Urbino is perhaps the most elegant of all the hill towns I have seen, with the possible exception of Pienza, in Tuscany. It is the birthplace of a surprising number of famous architects and painters, notable Bramante, the architect who designed St Peters in Rome, and Raphael. The Ducal Palace is a huge building with the kind of elegance which I associate with Florence. Unfortunately much of the imposing front facade is covered while it is restored. As in in Umbra and Marche, the roof tiles are an earthy colour, and the predominant building material is brick, which gives the town warm tones, particularly in the late afternoon sun. Views from the city walls are to distant blue mountains, not unlike the Australian Alps.
This is a university town, which saves it from being a museum piece. Many of the large Palazzi around the town house faculties, and after the tourists have left in the evening the town is buzzing with students. Possibly it is the first day of term, because many of them have been arriving in ones and twos with suitcases, and in the evening the Piazza near our hotel is crammed with students sitting on the cobblestones, drinking and making music. [...]