First week in Urbino

It’s hard to believe that I boarded the plane to come to Italy almost a whole week ago. The time is flying by. Our first week here in Urbino the program has kept us very busy even though we are not yet taking classes (except our online class). Since we start school tomorrow morning, I thought that I would update what has happened in the first week.

When we first arrived in Urbino, my breath was stolen from my by the stunning walls of the city. After gathering our bags, it was time to hike up our first big hill… I won’t even post a picture of the hill we actually climbed because it doesn’t do it justice. They are huge. My legs felt as though they were going to give out. Rolling a large suitcase, small carry-on suitcase, and lugging a backpack was not easy for us jet lagged students, but we finally made it to the top of the hill, panting. I included a photo of a smaller hill with a gorgeous view in the background so you can see what we are dealing with.  The kites are there because this weekend was a big kite festival in Urbino, but it got rained out, so I will try to go next weekend.

Kites in Urbino

That first evening before dinner, we went on a walk around the city to see where the post office, supermarket, gelato shops, school supplies store, and farmers market were. After, we walked up to the most stunning view, a popular spot to take photographs of Urbino. We walked back down the hill and ate dinner in the cafeteria, which was a welcomed sight for our growling tummies. Later in the evening, a few of us students headed out into town to go see if we could grab a drink at one of Urbino’s few night clubs but the one we were headed to was closed, so we ended up at a hoppin’ little bar/restaurant (that seems to have no name). Everyone else drank Aperol Spritz (I still haven’t tried it yet!), which came with a little plate of assorted grilled paninis, but I got a couple of Heinekens. We enjoyed each other’s company and introduced ourselves to some of the locals with whom I sang songs from the movie Sister Act (this was the extent of their English).

Day 2: Urbino, Program Orientation

On Thursday we began the day with an orientation for the program out at the campus in our classrooms that are reserved especially for us. I’ll do a post about this beautiful location and what a day in the life looks for a student here, but just believe me… it’s amazing. Afterwards, we went to the welcome lunch where we had assorted quiches, ravioli, bread, wine, potatoes, and chicken with a dessert of fruity bread and macchiato (of course). After lunch we went on a tour with the lovely Roberta, one of the partners with Global Education Ventures, which puts on the study abroad program for us in Urbino. She showed us important places in town we would need to know: the public bus station, where the charter bus would pick us up, the Palazzo Ducale where our tour would be on Sunday, and best of all she showed us great study spots downtown. I’ll shorten this post by not showing you all of these great study places now, but showing you later in a “my favorite spots” post.

Day 3: Pesaro

Friday we took the public bus from Urbino to Pesaro for a tour downtown. The ride lasts about an hour and a bus departs about every 30 minutes either way. Pesaro is a beach town, and is a place we can go to hop onto the many trains that connect bigger towns and cities in Italy. Since Urbino is so small, we must travel to Pesaro by bus and then get the train to Bologna in order to get to an airport to get to another city within Italy or Europe or the rest of the world.

Pesaro was home to the famous composer Gioachino Rossini and they are currently hosting the 150 years of Rossini in town. We began the tour at the Teatro Rossini where the opera is performing his works for the celebration, then worked our way down to the coast. We visited Rossini’s boyhood home, including the room he was born in, the musical Conservatory that bears his name, the old Jewish Synagogue and neighborhood, a contemporary art exhibit housed in an old fish market, and the Palazzo Mosca—Musei Civici. See photos below and if you have any questions or want to know more about these places, leave a comment in the comments section.

After the tour, we had lunch by the sea and then I spent the afternoon on the beach in a beach chair reading… not a bad way to spend the afternoon!

Day 4: Fano

On day 4, we visited Fano, a town south of Pesaro on the Adriatic sea. The bus dropped us outside of the city walls near the Arch de Agustus (L’Arco d’Augusto) which serves as the entrance into the old part of the city. The top of the arch has been ruined by earthquakes over the years and has lost beautiful columns, but the building next door boasts the image of what it had looked like, as you can see in the gallery below.

We then walked into town to the square and headed into the public library. From the outside it doesn’t look like much, but when you head downstairs, you can see Roman ruins that were uncovered when the modern library was built. We finished off the tour by visiting the city’s cathedral, museum, and the old ruined cathedral that was getting ready for a beautiful wedding. For lunch we had Italian food (really?! Tell me more!)- I had gnocchi with salmon and prawns with wine and most everyone else in our group had pizzas that looked delicious. I haven’t had pizza yet in Italy, but it’s only a matter of time, really.

Day 5: Urbino’s Palazzo Ducale

Sunday morning (this morning) we went to the Palazzo Ducale in Urbino. The old palace has remnants of times when the Duke of Urbino, Federico da Montefeltro lived here as well as other artwork including two pieces by Raphael. Urbino was the early epicenter for the Renaissance stemming from Federico who was a true Renaissance man interested in art, music, philosophy, astronomy, and history. My favorite part of the Palazzo Ducale was the wooden artwork-lined walls in Federico’s studiolo featuring forced-perspective renderings of musical instruments, doorways, armor, and science gadgets that create optical illusions for the viewer.

The real star of today, however, was my morning walk on which I was able to see the gorgeous low-lying fog everyone has been telling me about. I promise that this won’t be the last time you see pictures of these views… they’re stunning.


That fog tho…

This was a long one, but should keep y’all busy for a while. There will be more… many more posts to come.

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  1. We have read every word of your blog and love it. You are truly capturing the essence of your experience there. Where are your fellow students from?
    Uncle Mike & Aunt Dawn

    • Hi, Mike! There are about 25 students here in Urbino from UTSA. Six of us are studying Civil Engineering and the rest are studying architecture. The civil engineering students are taking two classes here in Urbino currently; one about Italian and European building codes and one about project management. After our Fall Break we will be taking our senior design class where we use all of the knowledge gained in our education and compile it into one big project where we take a previous semester’s architectural plans and provide the necessary engineering to be able to successfully build the building they have designed. I’ll post more about that later as we get closer!

      Other than the UTSA students, there is a group of theology students from all over Africa studying to become Catholic priests. They always get to have wine with dinner in the cafeteria and we are jealous. In late September, the regular Italian students will arrive and the city’s population will double from 15,000 to 30,000 people.

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