Identity and history: two lordships compared
The history of these hills goes back to many centuries ago. It goes back to a Villanovan settlement in Verucchio and continues with the thriving of the region under the Romans. Nevertheless, it is the Middle Ages and the Renaissance era that left an indelible mark in the region, a mark that can still be seen today in the area’s city centres, architecture and monuments from Rimini all the way to Pesaro. Between the XII and the XV Century two lordships took centre stage, the Malatestas and the Montefeltros, two families whose adventures are closely linked to the area’s charm and beauty.
Both coming from the Montefeltro area, this two families tried to build their influence and extend their power over the region, in the Northern and Southern area of the valley, respectively. Inevitably, their race to power led them families to constantly fight over the area.
The Montefeltro family received the County of Urbino and the Montefeltro area as a gift from Emperor Frederick I Barbarossa in the XII Century.
More or less in the same years, the Malatestas, who owned the lands surrounding Pennabilli, extended their dominion over the Middle Valley of the Marecchia River.
The rivalry grew more intense in the XIII Century and finally turned to war in the first half of the V Century, under the reign of Sigismondo Malatesta, Lord of Rimini and Fano, and the reign of Federico da Montefeltro, Duke of Urbino, both apostolic vicariates. The clash between the two lords led to battles, deceit and endless fighting.
Federico eventually won the war by getting the Pope’s trust, whereas Sigismondo was excommunicated and lost all of his lands with the exception of Rimini, a city he was particularly fond of.
The Lordships' origins: The Montefeltro family
The first account of the Montefeltro House goes back to 1155, when Emperor Frederick I Barbarossa appointed a count Antonio Da Montefeltro, a descendant of the House Carpegna. He took up the name Lord of Montefeltro, as a sign of prestige and noble descendants, since it referred to the area around San Leo, where an old temple dedicated to Jupiter had been erected in ancient times.
His son, Montefeltrano, strengthened the House’s name and the reputation of the House, which became one of the most powerful ones in the whole region. Even when they became Counts of Urbino, they continued to live in San Leo. It is in San Leo that Guido I da Montefeltro, nicknamed “Guido the Elder”, was born in 1255. He will be a very famous representative of the house, a brave soldier and a politician later becaming a Franciscan monk. Dante Alighieri, in his Divine Comedy, puts Guido in the eighteenth Circle of the Inferno. In 1443 Pope Eugene IV appointed Oddantonio II from Montefeltro, Federico’s father, first Duke of Urbino. Urbino became the capital city of the district and one of the main centres of Italian Renaissance thanks to Federico himself. He attracted the best artists and poets of the time, from Piero della Francesca to Luciano Laurana and Francesco di Giorgio Martini, who planned the majestic Ducal Palace. The decline of the city began when the capital was moved to Pesaro in 1523.
Lordships' origins: The Malatesta family
The Malatesta family has its origins in the Valmarecchia area too. The oldest documents referring to the house go back to the XII Century and tell about an ongoing dispute with the Municipality of Rimini over some lands in the southern area of the region.
The district was then parcelled in many plots and counties and owning them all, especially Pennabilli and Verucchio, hometowns of the Malatesta family, meant controlling the whole hinterland. A determinant alliance was the one with the House of Carpegna, close relatives of the Montefeltros and one of the oldest and most powerful families in the region. Thanks to their alliance, they managed to control the entire area: streets, crop, and trade. They also started to exert some power over the city of Rimini. A war broke out and it only ended in 1197 when Giovanni Malatesta made public amends.
The city of Rimini developed strong economic links with the Malatesta family, it made them honorary citizens, gave them a seat in the city council (1206) and invited them to come and live inside the city walls. From 1239 to 1247 Malatesta dalla Penna, who was made Podestà (Magister) of the city of Pistoia in 1228, also became magister of Rimini.
In the same years, the Malatesta family rose to absolute power over the city. In a few decades, they covered the most important civil and religious positions, replacing the city governmental bodies. They were extremely rich and had the support of important families and people thanks to the wars they fought but also to strategically planned weddings and alliances. They were not noble though, and tried to retell the history of the House by referring to ancient-old ancestors such as Noè, Tarchon, the Trojan hero, cousin of Hector and Aenea, or Otto III, Holy Roman Emperor or Scipio Africanus. Sigismondo Pandolfo himself, the most famous representative of the House and Lord of Rimini from 1432 to 1468 drew inspiration from Scipio.
Sigismondo and Rimini
At the age of 15, in 1432, Sigismondo Pandolfo Malatesta became Lord of Rimini and Fano.
For three years, he fought battles all over Italy achieving the fame and wealth he would later use to make his court and his city as beautiful as the most thriving cities of the time. Thanks to him, Rimini hosted the first true Renaissance building ever, the Tempio Malatestiano (Malatesta Temple), planned by Leon Battista Alberti and frescoed by Piero della Francesca.
The temple was the mausoleum of Sigismondo Malatesta and his wife, Isotta degli Atti, and that of Gemisto Pletone, a philosopher at the court. Sigismondo’s aggressive temperament helped him rise to power but it also sped up his fall, together with a difficult political context when he was barely forty. He hailed to fulfil his duties, was in strong disagreement with the Pope and occupied with his troops lands belonging to the Montefeltro family, loyal supporters of the Papal States. These and many others were the reasons why he fell out of grace: in a very short time he lost everything with the exception of Rimini, the city that epitomized his power, while Federico took back what belonged to him and acquired all of his former possessions. He died at 51, after having fought battles and erected Temples at the age of 13. Rimini, as well as Urbino, had become the capital city of Italian Renaissance welcoming artists, poets and humanists. After his death, the city lost its prestige and other cities took centre stage in the following years.
Federico da Montefeltro
Federico III was the outlawed son of Guidantonio da Montefeltro, Lord of Urbino, Gubbio and Casteldurante and Count of Spoleto. As we learn from a document sealed by Pope Martin V, he was born from the relationship of Guidantonio with one of his wife’s court ladies and became Duke when his stepbrother was killed in court conspiracy. The Dukedom of Urbino was created two centuries before in the lands once belonging to the County of Urbino, in the northern area of the Marche and Umbria regions. It was mainly a feudal kingdom, bound by vassal links to the Papal States, powerful and solid even before Federico rose to power. Federico managed to strengthen his control over the area thanks to his wit and courage and results came quickly: after having fought a war on Sigismondo for twenty years, a no-hold-barred fight with violent battles, in 1463, with the support of Pope Pius II, who wanted to get rid of the Malatesta family, he finally defeated his opponent.
The city of Rimini, who had achieved such prestige and power with the Malatestas, stopped thriving while Urbino became more and more famous and beautiful thanks to Federico. Federico also became Captain General of the Italian league, Commander in Chief of the armies of the King of Naples, Duke of Milan and Captain for the Papal States. His many responsibilities required all of his strength and diplomacy: he had to be careful and take the best possible choice for himself and his dukedom.
Castles, fortresses and towers for the two houses. The Province of Rimini.
