Wednesday, 27 June 2012

Wordless Wednesday: Streets of Urbino


Thursday, 21 June 2012

Two days in Urbino, Italy

After leaving Gubbio (you can read about our short visit in the previous post) quite a bit earlier that we would have liked, we soon entered the region of Marche and at the same time left Umbria behind.
By this time we were already heading back northeast - in the direction of Slovenia.

We were hoping for a bit of sunshine but the ride from Gubbio to Urbino was obviously not long enough for a change of weather. Not minding the weather too much, we parked our car relatively close to the city gate at the north-eastern part of the town walls.

The thing with these old fortified towns is that you can not always choose your point of entrance. Thick stone walls usually do not have all that many entrances. This is an obvious consequence of a defensive strategy that was vital in medieval times when most of these fortifications were built.

The obvious lack of space inside the old town is not the most convenient thing for a modern tourist, who would love to drive at least to the apartment door. Here we all had to park outside the walls and walk the narrow cobbled streets in rain. In my opinion this is a small price to pay for keeping the old charm alive.

After a slow, rainy stroll around the town we decided not to move on until the next day - that is if we found a suitable accommodation for the night. We were aiming towards some budget options and surprisingly a nice lady at the information office in the old town center provided a couple of options. Since we learned we could find accommodation for 60 Euros (that's for both of us), we decided to stay in Urbino. We opted for Albergo Ristorante San Giovanni. It is a small two star hotel where we got a nice double room with a bathroom for the mentioned price. It was nothing special but definitely clean, cosy and affordable. They also offer cheaper rooms but I guess those don't come with a private bathroom.

Spending the night in Urbino meant we could really relax that evening and even have a walk through the streets the following morning. We treated ourselves with a nice dinner. It was a bit on the expensive side but very tasty.

We also bought some local bread (it is called Focaccia Umbra) and goat cheese. This made for a perfect travel snack the next day. We also tasted a few different local cured meats. Simple but delicious!

Among the things worth visiting when in Urbino are definitely the Palace of the Dukes of Montefeltro (Palazzo Ducale) and the town's Duomo. They can be found next to each other in the main square. A walk to the top of the hill to Fortezza Albornoz is also worth the effort. It's position offers a great view of the town and surrounding hills.
On Via Raffaello, there is also the birthplace of town's most famous person - Raphael. The Casa Natale di Raffaello doesn't have much to offer - only one of his works is on display but you can see where Raphael and his father mixed their pigments.
If you are a plant enthusiast, there is also a small botanical garden nearby (Orto Botanico). It is full of rare plants.

Apart from the mentioned sights, we found Urbino a great place to wander around, drink a cup of a good coffee and take some time per guardare la gente che passa.


Saturday, 16 June 2012

Gubbio - Not destined for this trip

When we left Assisi (you can read about it here) sun was still shining and it was pretty warm. After a few kilometers on the road dark clouds started gathering above us. It was not long till it started raining. As the road gradually climbed higher into hills, weather got worse. At one time it was even snowing!
Even though snowflakes melted the moment they hit the ground, we were still surprised. We were definitely not expecting to see snow in central Italy in May.

When we got to Gubbio, it was cold and wet. We started a tour around the town despite the rain. We were hoping for the sun to break through those dark clouds. Unfortunately we had no such luck. After a half an hour of walking the streets of this otherwise charming old town, we were pretty wet and cold. Strong wind wasn't helping the atmosphere either.

After a quick debate we decided to give weather the last chance before moving on and headed for a drink into a local winery. The atmosphere was nice and we took it slow. The wine selection here was really awesome - unfortunately most of the bottles were way over our budget.
Another half an hour and a couple of glasses of moderately priced, but still good local wine later we were sick of waiting and decided to move on.

I suspect we would have liked this old town - perhaps even above others we visited on this trip. Sadly we didn't have enough time to wait for the weather to clear. We had a long way ahead of us and also had to find a place where we could spend the night.
Since I tried to look at the whole situation from a positive perspective, I could see this as a relatively good thing. An afternoon of bad weather drove us to a conclusion that we will definitely have to return to Gubbio when the first chance arises. Hopefully next time we will not be in such a hurry and the weather will treat us at least a bit better.

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