Day 30 – Urbino

Today I wanted to start out at the market which takes place each Saturday. Unfortunately, it required walking up this street to reach it.

I took it slowly and came across this shop showing basketry in the window. It was closed, but I will try again later.

The market was active and vibrant. It seemed like everyone in town was there.

I’m still trying to understand how Italian clothes can be sold so cheaply. I keep asking, but mostly I am told that when the seasons change, the old stuff goes for sale at a discount.

Someone else told me that there are mini-brands, so there is no huge overhead. I still wonder.

Most will end up in Africa, then landfills. Such a waste.

I visit the Fortezza Albornoz, built in the fourteenth century as a defense for the city.

Its position on a high point offers exceptional views of the city and surroundings.

Kids are getting ready for the kite contest coming up.

Bikers stop to wonder if they should take the plunge into the historic center, then they do.

I pass a couple of girls who are rolling their own cigarettes. Their tobacco pack screams, “Smoking kills. Stop now. The smoke from tobacco contains more than 70 cancerous substances.” But still they continue.

It’s a wonder that these many smokers can make it up and down the extremely steep streets in town without a spate of heart attacks.

Needing a pause on my downhill trek, I stop on a church step and hear music inside. Opening the door, I find an orthodox Christian ceremony underway and take a seat in the rear.

A sign says the brilliantly colored paintings were created by Greek monks in the early 21st century. It’s the Church of San Sergio, the oldest church in Urbino, tracing back to the Byzantines.

Only three worshipers sit in the church. The chant-like music is very loud. I think it is a recording but then see that the woman sitting up front is the chanter.

The chanting put me in a contemplative mood. You might be able to hear it.

I stay quite a while listening to the service, and when I go down the street to visit the birthplace of Raphael, I can still hear the sounds through the walls.

In contrast to the home of Dante, Raphael’s home offers an informative and evocative visit.

This fresco is said to have been on Raphael’s bedroom wall as child and was perhaps created by him at a young age. His father was the court painter for the Duke Federico di Montefeltro. Raphael learned much from his father, who died when Raphael was 11 years old.

These windows in a room of Raphael’s home are commonly found in Urbino, especially in the Ducal Palace. They make for great people watching.

In the kitchen an automatic roaster lifter using weights and pulleys said to be still working making me wonder how it works.

I next visited the Cathedral and the Albani Diocesian Museum. The Albani family gave birth to a Pope and at least one Cardinal. Their bequests to their home town of Urbino can be found everywhere. In the Albani Diocesian Museum I found Duke Federico di Montefeltro’s Bible (an excellent replica). Its pages are about 2 feet high and 1.5 feet wide. The detail is beyond belief, created by master illustrators in Florence.

At the entrance to the crypt beneath the cathedral, I found images of Confraternity members. They wore robes to hide their identity in the thought that good works should be anonymous.

From there I entered the Ducal Palace, in particular its garden, from where I had this view of Urbino.

Throughout the palace, in every room over every threshold and every fireplace are the initials of the duke, FE DUX. He was both a warrior and a scholar who made Urbino a center of Renaissance art and science.

Most impressive to me was the Studiolo, the Duke’s study. It is a wonderful little room, its walls covered with inlaid wooden panels and paintings of philosophers and theologians.

Some of the wooden panels reflect the Duke’s life as a mercenary and soldier.

In a very large room hang tapestries made in England from Raphael’s designs.

This figure sits at the bottom edges of some of the tapestries as a border element. Hoo ha!

The Ducal Palace is home to the National Gallery of the Marche, which has many masterpieces in its collection. It took some time to cover the enormous museum, and I’m pretty sure I did not see it all.

On another visit to the tourist office, I came across a notice regarding a place specializing in natural dyes. I headed over lickety-split.

The owner Alessandra Ubaldo is passionate about reviving the use of woad, guado in Italian, to dye fabric. She told me the very interesting history of guado in Europe.

Before indigo arrived, there were several main sites in Europe known for woad production. Urbino was one of them, others in France, Germany, and England.

Specialized millstones were used to masticate the woad plants. Now they can be found abandoned throughout the Urbino countryside. Alessandra made it very clear that it was a large-scale commercial production and not a cottage industry.

After a very long and pleasant visit with Alessandra, I came across a procession of the contrades who were meeting up for a lottery to see which ones would have preferred places in the kite contests the next day.

It is really good to see people of all ages participating in this event. Urbino is definitely not being abandoned to the older people.

One reason may be its university, one of the oldest in Europe, which attracts students from around the world. Of course, these paraders are locals deeply loyal to their contrada, which must be very small, given there are 10 contrades and the tiny town of Urbino could be walked across in 10 minutes were there no hills.

Excitement at the drawing can hardly be contained. You may be able to hear the crowd cheer.

Unfortunately the kite contest is being held at a park several miles out of town so I will have to miss it.

Back “home,” I hear the church bells announcing 6:30pm. You may be able to hear them too.

I have just a couple more “not-to-be-missed” sites to visit here in Urbino. They are right done the street from where I’m staying. I have saved the closest to the last.

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