Rimini is the starting point for the military history of the whole area. In Rimini, the most famous representative of the Malatesta House built the castle that bears his name: Castel Sismondo. It took ten years to build the imposing building becoming his residence in 1437. When he wasn’t fighting one of his wars, Sigismondo Malatesta welcomed in his castle scholars, philosophers like Giorgio Gemisto called “Pletone” and some of the most famous artists of all times, such as Filippo Brunelleschi, who helped him plan the castle, Leon Battista Alberti, Piero della Francesca, Matteo De' Pasti and Agostino di Duccio, who worked at the Tempio Malatestiano (Malatesta’s Temple).
The castle, with its solid but elegant and wide structure, bears witnesses to the wealth and power of the Lordship and the Lord it represented, though we can only see today its central part. It was the family’s main castle, even if they loved to travel to the castles they owned in the entire region, like the one in Santarcangelo di Romagna, restored by Sigismondo himself, where Francesca lived. The castle’s structure, with a magnificent single tower, is unique in Italy. It is right here that, according to the legend, Francesca and her brother-in-law fell madly in love and were killed by Francesca’s husband in the famous episode described by Dante Alighieri in his Divine Comedy. By following the main road that winds through the hills of the highest part of the Marecchia river, we can admire a great number of ancient-old castles and towers, looking over the valley as to protect it, loyal witnesses of a past full of history. The architecture of the valley also bears witnesses to the endless fight between the Malatesta and the Montefeltro families, a fight that grew more intense when their most famous representatives, Sigismondo and Federico, rose to power. The Marecchia river flows through the valley and fortifications outline the hills creating a charming landscape: Palazzo Marcosanti in Poggio Berni, the Castel of Scorticata with its two cylindrical towers and the remains of the lord’s tower and, right on the hill next to it, Torriana, the only tower left of the castle built on the highest hill in the valley and important for its strategic position. Not far from there is the Castle of Montebello, with its many loopholes and famous all over the world for the legend of Azzurrina, the little girl with light blue hair who died in the castle during the Middle Ages. Just in front of Montebello stands the charming Castle of Verucchio, whose owner was Mastin Vecchio, the century old ancestor of the famous House from Rimini mentioned by Dante Alighieri. Every summer, in august, the castle comes back to life with medieval feasts and celebrations. On the left of the Castle, on Mount Titano, are the three towers of the ancient-old Republic of San Marino.
The river also mirrors the Castle of Saiano, built in 1183, with its enigmatic byzantine cylindrical tower. Not far from there is the town of San Leo, whose Majestic fortress was built by Francesco di Giorgio Martini, an architect from Siena who spent more than twenty years of his life in Urbino, at Federico da Montefeltro’s court and help spread Renaissance art and architecture throughout the region. Standing on a towering rocky peak, the castle, also mentioned by Dante Alighieri in the IV Canto (poem) of the Purgatory, has ancient roman origins but it was completely restored in 1475 by Francesco di Giorgio Martini, who turned it into an impregnable stronghold, the feather in the cap of the area’s defence system. Once you get to San Leo, you cannot miss out on the Fortress of Maioletto, featuring two towers and some parts of the old walls, standing on a limestone peak whose landslide, in the XVIII Century, destroyed the old village of Maiolo. On the opposite side of the valley, we find Talamello, famous for its medieval city centre and the traditional cheese. Driving through the valley, on Mount Carpegna, lies Scavolino with its enchanting palace. From there you can easily get to Pennabilli, the rich and powerful city hosting the bishop’s seat. The little town is named after its two castles, Penna and Billi, and it features, just outside the village, a tower called Torre di Bascio, an isolated square-based tower looking over its hamlet and built in the XII Century together with a castle, which, unfortunately, cannot be admired today. South of Pennabilli we find Casteldelci, Castrum Ilicis in Latin, a well-preserved village which once featured, on the top of the mountain, Uguccione della Faggiola’s Castle. Only two of its towers are still standing today: the one called “del Monte”, a circular watch post from the XIII Century, and the old watch post later turned into a bell tower for the close by Church of Santa Maria in Sasseto.
Not far from this charming fortress is the town of Sant’Agata Feltria whose oddly shaped Fortress, Rocca Fregoso, towers over the tiny village from the rocky peak called in Italian “il Sasso del Lupo”, the wolf’s stone. Francesco di Giorgio Martini’s unique style stands out in the fairy-tale outlook of this castle, especially in the two polygonal side towers making it look stronger and more beautiful. In the same municipality lies the charming little village of Petrella Guidi, a medieval hamlet with high XIV Century stonewalls and a high tower standing next to the remains of the castle’s walls.
The Great Art: Rimini, Sigismondo and the Renaissance in Rimini
Il Tempio Malatestiano fu progettato da Leon Battista Alberti intorno al 1450 per volere di Sigismondo Pandolfo Malatesta, signore di Rimini la cui famiglia guidava la città già dal Trecento, con autorevolezza e prestigio. La preesistente chiesa venne completamente ricoperta da un nuovo splendente involucro che però non fu mai terminato.
Il progetto si rintraccia nelle medaglie bronzee di Matteo de' Pasti. Gli interni armoniosi ed eleganti vennero affidati a maestranze toscane, infatti le sculture sono di Agostino di Duccio e gli affreschi di Piero della Francesca. Sempre da non perdere la visita a Castel Sismondo, la reggia del potente Signore, iniziato nel 1437 e completato nel 1446. Oggi si ammira e si visita la parte centrale, poiché la cinta muraria esterna è scomparsa, mentre il fossato è stato interrato, ma ciò non toglie nulla alla sua possanza e insieme eleganza. A Rimini giunse anche Leonardo da Vinci, come ingegnere e consigliere militare di Cesare Borgia, e rimase colpito dal gioioso suono delle cannelle d’acqua della fontana principale della città, la Fontana della pigna. Armonie che gli suggerirono la costruzione di un organo idraulico utilizzando l’acqua non già come pompa per comprimere l’aria, ma per far suonare l’acqua stessa cadendo entro “vasi di terra”. Idea che è stata reinterpretata giungendo alla realizzazione dell’opera attualmente esposta al Museo della Città di Rimini. Nel 1619 nacque qui la prima biblioteca pubblica d’Italia, donata dal ricco giureconsulto Alessandro Gambalunga, di cui porta ancora il nome.
E’ il secolo in cui vi lavorarono i pittori Guido Cagnacci e il Centino che lasciarono numerose opere. Ed è anche il periodo in cui si interviene su una tra le più imponenti chiese della città, la Chiesa di Sant'Agostino del XIII sec. ricca di numerose opere artistiche che ne avvalorano il pregio culturale: tra queste l'abside e la cappella del campanile che conservano una serie di affreschi dedicati alla Vergine e alla vita di San Giovanni Evangelista e, dietro l'altare maggiore, una maestà di Cristo e la Madonna della scuola pittorica riminese del trecento.
