Le Marche Travel Guide
Perched on a steep hilltop, Urbino, whose historic center is a UNESCO World Heritage site, is Le Marche’s most celebrated city.
A cradle of the Renaissance, Urbino rivals even the most famous towns in Tuscany and Umbria for its grandiose architecture, rich history and impressive art collections.
Many of Urbino’s elaborate stone buildings were constructed in the mid- to late-1400s under the rule of Duke Federico da Montefeltro, one of the 15th century’s most dedicated patrons of the arts.
During his reign, Urbino was one of Europe’s greatest cultural centers. Visiting scholars, painters and poets would stay at Federico’s magnificent Palazzo Ducale, now home to Le Marche’s national art gallery.
Renaissance name-dropping here can bring art historians to their knees. Sandro Botticelli designed the intricate inlaid woodwork decorating the Duke’s private study. Among the masterpieces housed in the gallery are Piero della Francesca’s Flagellation of Christ as well as works by Raphael and Titian (known in Italy as Tiziano Vecellio).
But Urbino’s Renaissance connection goes deeper than one palazzo. Leonardo da Vinci planned the 15th-century reconstruction of the city’s original Roman walls. In 1483, Raphael was born here. Visitors to the artist’s home can see a fresco that he painted at age 14.
When visiting, stay at Albergo San Domenico. The 15th-century former monastery is ideally situated across from the Palazzo Ducale. For dining, go to Antica Osteria della Stella in the city center for homemade pastas like tagliatelle with white truffles.
Urbino is just a short ride from Acqualagna, which shares the title of Italy’s white truffle capital with the town of Alba in Piedmont. Set inside Acqualagna’s Gola del Furlo Nature Reserve, Antico Furlo is celebrated for its truffle-based dishes and other locally sourced ingredients, including mushrooms from the nearby Apennines. There’s also a hotel on site.
The local wine is the generally simple and quaffable Colli Pesaresi. Most common is a light, fruity red made predominantly from Sangiovese.
In Pesaro, Fattoria Mancini makes wines with greater elegance and depth, like its Colli Pesaresi Focara, a red made using Pinot Noir propagated from vines originally planted in the area during the Napoleonic administration in the early 1800s.
Mancini, whose spectacular vineyards overlook the Adriatic, also makes a Colli Pesaresi Roncaglia, a white blend of the native Albanella with Pinot Noir.
But, according to Alberto Melagrana, chef and owner of the Antico Furlo restaurant, the best wine to pair with the local white truffle dishes is Verdicchio.
“Contrary to popular belief, structured white wines pair better with truffles than reds,” he says. “A full-bodied 2 or 3-year old Verdicchio that’s been aged in casks and has good alcohol content is the best.”