Urbino is one of the most magical places in Italy, if you ask me. While cities like Venice, Milan, and Rome tend to draw in the majority of the tourist traffic, Urbino sits tucked away peacefully in the mountains to the east, just a short ways from the beach. This former fortress and political stronghold is a fraction of its former size, now not much more than a small town. As a tourist, however, this is what makes it great. Imagine: one of the grandest castles in all of Italy, a massive fortress, the birthplace of the world-famous Renaissance artist Rafaello, and adorable cobblestone walkways through a mountainous village, all with very few tourists. This is the place that travelers to Italy dream of!
This post is going to outline a few major points, including the best things to do in Urbino, Italy, how to get to Urbino, and more.
Where is Urbino, Italy?
Urbino is located in the Marche region of Italy, in the Province of Pesaro and Urbino. This is in the eastern central part of the country. The closest major cities to Urbino are Florence and Bologna, but Bologna is much closer by train due to the way the routes are configured. In fact, to get from Florence to Urbino by train, you need to connect through Bologna anyway. Urbino doesn’t have a train station, so there is a bus to Pesaro included in both of these routes, but more on that in the section about how to get to Urbino.
By the combination of train and bus, Urbino is about 3.5 hours from Florence and 2.5 hours from Bologna, if you take the fastest trains. By car, Urbino is about 2 hours from Bologna and 3 hours from Florence. While Florence looks closer on the map, there is no direct highway linking Urbino and Florence, while there is one linking Urbino and Bologna.
The city-state of San Marino is extremely close to Urbino, and can be reached in one hour by car. Additionally, popular towns of Tolentino, Ancona, and Rimini are not too far away either. The closest train station to Urbino is Pesaro, which is a beach city on Italy’s Adriatic coast. From here, trains run all around the country, easily connecting you to places like Bari, Florence, Bologna, and Rome.
Best Things to Do in Urbino, Italy
Urbino is not very highly visited. As you’ll see soon, getting to Urbino is not easy, and it deters the vast majority of tourists. However, I really think that Urbino is worth the trek, especially if you are looking for tranquility. This list of the best things to do in Urbino will cover the most popular, touristy things that everyone needs to see. However, what I think really makes Urbino special is the peace, quiet, and tranquility that can be found within the walls of this old city.
1. Tour the Palazzo Ducale
The Palazzo Ducale, or Ducal Palace, is regarded as one of the finest Renaissance palaces in all of Italy. At one point, Urbino was one of the most popular, powerful places in Italy, and this palace was its central source of strength and wealth. Today, you can tour the palace and learn all about its history. While many of its Renaissance treasures were shipped off to Florence as a dowery centuries ago, this place is still beautiful and absolutely worth checking out. Most people will tell you that this is the best thing to do in Urbino.
2. Attend Mass in the Urbino Cathedral
Arguably, Italy’s most beautiful art is its cathedrals. Every city you visit will likely have a stunning cathedral, and Urbino is no different. The Urbino Cathedral is just a stone’s throw away from the Palazzo Ducale, and it is definitely worth checking out. Made of beautiful white stone, this imposing church sits right at the top of a square and is as beautiful on the inside as it is on the outside. While you don’t need to go to mass to visit the Urbino Cathedral, I think it is the best way to really experience the wonder of this church.
3. Visit the Childhood Home of World-Famous Italian Painter Raffaello Sanzio.
Raffaello is one of the most famous Italian artists of all time. They even named a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle after him, so you know he is right there alongside Michelangelo. In many ways, Raffaello is the posterchild of Urbino and is one of the most famous people to ever be born in this city. Naturally, one of the best things to do in Urbino is visit the preserved house of its biggest superstar! If you have the time, this is really a can’t-miss kind of place.
PHOTO © ARTISTS STUDIO MUSEUM NETWORK
4. Hike Up to the Albornoz Fortress
With a beautiful park overlooking the city of Urbino, the Albornoz Fortress is easily the best picnic spot in the city. This fortress can be toured, which is definitely worth doing, but the best thing to do here is have a picnic. The views of the city and the flat, shady areas at the top of the hill make for a perfect picnic spot, even if it takes some effort to get all the way up.
For groceries, you can visit the Coop grocery store which is only a short walk away, also on the top of the hill. Drinking in public is legal in Italy, so taking some wine with you for the picnic is always a good idea!
5. Walk Along the Urbino City Walls
Finding a walled city that still has its walls intact and totally open to the public is pretty rare. There aren’t too many places with walls as nice and visitable as Urbino. In Urbino, walking on the walls isn’t a tourist attraction. There are no tickets required. They are simply a part of the city, and you can explore them as you wish just like you can explore any street or alleyway. I think that walking along the walls feels really epic, and the views of the rolling countryside are spectacular. If you’re looking for the best things to do in Urbino, watching the sunset from the walls has to be on the list.
6. Drink a Coffee in the Piazza Della Repubblica
The Piazza Della Repubblica might not be the main square of the city, but it is definitely the most lively one. This square is lined with great cafes, gelato shops, restaurants, and stores. This is definitely the best part of the city to sit down and drink a coffee or have an aperitivo, and I think that aperitivo is more than just one of the best things to do in Urbino; it’s one of the best things to do in all of Italy! If you want more information on aperitivo, including what it is and how to participate in it, be sure to read my guide to aperitivo in Italy.
7. Grab a Beer at the Bosom Pub or Caffe del Sole
While I think that the best place for coffee and aperitivo is the Piazza della Repubblica, my two favorite places in the city for after the sun goes down are The Bosom Pub and Caffe del Sole. First and foremost, there is nothing fishy about the Bosom Pub! It is just the name, and while it might sound like a shady place, it certainly is not. This is the best bar in the city if you’re looking for more of a party.
