castle and a sad story. Legend has it that the castle was the scene of the famous and tragic love story of Paolo and Francesca, caught in each other’s arms and killed by Gianciotto, Francesca’s husband.

We continue with a scenic drive along the strada panoramica from Gabicce Mare to Pesaro, a long winding road with occasional views of the Adriatic coastline. From Pesaro we head inland 6.5km along a goat track to Novilara. What can I say other than it was quite an adventure getting there, thank goodness for the GPS! We find the only restaurant (yay!) which surprisingly has a website and is known for their tagliatelle ‘fatta in casa’ – homemade tagliatelle with red bean sauce. Marino and Don have the house specialty, while Yvonne and I stick with the traditional ragu (a wise decision) as the red bean sauce is an acquired taste!

Thanks again to the GPS (you really must learn to trust her, Don) we make our way out of Novilara and back to Pesaro in time for our return journey back to Lucca (another 6 hour, 3 stage train journey).

Yvonne, Marino & Don - San Leo
Melanie looking out for the enemy - Gradara

Home at last!  It actually does feel like we are home when we arrive back in Lucca to our apartment.  And have another Aperol Spritz.

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