Palazzo Ducale, Urbino, Pesaro-Urbino, Marche, Italy

Palazzo Ducale - Urbino, Marche
This celebrated palace, a UNESCO heritage site, is one of the most beautiful Renaissance residences.
Today the Palazzo Ducale hosts the "Galleria Nazionale delle Marche", a collection of innumerable masterpieces in 27 rooms, an underground floor (Sotterranei) which includes stables, laundry, kitchens and other service rooms [which provide a wonderful insight into Renaissance life], a Museo Archeologico and a Museo della Ceramica.

Useful Information

Visiting hours Monday 8.30 - 14.00; Tuesday to Sunday and holidays, 8.30 - 19.15
The city of Urbino


This Renaissance masterpiece was the official mansion of Federico II from Montefeltro, an enlightened Lord who sponsored poets and artists, such as Paolo Uccello and Piero della Francesca. It was to me not only a mansion, but also a fortress.

The project by architect Luciano Laurana, an architect from Dalmatia who had seen Brunelleschi's cloisters in Florence and is among the finest of the Renaissance, envisioned a completely self-sufficient palace, almost a small town, with over 250 rooms, with a splendid courtyard - the Cortile d'Onore - and majestic stairways, and the superb facade which was designed by Torricini. Many architects worked on it, among them, after Laurana, Francesco di Giorgio Martini and in the mid-16th century Girolamo Genga who was the author of the second floor. The palace continued in use as a government building into the 20th century, housing municipal archives and offices.

The outside is linear, with only windows and portals, and 2 small towers which have become the symbol of Urbino. The main entrance leads into the courtyard, and the archaeological museum. On the ground floor is the Biblioteca del Duca, which contained originally rare Hebrew, Greek and Latin manuscripts, moved in the 17th century, when Urbino was included in the Church State, to the Vatican Library. Near the library are preserved works by sculptor Ambrogio Barocci, representing ships and machinery, which were originally decorations of the seats placed along the entrance. Always on the ground floor is the Museo Archeologico in five rooms, created in the 18th century by Cardinal Giovan Francesco Stoppani.

The "Scale d'Amore", stairways with decorations by Ambrogio Barocci, lead to the first floor, called "piano nobile". The first rooms are the most ancient, then the locals of the huge "Appartamento del Duca" with its many rooms which host great masterpieces of the Renaissance art. In the Sala delle Udienze are the "Madonna di Senigallia" and the "Flagellazione" by Piero della Francesca (1415/20 - 1492), which is among the main works of the artist, pregnant with symbols and characters.

Always on the first floor is the amazing Studiolo del Duca, a splendid room with trompe-l'oeil shelves and half-open doors, and intarsia work which display symbolic objects including astronomy, letters and music, art and architecture, created in the Florentine workshop of Baccio Pontelli probably on a design by Francesco di Giorgio Martini. In the upper part of the Studiolo were 28 portraits of great men by Pierre Berruegete and Justus from Gand, many of which are today in the Louvre. The ceiling of the Studiolo was made by Florentine workshop of Giuliano da Maiano.

A round stairway leads downstairs, to the "Cappellina del Perdono" and "Tempietto delle Muse", two rooms where the pagan and the Christian figures are symbolically worshipped. The last room on the first floor is the "Sala degli Angeli" (Angels' Room), so called from the decorations around the fireplace, a work by Domenico Rosselli; in the room are 2 famous masterpieces the "Profanazione dell'Ostia" by Paolo Uccello, which represents a miracle occurred in Paris in 1290, and the "Città Ideale", of unknown author, almost a symbol of Italian Renaissance.

Other fine rooms are the "Salone d'Onore", which houses a papal throne, the "Sala delle Veglie", and finally the Appartamento della Duchessa (Duchess' Apartment) which hosts 2 paintings by Raffaello Sanzio, the "Ritratto di gentildonna" also known as "La Muta", and "Santa Caterina d'Alessandria".

The second floor belongs to a later period, when the Della Rovere became the Lords of Urbino, and contains many more works of art.