Caffe del Sole, on the other hand, is much more laid back and relaxed, and makes for a better night of hanging out and socializing with friends. I think that the best thing to do in Urbino is nothing…meaning that the best thing to do in Urbino is just relax and go with the flow. Caffe del Sole is the place for that!
How to Get to Urbino, Italy
Urbino is not the most accessible place in Italy, that’s for sure! Urbino is tucked away in the mountains of eastern Italy, and there aren’t really any major cities nearby. To make matters even worse, Urbino doesn’t have a train station, so anyone hoping to use public transportation to get to Urbino will need to take at least one bus.
The closest airport to Urbino is Rimini (RMI), and the next closest is Ancona (AOI). Both of these airports are very small, though, and are not great options to get to Urbino because there aren’t many available flights. If you are able to find a flight into either of these airports, it is likely going to be very expensive and involve at least one layover. In my opinion, the best airport to use to fly into Urbino is Bologna (BLQ), as it is one of the biggest airports in Italy and is only slightly further away than Ancona and Rimini. From the Bologna airport, you can take the Marconi Express train to Bologna Centrale Station and then catch a train to Pesaro, which is the closest train station to Urbino. Trains run very frequently, and the trip takes anywhere from 1 hour and 15 minutes to 2 hours and 15 minutes depending on the class of train that you choose.
Once you arrive in Pesaro, you will need to take either a taxi or the LV bus to Urbino. This bus runs every 30 minutes from 6:30am to 8:30pm on weekdays, and the schedule changes a bit on weekends. Tickets can be bought directly in the Pesaro train station. The drive takes about 45 minutes, and the bus is roughly the same amount of time.
When it’s all said and done, you can get from the Bologna airport to Urbino in under 3 hours, depending on the timetables and the class of train that you choose. While this is a bit far, Rimini is only an hour shorter, and you’re likely to have a much longer flight route and a much higher airfare. If you can’t find any great flight options into Bologna, your next best bets are Milan Malpensa Airport (MXP) and Rome Fiumicino Airport (FCO), but the trip will take over 5 hours to get to Urbino. This city is not very accessible internationally, but it is well worth the trip!
If you are unable to find a great flight option into either of these cities, you’re not out of luck. Brussels is less than two and a half hours away from two of the biggest, busiest airports in all of Europe: Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport (CDG) and Amsterdam Schiphol Airport (AMS). In my post on finding cheap airfare, I mentioned that one of the best ways to find cheap flights is by using a hub airport, and these airports are two of the biggest hubs in all of Europe. Both of these airports are easily connected by train or bus to their respective cities, and Brussels is only a 90-minute train away from Paris and a two hour train away from Amsterdam.
If you are already in Italy, the best way to get to Urbino is absolutely by train. Italy has a robust train system, and it is one of my favorites in the whole world. From wherever you are, you will want to take a train to Pesaro, and then take the same bus or taxi as described above to get to Urbino. Venice, Rome, Milan, and Florence are all under 5 hours away by train. However, if you have the money, hiring a driver will likely cut the time by as much as half from each of those cities except for Rome, which is about 4 or 5 hours away in either case.
How to Get Around Urbino
As a city, Urbino has zero public transportation. There is a bus station that links to nearby areas around the city and other nearby cities, but there is no public transportation within the walls of the city itself. Cars are also not very popular within the walls of the city. The best way to get around Urbino is by foot, and there really aren’t many other options. While some people might recommend biking, I think this is impractical in most places, as the city is extremely hilly. Even with quads of steel, I don’t think you could get a bike up some of the city’s main hills.
The good news is that Urbino is a very small city nowadays. In its prime, it was a bustling, vibrant metropolis that was also an international powerhouse. The Duke of Urbino was one of the most powerful people in all of Italy at one point, and this remained the case until his bloodline ran out and the family merged with the royalty of Florence, leaving the city of Urbino behind. As that was hundreds of years ago, Urbino is now much smaller, with a population of just about 10,000 people.
From one end of the city’s walls to the other, you can walk in about 30 minutes. There is really no need for a car in Urbino, and the lack of public transportation isn’t even noticeable, as long as you are staying within the walls.
How Many Days Do You Need in Urbino, Italy?
The answer simply depends on what you want out of Urbino.
Urbino is a very small city these days, with only around 10,000 people living in it. While there is a lot to do here, it can certainly be done on a day trip if you have a car. As Urbino is not very accessible by public transportation, you will likely need to spend at least one night here if you’re arriving by train and bus. I think that while one day is enough to see most of what Urbino has to offer, this city is best visited for two or three days, where you can start to get a feel the local culture and its tranquility. How many days to spend in Urbino, Italy highly depends on what you want to do, too, as people who really want to relax in this mountainous oasis can’t possibly accomplish that in just one day.
Is Urbino Worth Visiting?
Urbino is one of my favorite places in all of Italy, and it will always have a special place in my heart. Therefore, if you ask me “is Urbino worth visiting?” I am sure to tell you that it is. Taking all of the bias out of my answer, though, I honestly do think that Urbino is worth visiting, as it really is a magical town tucked away in the Italian hills. While there is not a ton to do here, the city is so beautiful and unique that I think just about anyone can enjoy a trip here, at least for a day or two! It is also closely located to the beautiful, tiny country of San Marino, which I think is also worth visiting!
That’s all we have for you about Urbino! I hope this post accomplished its goal of answering the question “Is Urbino, Italy worth visiting?” If you have any more questions, be sure to drop a comment in the comment section or shoot us an email. Also be sure to subscribe to our YouTube Channel and follow us on Instagram @the.present.perspective.
If you’re planning a trip to Urbino, let us know! We know the city pretty well. We’d love to chat ahead of time and answer any questions you have. Otherwise, have a wonderful day and stay present!