The Marecchia valley: from the hills of Rimini to the area once belonging to the Montefeltro family
Just like in a painting, this amazing valley is drawn by the Marecchia River flowing between the two mountain ridges, looking over it as worried parents. The river springs out of the soil in a meadow on a mount called “Monte della Zucca”, close to where the Tiber River is born in the nearby mountains of Tuscany. The river flows steeply to the sea, in its wide riverbed, crossing the Montefeltro in Emilia-Romagna, touching on the Republic of San Marino and finally getting to Rimini, deviating its course just outside the city in order not to interfere with its harbour operations. The landscape features clay hills and sandstone rocky peaks on the two sides of the stream. Those peaks got to the area centuries ago, thanks to a gravitational flow, wandering like rafts from the Tyrrhenian Sea until they stopped on these sandstone blocks once completely covered by water.
The area also offers a great number of different though charming historic spots: Verucchio, Torriana, Mount Titano and the Ancient Republic of San Marino and San Leo. The rocky peaks helped men build fortresses on their tops, sometimes impregnable, sometimes destroyed by divine wrath, like Maioletto, according to old legends. The lands of Montefeltro once marked the frontier between the possessions of the Lords of Urbino and those of the Lords of Rimini, as both houses boasted to have origins in the area. Today, scholars agree that they both descended from the Lords of Carpegna. The lords of Urbino had always considered the place like home, as they were from San Leo, an area they later inherited. The lords of Rimini had once been the lords of Verucchio and Pennabilli, where their ancestors started building their fortune. For centuries, the area was the battlefield for struggles and wars between the two houses, as testified by the great number of castles and fortresses.
Nowadays, we can still admire powerful military fortresses and defence towers, such as San Leo, Sant’Agata, Pennabilli, Gattara, Casteldelci, Petrella Guidi, Maciano, Talamello, Maioletto, Pietracuta, Saiano, Torriana, Montebello, Poggio Berni, Verucchio and Santarcangelo di Romagna. The artistic heritage of the area is so valuable that it is considered one of the most charming tourist destinations in Italy. Nature plays an important role here with the wide stone-pebbled riverbed and the marvellous beaches described by the worldwide famous poet Tonino Guerra as “the childhood of the entire world”. We cannot forget meadows and woods, rich in truffles and mushrooms, characterising the local cooking tradition with their aromas filling the air during seasonal local fairs. The upper part of the Valmarecchia Area is the heart of the old Dukedom of Montefeltro: a popular destination, since Ancient Times, for people such as Dante Alighieri, Saint Francis, Giotto, Otto I, Cagliostro, Felice Orsini, Uguccione della Faggiola, Fra Matteo da Bascio, Padre Olivieri da Sant’Agata, Saint Leon and Saint Marino, Ezra Pound, Sigismondo Malatesta, Federico da Montefeltro, Pope Clement XIV and many other poets from Santarcangelo like Baldini and Guerra. It was a poet, born in the valley, Tonino Guerra, who stressed the importance of the Marecchia River with its beaches and wild corners, of canyons echoing every little sound like the Canaiolo canyon in Pennabilli, of streams with Zen garden pebbles like the spot in Storena, close to Pennabilli. He also described the small rocky peaks coming out of the water and creating small bays like the one called “Il Mare di Francesco”, at Ponte Maddalena, and the charming but abandoned windmill blades in Soanne. The poet invites us to discover what he calls the “Popular Museum” (Museo diffuso), a powerful combination of nature and men’s works. This landscape has the power to take you to another dimension while your sight wanders from the mountains to the coastal area then back to the Apennines and all the way to the park Parco Naturale del Sasso Simone e Simoncello, covering 4847 hectares and scattered between the Province of Rimini and the Province of Pesaro and Urbino. The park also features one of the wildest areas covered by Turkey oaks in Italy, looking very much like the ones you can spot in Colorado, and offers a peerless sight winning your eyes and heart forever. The whole area is also very well know for its delicious cooking with intense and at the same time delicate flavours such as local mushrooms, truffles, the famous cheese “Formaggio di Fossa”, hazelnuts, bread, cornmeal mush and cherries tickling the palate after a long hike. You surely do not know that the valley was once crossed by two railways. The oldest one was built at the end of the XIX Century, it connected Santarcangelo di R. and San Leo and ended in Urbino and Fabriano although only some stretches were operational. The second railway connected Rimini and Novafeltria, once called Mercatino Marecchia, from 1916 to 1960: many people still remember when they took the train to Rimini to go to school or for business reasons. The most famous traveller on this line was the American poet Ezra Pound.
Environment, landscapes, natural reserves and areas recognized with the “Bandiera Arancione” award in the Province of Pesaro
The Province of Pesaro and Urbino is an area incredibly rich in natural beauty. From the sea to the Apennines, it features a wide variety of natural landscapes: rocky and sandy shores, gentle hills, forests, woods, pastures and mountains creating a breathtaking mosaic completed by small towns, villages and hamlets full of history and traditions.
The Province of Pesaro and Urbino hosts no less than three areas of outstanding natural beauty, offering a unique natural heritage preserved and managed by the Province of Pesaro and Urbino with the aim of protecting, in a sustainable and environment-friendly way, its most valuable natural resources. To achieve this aim the province’s government created an integrated network of parks and natural reserves:
Parco Naturale del Monte San Bartolo
The Parco Naturale del Monte San Bartolo, is a natural park on a cliff just above the Adriatic Sea. It includes a stretch of cliffs and rocky shorelines between Pesaro and Gabicce Mare. With its yellow broom and green meadows if features a breathtaking view on the blue Adriatic Sea. Winding roads cross small villages and hamlets once home to fishers, which preserved their original structure. In the hamlet of Fiorenzuola di Focara, you can visit a marine museum, whereas in Casteldimezzo you will find plenty of good fish restaurants and handicraft workshops. Small roads go down the mountain and lead you to slight beaches just below the cliffs, true slices of heaven and green sea.
Parco Naturale Interregionale del Sasso Simone e Simoncello
The Parco Naturale Interregionale del Sasso Simone e Simoncello, lies in the Apennines at the heart of the Montefeltro area, where pine trees, oaks and century-old firs slowly climb up on the remains of Medieval castles. The Park’s managing board provide visitors with suggested paths and information to improve their experience in this wild area, where beach trees hide parish churches and castles, true gems of architecture and history.
Riserva Naturale Statale Gola del Furlo
The Riserva Naturale Statale Gola del Furlo, is a majestic canyon, a natural reserve featuring rare flora and fauna and a real eagle. The reserve offers a rich biking program for everyone, offering a unique experience to nature lovers, tourists looking for exclusive natural landscapes and families. The natural reserve covers an area of about 195 hectares in the Municipality of Cantiano also including the Parco Naturale del Bosco di Tecchie, a natural park with interesting landscapes and fauna.
The Province of Pesaro and Urbino invites you to discover its most amazing spots by bike: the town of Gabicce Mare hosts the International cyclo-tourism convention, a must-attend for both bike lovers and tourists from all over the world, who can follow amazing paths touching on several villages and offering varied and unique landscapes: from the blue of the sea to the green of its gentle hills to the virgin woods of the Apennines where you can easily rent a mountain bike. Discover available cycling paths and hotels for bikers and sport lovers in the Province of Pesaro and Urbino.
