On Friday, September 7th we joined our favorite tour guide Paolo for a historical tour of Urbino. Paolo is from Urbino so he takes particular pride in showing us around his town and boy is he knowledgeable! We started out in the Borgo Mercatale at the base of the historical center of the town (where we arrived the very first day with all of our luggage!) It was enlightening taking the historical tour because while I had heard a lot of the history having to do with Federico di Montefeltro, I was not aware of the history pertaining to our favorite Urbino artist, Raphael.
We visited the Jewish ghetto in Urbino, but I did not take any photographs as it looks like all of the other small streets. The interesting part about this area, however, is that the city used to impose a curfew on the Jewish residents and had gates that closed in the evenings. This region of Italy is full of cases like this and often times, as was explained in my Pesaro post, the Jewish Synagogues would be largely unmarked.
We next went to Raphael’s childhood home including the exact room he was born in. The room happened to contain his first fresco that he created when he was only fifteen. Stunning.
My favorite replica painting we saw in the Raphael house was Young Woman With Unicorn. Look it up. It does not disappoint and it is exactly what it sounds like. I want it in my house.
Next we went to the Oratorio di San Giovanni that included incredible frescoes. While we were here, our guide explained why a fresco is considered so difficult to paint. The difficulty is that the fresco is painted on fresh plaster and since the plaster dries very quickly, the painter must paint very rapidly while it is still wet. I have a new appreciation for these works. just look at the detail.
After this, we went to the Oratorio di San Guissepe that features a life size nativity sculpture made from plaster with an adjoining chapel. The altarpiece was commissioned by Pope Clements XI who was from Urbino. The pillars to either side of the large sculpture (I’m sorry I forgot who it was supposed to be… St. Joseph maybe?) come from the Pantheon in Rome. Our guide told me that it is very rare to take a structural piece from the Pantheon and that these pillars are pretty unique. It had a groovy multi-colored chandelier and a yuge (huge) organ. I love a good organ.
Finally, we hiked up the larger of the two hills that Urbino sits on for the spectacular view of the old town. I feel like I will take a hundred pictures of this exact same thing while I’m here, but I don’t care. I love it.