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Marche Voyager Marche Places | Urbania


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Attractively sited on the fast-flowing Metauro river, this striking small town is surprisingly rich in impressive buildings and works of art. Formerly known as Castel Durante, it was renamed by Pope Urban VIII in 1636, shortly after the last Duke of Urbino handed over his lands to the Papal States.

The imposing Palazzo Ducale (above) was originally a 13th century feudal stronghold later given airs and graces by Duke Federico of Urbino - his favourite architect, Francesco di Giorgio Martini, was responsible for a large part of the facelift.

Cross the gracious courtyard to see an appealing museum of paintings, ancient maps and globes, and Renaissance ceramics (16th century Castel Durante boasted 32 majolica or painted pottery workshops).

Other monuments to note while strolling in the shade of the arcaded streets include the Bramante Theatre (Urbania is one of two towns claiming the great Renaissance architect as its son) and the church of Santa Chiara. The last Duke of Urbino, Francesco Maria II Della Rovere is buried in the Chiesa del Crocifisso; like many other buildings in Urbania this church was badly damaged by Allied bombing in 1944.

You'll find the town's strangest offering behind the altar of the Chiesetta dei Morti in Via Ugolini - the Cimitero delle Mummie. Here a dozen leathery mummified corpses hang like washing in a row of glass-fronted cabinets. They were put on display in 1813 after their discovery in the ground below, preserved by a rare type of mould. The custodian takes great delight in opening the cupboards to show you the body with stab wounds and the pregnant woman with a mummified foetus - great fun for children.

If you arrive from Sant'Angelo in Vado look out for the striking Renaissance villa just before the town - it was once a hunting lodge for the Dukes of Urbino.