On foot: from the woods of the Alpe della Luna to those of Mount Carpegna is a very short way. The Province of Pesaro and Urbino lies on a ridge of the Apennines characterized by red and blue colours, representing nature and inner peace. The area offers a wide array of paths for hikers who can cross the Province with their backpack and bump into squirrels, deer, foxes and other animals living in these woods. Just as in a painting, they can catch sight of true slices of heaven such as the woods called “Bosco di Tecchie”, with its cascades of crystalline water, or the streams flowing down mount Catria and Nerone. For those who prefer funny and educational paths, a varied set of guided tours is available all year round. You can also decide to spend the night in one of the park’s mountain cabins. Discover trips and organized walks in the Province of Pesaro and Urbino.
Trips to the little towns of the old Dukedom of Urbino
This trip starts from Urbino, goes to the northern border of the Montefeltro area and then gets back to the city by taking a different road.
Urbino (35 km from Pesaro), the capital city of the old Dukedom of Urbino, is the main tourist destination for those who wish to discover the Province. It hosts a majestic Ducal Palace, the wonderful National Gallery of the Marche Region and features countless artworks in its many churches and monasteries, Rafael’s birthplace and palaces hidden in old and characteristic tiny streets. Urbino is definitely a city that can take your breath away.
The city is surrounded by magnificent hills and valleys, the ones depicted by the great Renaissance painters who lived in Urbino during the domination of the Montefeltro or Della Rovere houses. Take the Dukedom’s old roads heading north-east to get to the Montefeltro area, homeland of the famous House, at the northern borders of the Marche region. The Montefeltro area is scattered between Emilia-Romagna and Tuscany, dominated by the towering mountain peak of Mount Carpegna (m.a.s.l. 1415) and Mount Perticara (m.a.s.l. 883) in the valley of the Marecchia river. Just outside Urbino, take the road that gets to the valley of the Foglia River, up to Sassocorvaro (m.a.s.l. 331), bordering one of the sides of Mercatale’s artificial lake. Mercatale lies just on the top of the hill, dominated by the towering Fortress built by Francesco di Giorgio Martini, home to the noble House represented by Ottaviano degli Ubaldini. From Sassocorvaro, by driving through the valley of the Foglia river, you can get to Lunano (m.a.s.l. 297) and to its old, dilapidated castle, to Piandimeleto (m. 320), with the mighty palace-fortress of the Counts Oliva featuring real Ghibelline crenellations, loopholes and bracketed cornices or to the nearby village of Belforte all'Isauro (m.a.s.l. 343). If you drive back, right after passing Piandimeleto, by following the road running along the stream called Mutino, you will find Frontino (m.a.s.l. 530), an old watch post on the boundary with the Massa Trabaria area. The area is famous for the breathtaking rocky planes of the Mountains Sasso Simone (m.a.s.l. 1204) and Simoncello (m.a.s.l. 1221). At the crossroads, in Caturchio, you can drive up to the tiny village of Carpegna (m.a.s.l. 784), lying at the foot of Mount Carpegna, and admire the mighty Princes’ Palace where the descendants of the old House Carpegna still live today. The House, which was given the feud by Emperor Otto I in 962 AD, split up in three different Houses included the House of Montecopiolo which later became the House of Montefeltro. The Municipality of Montecopiolo features a ski resort (where once stood a beautiful castle), contributing to the great fascination exerted by this area: the homeland of the Montefeltro family, a crossroads of people and trade, between the Marecchia and the Conca valleys. Once you get to this last valley, take the road boarding the river until you catch sight of Monte Cerignone (m.a.s.l. 536), a town standing on a rocky peak, with characteristic pebble stone roads climbing up to the old Fortress. You can then head south until you get to the hills dividing the valleys of the Conca and Foglia Rivers where, next to the old Pitinum Pisaurense (where it lies today the old Parish Church of San Cassiano) and the valley of the Apsa River, stands Macerata Feltria (m.a.s.l. 321). The town features a fortified city centre, a tower and the Palazzo del Podestà (Magister’s palace) which has now been turned into a museum. This castle is just one of the many possessions taken away from Sigismondo Malatesta by Federico da Montefeltro in 1463, when the Lord of Rimini definitely fell out of grace and the Duke of Urbino won the endless war between the two Houses. The road then goes back to Mercatale di Sassocorvaro, ending this wonderful trip in the Montefeltro area.
Discover the valley of the Metauro river
The trip leaves from Fano and, after stopping by to visit the valley’s different castles, towering over the river, and the main towns and villages from the mountain ridge. Fano, once called Fanum Fortunae, is the final destination of the trip, with its old city centre rich in historic monuments ranging from the Middle Ages, to Renaissance to Baroque. The old roman road called “Via Flaminia”, is still standing today: it starts in Rome and ends right in the coastal area, siding the modern freeway. It allows you to quickly reach Fossombrone (25 km) and towns further in the hinterland (crossroads at Calmazzo). Turning north-east and continuing alongside the Metauro river, the road joins the national road, up to the pass on the Apennines at Bocca Trabaria (m.a.s.l. 1044), in Tuscany, where it then goes down to Sansepolcro.
At Calmazzo, the freeway leaves the old Via Flaminia and takes a different route: it gets through the pass called “Passo del Furlo”, continues up to Acqualagna, Cagli and Cantiano and to the pass called “Passo della Scheggia” (m.a.s.l. 632).
If you leave from Fano, you first stop is the little village of Calcinelli (13.4 km) where a crossroads reqiores you to choose between two breathtaking hilly roads surrounded by the villages and castles of the lower area of the Metauro river. The river’s northern embankment leads to Saltara (m.a.s.l. 160), a charming little village dominated by a mountain and a fortress with high castle walls. The road then winds up through vineyards and olive trees up to Cartoceto (m.a.s.l. 235) with its characteristic houses at the foot of the hills and the church-sanctuary Santa Maria della Misericordia towering on top of it. Drive a little further through the valley of the Metauro and Foglia Rivers and you will find Mombaroccio (m.a.s.l. 311), a city completely enclosed by strong XIV Century walls. Do not forget to stop at the ancient monastery “Convento del Beato Sante” (m.a.s.l. 393), a real art treasure, surrounded by oaks, holms and chestnut trees. Back to Calcinelli, the second option is another hilly road on the southern embankment of the Metauro River. A bridge on the river allows you to get to Montemaggiore al Metauro (m.a.s.l.197), an amazing panoramic viewpoint on the lower and middle valley of the Metauro river.
Follow the country road, climb up the mountain ridges between the valleys of the Metauro and Cesano Rivers and you will be passing by the old castles with fortified walls of Piagge and San Giorgio di Pesaro. You will then get to the little town of Orciano di Pesaro (m.a.s.l. 249): it is easy to spot it even from far away, with its tall bell and castle towers. Do not miss out on the fine Renaissance church of Santa Maria Nuova, right inside the castle, planned by Baccio Pontelli.
