Urbania is a lively medieval town in central Italy where you can experience Italian life in a friendly small-town atmosphere. Although it's in a scenic position in the hills, the town itself is flat, making it pleasant for walking. Urbania has good restaurants, bars, and cafes, making it a good base for exploring the region.
During the early middle ages, prior to being taken over by the Duke of Urbino, the town was called Casteldurante. Urbania's Ducal Palace was the vacation home of the Duke of Urbino, who brought culture and art to Urbania. Urbania has long been one of Italy's most important centers for ceramics.
Urbania lies on the Metauro River in the northern part of central Italy's Le Marche region, one of Italy's most remote and least touristed regions. Urbania is 17km from the beautiful Renaissance hill town of Urbino, Le Marche's principal inland city. It's about 50km from the Adriatic coast to the east and near the region of Tuscany to the west. (see Le Marche region map)
The closest train stations to Urbania are in Pesaro and Fano on the Adriatic coast. From the stations, there's bus service to Urbania. There are four buses a day (except Sundays and holidays) from Rome-Tiburtina station to Urbino. From Urbino, there is good bus service to Urbania and many of the small towns nearby. The closest airports are Rimini and Ancona. (see Italy airports map)
Urbania itself is small and is easily explored on foot. Around the perimeter of the town there is plenty of parking.
Urbania has been a center for handmade ceramics since the 15th century. Today there are ceramic workshops where you can see artists at work, buy high quality handmade ceramic pieces, and even take ceramics classes yourself. Many of the modern pieces are replicas of local 15th-16th century ceramics, painstakingly copied from the originals.
One of the best ceramics workshops is Ceramica d'Arte L'Antica Casteldurante di Gilberto Galavotti e Giuliano Smacchia, Piazza Cavour 4. Beautiful ceramic pieces of all sizes are sold in the shop at the front of the workshop. Pieces can be special ordered, too.
If you'd like to take an art class while you're in Urbania, Associazione Amici della Ceramica Urbania offers ceramics, painting, and sculpting classes for beginners or those with experience, ranging from half day to a full week or longer.
Where to Stay in Urbania:
There are no hotels in the Urbania's historic center. I stayed at the beautiful Country House Parco Ducale, just outside town, next to a stately building that was the Duke's hunting lodge. The Parco Ducale offers bed and breakfast in a relaxing setting with a pool, garden and play area, and nice common rooms that can be used by the guests. Read my review of Country House Parco Ducale. There's also a hotel 3km away in Peglio (see Peglio below).
Scuola Italia in Urbania:
Scuola Italia offers Italian language courses for students of all levels. Each class has a maximum of ten students, allowing for lots of individual attention. Weekly classes include 30 hours of instruction during the mornings and cultural activities in the afternoons. Morning language courses can be combined with afternoon ceramics, painting, cooking, or soccer classes. Housing is available with local families, in apartments, or in nearby guest houses or hotels. Students are able to practice what they learn right in Urbania, too.
Dance Master Class in Urbania:
During summer Dance Master Class offers a comprehensive dance curriculum, with adult and junior programs. Students may also take Italian or English lessons. At the end of the season students perform in Urbania's historic Bramante Theater.
July 25 is Saint Christopher's Day and there's a large procession to honor Urbania's patron saint. The following Sunday there's a blessing of cars and a costumed horse race. Summers are filled with festivals and music events of all kinds. I was there for three nights in July and there was free outdoor entertainment every night. In June, Urbania holds a ceramics fair. January 2-6, Urbania has a huge festival for Epiphany and La Befana (who is La Befana?).
Near Urbania - Peglio, Urbino, and Mercatello sul Metauro:
Peglio is a charming hilltop village 3km from Urbania. At the top of the village is a bell tower dating from 1485. From Peglio you can walk along the path constructed on the cliff's edge for a "bird's eye view" of the mountains and valleys of central Italy.
The beautiful Renaissance hill town of Urbino, a UNESCO World Heritage site, is 17km east of Urbania.
To the west of Urbania is the charming market town of Mercatello sul Metauro and in the mountains to the north is the interesting town of Carpegna, known for its special proscuitto, or ham, and home to one of the last artisan producers of block printed cloth.
Find out more about the area with this Metauro Valley Map and Guide.
Urbania Attractions - What to See in Urbania:
Urbania's attractions are all centrally located within walking distance of one another.
- Cathedral - the Benedictine Abbey of St. Christopher was built in the sixth century but was reduced to its present size in 1759. The town of Casteldurante grew around the cathedral. In front of the cathedral is a large public square.
- Urbania's Ducal Palace, once the summer residence of the Duke of Urbino, now houses the Civic Museum, library, and art gallery. As you walk through the palace you'll see historical ceramics, paintings, engravings, and a globe and map collection. The Agriculture Museum can also be visited with the Ducal Palace admission ticket. This small but interesting museum below ground has exhibits highlighting wine making and agricultural life of the past.
- Urbania's mummies cemetery in the Chiesa dei Morti or Church of the Dead has 18 naturally mummified corpses on display. Read more about the Urbania Mummies Cemetery
- Museo Diocensano, the former Bishop's residence, displays ceramics and paintings from the 1300's to 1900's.
- The Church of San Francesco, built in 1284, was reconstructed in the 18th century in Baroque style. Inside are important works from the 16th and 17th centuries.
- Ceramics are produced in small family-run workshops in Urbania. You'll find high quality ceramics for sale in several ceramics shops around town, but one of the best is Ceramica d'Arte L'Antica Casteldurante di Gilberto Galavotti e Giuliano Smacchia, Piazza Cavour 4.
- Vin Italia Enoteca has local wines to sample and buy.
- The Bramante Theater was built between 1857 to 1864 on the ruins of the old fortress. The theater is sometimes open for public performances, including a free opera performance in early August by the Italian Operatic Experience students.
- Piazza life - Urbania's main square is always lively and makes for good people watching. Around the square are ice cream and pastry shops and bars and the historic Bramante Theater.
- Bike rentals are available at Happy Bike, Via Leopardi, 28. They also have detailed biking and hiking maps for the area.