From there, you can quickly reach Calcinelli by following a road called “Cavallara” and stopping by in Barchi (m.a.s.l. 319), to admire a magnificent building erected at the time of the Della Roveres.
When you get back to the highway, do not forget to stop in Fossombrone, a town lying between the mountain ridges called “delle Cesane” and a steep hillside called “Colle dei Cappuccini”. With its steep roofs, the main churches’ towers and the wonderful facades of the nobles’ palaces. Among them stands an high building called “Corte Alta”, once built by the Montefeltros and, a little higher than that, the medieval Cittadella and the hill of Sant'Aldebrando, with the remains of the old castle.
After Fossombrone, you get to Calmazzo, then to Canavaccio, where the highway turns into the old National road, sided by hills, which gets you to the crossroads leading to Urbino (5.5 km).
Turning left in the upper area of the Metauro valley, you will find Fermignano first, with the solid tower Torre delle Milizie, protecting the charming three-arched stepped bridge, then Urbania. The city, once called Castel Durante (m.a.s.l. 273), is a beautiful little town rich in monuments, surrounded on three sides by the Metauro River and by the old city walls. Don’t miss out on the Ducal palace, where Francesco Maria II Della Rovere (1631) spent the last days of his life, the many churches included the Chiesa dei Morti (Church of the dead) with its macabre graveyard of mummies and the bridge called Ponte dei Cocci (Bridge of the Crocks), where potters once left their pottery to dry. Legend has it that on that same bridge was once fought the battle of the Metauro River (207 B.C.) during which Hasdrubal The Carthaginian was defeated by the Romans led by Claudio Nerone and Livio Salinatore. After Urbania, driving through the Metauro valley, you will pass by the ancient castle of Peglio (m.a.s.l. 534), standing on a hill towering above the valley and you will get to Sant' Angelo in Vado, once called Tiphernum Mataurense (m.a.s.l. 359). The town is an old river ford and a charming village with churches and palaces like the “Campanon”, a XIII Century city hall next to the nearby palace “Palazzo della Ragione”. Sant'Angelo in Vado is also famous for truffles just as the entire area surrounding Pesaro.
Another nice place to stop by, closer to the Apennines, is Mercatello sul Metauro (m.a.s.l. 429); with its medieval Church dedicated to Saint Francis featuring a crucifix by Giovanni da Rimini. You can visit the town museum, full of painted tables and triptychs from the XIII Century, or admire the strong walls and the turret of the palace “Palazzo Gasparini”, which is today the town hall.
Our trip ends a few kilometres from there at Borgo Pace (m.a.s.l. 449), right at the heart of the Massa Trabaria, the area on the Apennines where the Romans once took the wood trunks (trabes) for their churches making them fluctuate on the nearby Tiber River. The Metauro River splits up into two different streams here, Meta and Auro, where it borders the Province of Arezzo and the mountain peak called Alpe della Luna.
Wine, food and artistic handicraft in the Province of Pesaro and Urbino
Rarely a regional area boasts such a rich and appetizing set of wine and food products. A case in point is the truffle sold at the fairs of Sant'Angelo in Vado and Acqualagna. The latter is recognized by the Italian law, together with a place called Alba, as one of the main centres where truffles can be picked up and marketed in Italy. Acqualagna is indeed called the capital city of truffles all year long. From October through December you can find valuable white truffles, from January through March exquisite black truffles, whereas from April through June and from July through September you can purchase black summer truffles called “scorzoni” and white summer truffles called “marzuoli”. Gioacchino Rossini himself, the famous composer, was a great connoisseur and truffle lover. Besides truffles, the area is rich in mushrooms of different types that can be picked up everywhere on the Apennines. San Sisto, at the foot of Mount Carpegna, has been hosting the regional mushrooms exhibition for decades, one of the many fairs displaying every autumn natural produce.
Cheese is also delicious: for example, the very well-know Casciotta d'Urbino, fresh cheese made with plenty of mutton milk and added cow milk, was awarded with a Protected Designation of Origin. Michelangelo loved it and, since Renaissance, it has been particularly appreciated all over the world. Other types of quality cheese are sheep cheeses like the “pecorino” made in Cartoceto and Acqualagna.
The Montefeltro area is renowned for its safe and high quality meat, la Razza Marchigiana, is the local bred awarded with a Protected Geographical Indication. Farm breeding has ancient-old origins in the area, which is also famous for its ham, and for the Extra Vergin Olive Oil, made in Cartoceto, a refined and tasty olive oil that makes this little own and its hills famous all over the world. Both the ham and the olive oil have been awarded with a Protected Geographical Indication.
Among the wines awarded with a Controlled Designation of Origin, Bianchello del Metauro (legend has it that this wine caused Hasdrubal to lose against the Romans in the famous and ferocious battle of the Metauro River), Colli Pesaresi and Pergola deserve a special mention. Apecchio is internationally known for its breweries.
The Amarena di Cantiano is a slightly alcoholic and sweet drink. Moretta Fanese is a typical drink of the city of Fano: it is not a cocktail nor a laced coffee but a traditional tasty blend of the two.
Fish is the staple of food tradition in Pesaro, Fano and Cantiano with fish soup (brodetto), grilled anchovies (sardoni) and a specific type of trout called “Trota del duca”. It is a simple and tasty cuisine, rich in healthy products and ingredients, such as the Bread of Chiaserna, the Pear “Angelica” of Serrungarina or the Peach of Montelabbate.
Pizza TERRE ROSSINI RAFFAELLO, the pizza with the taste of our enchanting area. Eight pizzas with typical healthy products to discover the delicacies of our lands. TTR Pizza Menu, list of restaurants and pizzerias www.terrerossiniraffaello.it Discover the valley of the Metauro river.
Artistic handicraft in the area goes back to ancient times. Ceramics were already very popular in Renaissance times, especially the ones made in Casteldurante, a town called today Urbania, where, in the first half of the XVI Century, famous artists manufactured fine ceramic objects. This tradition has been preserved, not only in Urbania, but also in Sant’Angelo in Vado and most of all in Pesaro, a city which gained international fame for ceramics in the first decade of the XXI Century thanks to outstanding artists. A special production is the one of terrecotta potteries (called ‘cocci’) in Fratterosa, reviving a peasant tradition, whereas Pesaro is getting more and more famous for its handmade pipes. Piobbico and, more recently Novilara, are renowned for their handmade rugs, Cagli for wrought iron, Sant’Ippolito is very well known all over the word for bamboo artefacts whereas Casinina is prominent for its high quality tanneries. Sant'Ippolito also boasts an ancient old tradition in stone carving retracing the forms and motifs of carvers from the past, whereas Fano boasts a high quality world-renowned gold work industry.
Watering places and spas in the Province of Pesaro and Urbino
There are four watering places in the Province where you can take care of your health while enjoying a pleasant holiday. Try the Terme di Carignano, on the hills a few kilometres from Pesaro and Fano, the Montegrimano Thermae, in Monte Grimano, in the upper valley of the Conca river, the Pitinum Thermae, in Macerata Feltria or the Terme di Raffaello in Petriano. These wonderful, liveable watering places offer a peaceful and relaxing stay surrounded by nature, ideal for your health and well-being. If you are looking for peace don’t miss out on the spas on the Apennines where you can enjoy the best nature has to offer like the sulphur waterfalls creating a natural water basin or the sauna area in the caves on Mount Catria-Nerone.
Don’t miss out on: Rimini
Don’t miss out on: Santarcangelo and the surrounding area
- Rocca Malatestiana (Malatesta’s Fortress)
- Grotte Tufacee (Tuff Caves)
- Church Chiesa della Collegiata
- Parish Church Pieve di San Michele Arcangelo
- MUSAS HIstoric Museum and Archaeological Museum
- Antico Mangano (Old Mangle from the XVII Century)
- Rocca di Torriana (The Castle of Torriana)
- Castello di Montebello (The Castle of Montebello)
- Santuario della Madonna di Saiano (Sanctuary of the Virgin Mary)
Don’t miss out on: Verucchio
- Rocca Malatestiana (Malatesta’s Fortress)
- Museo Civico Archeologico della Città (Town Archaeological Museum)
Don’t miss out on: San Leo
Francesco di Giorgio Martini’s fortress.
The fortress was named after the architect who, upon request of Federico da Montefeltro came from Siena in 1479 to re-plan the old medieval castle. Today, the fortress hosts an important museum and it is a fine example of military architecture. In 1350, it was conquered by the Malatesta family who, together with the Montefeltro family, alternated to power in the region for two Centuries. In 1502 Cesare Borgia, nicknamed “il Valentino”, conquered the fortress, which came again under the control of the Montefeltros a year later and then under the control of the Della Roveres in 1527. In 1631, when the Church State rose to power, the fortress was turned into a prison where famous patriots were jailed during the Italian Risorgimento. The most famous of them is Giuseppe Balsamo from Palermo, also called Count of Cagliostro, an adventurer, a freemason and an expert in occult arts in the XVIII Century, who closely linked his name to the history of the castle. The fortress, restored by Valadier, continued to serve as a prison until the Unity of Italy, in 1906.
Cathedral of Saint Leon (IX -XII Century).
Strongly clinging to the rock, the Cathedral stands on a spot considered sacred since ancient times. It is the finest example of Medieval architecture in the Montefeltro area and one of the most important works of Romanesque art in Central Italy. Built in 1173, it includes the remains of an old medieval cathedral from the VII Century, when San Leo, at the time called Montefeltro, established the new Dioceses. The Church is east oriented and entrance is through one side of the facade, with two busts of Saint Leon and Saint Valentine from the oldest church on top of it. The crypt once hosted the sarcophagus with the remains of Saint Leon, which can no longer be admired, with the exception of the upper lid, featuring an inscription from the VI Century.
Pre-Romanesque Parish Church of Virgin Mary of the Assumption (881-882) It is the oldest religious building in the entire Montefeltro area and it attests to the spread of Christianity in the whole region. The word Parrocchia, parish church in Italian, originates from the term “community”, alluding to the group of people converted to Christianity by Saint Leon between the III and the IV Century. According to the legend, the Saint himself, a stonecutter, laid the first stone of the Church. The high facade, right on the precipice, is eastward oriented and features two side doors, with a loggia on the top decorated with bicolour byzantine-style ashlars. The columns, as well as the capitals, have a clear Roman or late Roman style. Inside the church, you can admire a valuable ciborium with finely sculpted capitals.
Bell tower (XII Century).
A squared and powerful building hidden behind the Churches. It used to be a useful hiding place for the Bishop and his priests.
Palazzo Della Rovere (XVII Century). The palace hosts today the Town hall, built for the Della Roveres, the family taking over when the Montefeltros house was defeated. Its elegant facade is characterized by sandstone decorations, a huge portal and windows with Tuscan-style gables.
Museum of sacred art (XVI Century).
The museum is hosted in a wonderful palace, the Palazzo Mediceo, whose coat of arms on the front wall shows the lily of the city of Florence and the symbol of Pope Julius II Della Rovere. The museum showcases sacred art masterpieces from the VIII to the XVIII Century such as the Madonna della Mela di Catarino by Marco da Venezia and the Madonna con Bambino by Frosino (1487-1493).
Palazzo Nardini XIV Century.
This is where, on the 8th of May 1213, Saint Francis was given Mount La Verna as a gift by the Count of Chiusi.
Friars’ Monastery and Church of Sant’Antonio Abate in Montemaggio (XVI Century). The friary boasts two cloisters following the specific land structure of the area, a tank, an octagonal well and a basin collecting the snow which matches the baroque style of the church and adds mystery to this very peculiar place.
Sant Igne Franciscan Monastery (XIII Century).
According to the legend, the monastery was probably built by Saint Francis when he saw “the holy fire” telling him the way to go. The Church was consecrated in 1244 and hosts part of the elm tree under which Saint Francis used to preach. Castle of Pietracuta The remains of the castle stand on the rocky peak whose sharp form gave its name to the village below (Pietracuta means in Italian Sharp stone). The castle was handed over to the Republic of San Marino, to the Malatestas and then to the Montefeltros who had it refurbished by Francesco di Giorgio Martini. It hosted Federico and his wife, Battista Sforza, in 1462. Not far from there is a fine Renaissance Dominican Monastery.
Don’t miss out on: Sant'Agata Feltria
- Rocca Fregoso (Fregoso Fortress)
- Teatro Mariani (Mariani Theatre)
- Petrella Guidi
Don’t miss out on: Pennabilli
- Museo diocesano (Museum of the Dioceses)
- Mateureka (Math and computation Museum)
- Museum dedicated to spirituality
- Museum dedicated to Tonino Guerra
- Torre di Bascio (Bascio’s Tower)
- Lago di Andreuccio: a charming lake in the serene atmosphere of the village of Soanne, with the remains of the windmill described by poet Tonino Guerra.
Don’t miss out on: Mount Titano and the Republic of San Marino
The Republic of San Marino is the oldest Republic in the world and it is the epitome of a representative democracy based on autonomy and self-determination. It covers an area of no more than 61 sq km and it is divided into nine administrative districts called “Castelli” (Castles). The Capital city, San Marino, lies on top of Mount Titano, 750 meters above sea level, on the Central Apennines, easy to catch sight of even from a distance, with its distinctive three mountain peaks.
The legend goes that a Dalmatian stonecutter, Marinus, found shelter on Mount Titano to escape the persecutions against Christians carried out by Diocletian. He established here a Christian community whose way of living was Marinus’s real legacy. His motto was: “Relinquo vos liberos ab utroque homine” (“I set you free from both of them” meaning the Emperor and the Pope). The community has never abandoned this principle.
The area was inhabited since prehistory and many objects belonging to the Villanovan civilization were found in the area. Nevertheless, documents proving the existence of a Monastery, a Parish Church and a Castle only go back to the Middle Ages.
While the grip of the Empire was fading and the authority of the Pope was taking root in the area, an independent form of self-government developed in the city. Citizens decided to give over the ruling of the Municipality, and later of the Republic, to a board composed by the heads of the city’s households (Arengo). Today, the Arengo is represented by every citizen with a right to vote and it elects the Parliament (called Consiglio Grande e Generale). The first two Consuls, or Captains Regent, were appointed in 1243: they are elected every six months and still rule the city. Over the years, the history of the Republic linked itself with the one of surrounding Italian municipalities. San Marino took part in, and won, the fight against the bishops in the Montefeltro area, achieving political and administrative independence. It fought with the Montefeltros, long-time allies, and was rewarded with lands in order to widen the state’s area. During the Middle Ages, the Republic only consisted of the area around Mount Titano but in 1463, as a reward for having taken part in the war against an excommunicated Sigismondo Pandolfo Malatesta, former Lord of Rimini, Pope Pius II donated the Castles of Fiorentino, Montegiardino and Serravalle to the city. The Castle of Faetano later applied to enter the Republic and since then the state’s surface has remained unchanged. The Republic of San Marino was militarily occupied twice but only for a few months: in 1503 by Cesare Borgia and in 1739 by Cardinal Alberoni. In both cases, the occupation ended with the death of the two occupiers. Napoleon had a fondness for this little independent state and even offered San Marino an “access to the sea”, which the city wisely refused. After Napoleon accepted its sovereignty in 1797, the Republic was recognized worldwide: the Congress of Vienna changed the outlook of Europe but did not question San Marino’s independence. A definition the inhabitants of San Marino are very fond of is the one given by Abram Lincoln when he was awarded with honorary citizenship. In a letter dated 7th of May 1861, he wrote the Captains Regents: “Although your State is small, it is one of the most respectable ones in history”.
Visiting this tiny state is easy: they use the Euro and you don’t need a visa. The city offers breathtaking landscapes and a wonderful view of the Romagna area from one side, and of the hills of Montefeltro on the other side, just as charming as they look in Piero della Francesca’s paintings. It also features a great number of monuments and art works, held in museums and churches, among which the XVIII Century Cathedral of Saint Marinus, built on the old Parish Church, which stands out for its neoclassical look. The city is also famous for its food and wine, for philately and numismatics, for events, exhibitions and amazing shopping. It often organizes historical pageants, reviving century-old traditions: the Giornate Medievali (Medieval Days) are held every year in summer and are the most popular events in the city, with its alleys going back in time for the occasion. The city becomes somehow a night stage featuring costume parades, whirling in a rush of colours, notes, nuances and emotions. More than five hundred actors parade, amidst the drum roll and the sound of trumpets, in wonderful costumes, with colourful banners and flag-bearer games offering a thrilling show in the old city centre and on the stage of the Cava dei Balestrieri (Cross-bowers’ cave). Musicians, actors, jugglers and acrobats entertain the public with travelling performances. During the event, the restaurants in the old city centre offer theme menus inspired to ancient-old recipes. The medieval market, with its soft lights and charming setting, displays the creativity of medieval-style handicrafts. Medieval traditions are then revived in the trophy of big crossbows, a competition among cross-bowers established by the city’s ancient charter, held on the 3rd of September to celebrate its patron saint. The competition was established both to honour Saint Marinus and to oblige cross-bowers to compete and keep themselves in training: this is why cross-bowers from San Marino are among the best in Italy. In July, the city also hosts the Etnofestival (worldmusic) with music from all over the world, attracting music lovers from everywhere whereas every six months. On the 1st day of April and October you can also participate to the charming ceremony of election of the two Captains Regent.
In the old city centre, which can be reached by cable car, Porta San Francesco (Saint Francis’ Gate), the panoramic viewpoint, the Cathedral of Saint Marinus, the Palazzo Pubblico, the State Museum, the Church of Saint Francis and the nearby museum are undoubtedly worth a visit. The three towers that can be spotted from a distance were built between the XI and the XIII Century. The first one is called Rocca, the second one Fratta, or Cesta, and the furthest one, Torre del Montale. Outside the city lies the San Marino Adventures park, 4 minutes from the city centre and 20 minutes from Rimini, offering 12 routes from 0 to 16 metres of height.
Don’t miss out on: Gradara
The town is part of the association “I Borghi più Belli d’Italia” (The most beautiful villages in Italy) and was awarded with the Bandiera arancione (Orange Flag), a recognition of quality by the Italian Touring Club. This charming little town tempts you from the distance when you spot it from the motorway, so elegant and proud on the top of the mountain, surrounded by vineyards and olive trees, with its city walls and castle untouched. The fortress and the fortified village are one of the best preserved medieval structures in Italy and one of the most imposing ones, with an 800 metre long wall encircling the town. The castle rises on a hill, at 142 metres above sea level, while the main tower is 30 metre high and dominates the entire valley. Protected and at the same time close to the sea, the town has always been a crossroads for trade and people. During the Middle Ages, the city was much fought over between the two main Houses of the area, Malatesta and Montefeltro, always at war to expand their influence. It was the Malatestas, between 1200 and 1300, who gave the town the outlook it has today, by building the fortress and the double fortified walls on an existing XII Century tower. Their control ended in 1463 when Federico da Montefeltro took the Fortress by force at the head of the papal army. The area was a turbulent one: the town continued to be disputed and it was later handed over to different houses: Borgia, Della Rovere, and Medici. According to the legend, it’s right here, during the reign of the Malatestas, that Paolo and Francesca fell in love. Their tragic love story became famous thanks to Dante Alighieri’s moving and passionate verses. The two savagely killed young lovers were Francesca da Polenta and Paolo. Francesca, daughter of Guido Minore, Lord of Ravenna, married Giovanni, also called “Giovanni the Cripple” or Giangiotto, in 1275. He was the son of Malatesta da Verucchio, Lord of Gradara, and was forbidden by a law of the time, being the magistrate of Pesaro, to have his family living in the city he ruled over. His wife Francesca fell then desperately in love with Paolo, his younger and much better good-looking brother. It all started with the two of them reading a book, as Dante Alighieri tells us. These are the words Francesca uses in the Inferno to describe the moment they realized they were madly in love: “while all his body trembled, kissed my mouth. A gallehault indeed, that book and he who wrote it, too; that day we read no more”. Giangiotto discovered the two lovers and killed them with his sword. Dante places Paolo e Francesca in the second circle of Hell, with all those overcome by lust, trapped in an eternal whirlwind, but becoming a symbol of love thanks to Dante’s lines.
Don’t miss out on: Urbino, the ideal city
The city centre is world heritage listed by UNESCO.
Urbino is an amazing city for its beautiful palaces and rich history, once a refined and cultured Renaissance court, home town of the House Montefeltro. The Montefeltros were created dukes and had their palace built to represent their power and influence. The palace was built mainly thanks to Federico da Montefeltro’s philanthropist attitude. It was planned by the Dalmatian architect Luciano Laurana, who conceived the imposing parade ground, the big staircase, the wonderful facade with small turrets and built the wings connecting the palace to the old castle. When he left the city, he was replaced by Francesco di Giorgio Martini, who completed the palace with valuable decorations on the facade looking over the city.
After Duke Federico’s death, in 1482, the grand construction was interrupted and finally achieved only in the first half of the XVI Century, by architect Girolamo Genga, who planned the palace we see today, now hosting the National Gallery of the Marche Region.
The gallery displays a wide set of unique and valuable masterpieces, such as the artworks by the Rafael, from Urbino, or Piero della Francesca, Paolo Uccello, Tiziano and Melozzo da Forlì.
The city is inspired to the model of the ideal Renaissance city, just as its Ducal Palace, whose huge and articulated structure was built trying to convey the idea of a city inside the palace. Federico solved pressing political issues and reorganized the state just as he reorganized the entire city with a modern, comfortable and functional approach. He did everything he could, in the nearly forty years, he was Duke, for the reign he loved and managed to achieve these aims thanks to his skills and a bit of luck. At his court, Piero della Francesca wrote about the science of perspective, Francesco di Giorgio Martini wrote his architectural treatise, completing the restoration works of the Ducal palace whereas Rafael’s father, Giovanni Santi, wrote a journal about the main artists active in that period. Federico’s lively court comes to life through the description by Baldassarre Castiglione who, in “The Courtier”, sets out for the first time the true features of a “gentleman”. His treatise continued to be popular in Europe until the XX Century.
Urbino hosts a very old university, established in 1506 and named after Carlo Bo. The city has more students than dwellers but it preserves its elegant Renaissance outlook with high city walls, gates and fortified towers.
Don’t miss out on Rafael’s birthplace, 57 Via Raffaello (Rafael’s street), where you can admire one of his early frescoes and visit the house he used to live in. Another attraction is the mausoleum of the dukes, just outside the city walls, built by Donato Bramante in the second half of the XV Century, upon request by Federico II: it houses the tombs of Federico II and Guidobaldo I Montefeltro, Dukes of Urbino. It originally contained, under the main altar, Piero della Francesca’s famous altarpiece portraying the Virgin Mary, Federico II and other saints, now showcased at the Pinacoteca di Brera, in Milan. For more than 40 years, the city has been hosting every year, in July, the International Festival of Ancient Music with artists and music lovers from all over the world. The International Festival of Independent Music “Frequenze Disturbate” is another longstanding tradition in Urbino. Since 1507, the Cappella Musicale has had its seat in the city. It hosts a music school and organizes classes and concert seasons in Autumn and Spring.
ON THE COASTAL AREA
ON THE HILLS
- Hotel Terme Alessandro Gonzaga, Macerata Feltria
- Antica dimora di Mercatino, Novafeltria
- Oste del castello, Verucchio
- Hotel Il Villino, Santarcangelo di Romagna
- Hotel Della Porta, Santarcangelo di Romagna
- B&B Palazzo Albini Della Rovere, Saludecio
- B&B Tenuta Amalia, Verucchio
- B&B Villa Fiore, Verucchio
- B&B Pietrasalra, Novafeltria
- B&B Borgo del Sole e della Luna, Sant’Agata Feltria (Petrella Guidi)
- Tenuta La Lama, San Leo
- Locanda San Leone, San Leo
- Agriturismo Poggio Duca, San Leo
Camper area: the best place to stay is in Pennabilli:
* Piccoli Alberghi di Qualità (Small quality hotels) is a brand gathering 2 to 4 star family-run hotels featuring more than 48 rooms. Every hotel complies with the requirement to ensure a good balance between quality and price in order to offer visitors hospitality, devotion, trust and courtesy.
Description of some of the above-mentioned hotels:
Over the last few years, Rimini and the surrounding area have changed a lot, though preserving their true essence. The offer needs to change constantly to keep up with demand and new trends. This prompts sector operators to conceive new types of accommodation like, for instance, designer hotels planned by famous architects featuring spas with a view on the sea, where visitors can stop by for a drink (aperitivo) or a five star meal. The duoMo Hotel is a case in point: right in the heart of Rimini’s city centre, it was planned by Ron Arad, an internationally famous designer and architect. The use of alternative materials, vivid colours and bizarre shapes makes it futuristic and thrilling at the same time, offering a peerless experience. Its most interesting area is the noMi Club, offering rich and abundant breakfasts in the morning and drinks and dj sets for the aperitivo, just before dinner time.
Another unique hotel is the i-SUITE Hotel, officially opened in 2011, combining the comfort of a house and the facilities of a hotel. It is the first i-suite hotel planned by designers Simone Micheli and Giovanni Quadrelli: its suites are unique safe heavens with a view on the sea and the exclusive I-FEEL GOOD spa, on the top floor of the hotel. The spa features the i-CE AGE Outdoor Pool, a breathtaking warm outside pool at 32 C degrees, open all year long. The restaurant, i-FAME, open to everyone, only uses locally made produce: the chef, Daniele Succi, is a master at combining good quality and traditional products to modern cooking techniques creating very innovative dishes.
Carducci 76 is a designer hotel, right on the coastal area, in Cattolica. Set in a villa on the beach, it features suites with every type of comfort in a simple and elegant style, a spa and an award-winning restaurant by the pool, the Vicolo Santa Lucia Restaurant, a serene place where you can taste delicious and creative dishes by Chef Stefano Ciotti.
Right at the heart of the Valmarecchia area, in the charming old city centre of Verucchio, the birthplace of the Malatestas and of the ancient Villanovan civilization, rises the Oste del Castello Hotel, a manor restored in 1700 and refurbished with fine pieces of locally manufactured furniture. The Hotel lies in the city centre, close to the main square, in a network of alleys and tuff caves. Some of these can be admired from the Restaurant Mastin Vecchio or from the exclusive “wellness cave” equipped with steam, Turkish and whirlpool baths, aromatherapy and chromotherapy facilities, cervical cascades, emotional showers and heated beds.
Those who prefer a B&B can find, always in Verucchio, the Tenuta Amalia, an ancient-old manor surrounded by 160 hectares of farmed lands and vineyards featuring different areas: La Cantina della Gea, a wine tasting cellar, and three restaurants with typical local food: Al Pesce Azzurro, 'e Croin' and Rò e Bunï. Not far from there, the Rimini Golf Club (eighteen-holes) and the Golf Academy offer a unique relaxing experience by a wonderful golf course.
Don’t miss out on the XVIII Century Villafiore Luxury, a fascinating villa with a huge pool and a great view, ideal if you are looking for a romantic and relaxing experience.
In the Valmarecchia area, another option is Santarcangelo, where you will find it hard to choose between two wonderful structures: Hotel della Porta and Il Villino. The former, close to the old city gate Porta Cervese, combines the charm of a small hotel with the facilities of a big resort, with great attention to detail and style, as proven by the unique and poetic mosaics by Tonino Guerra. The inner garden, offering a view on the old city centre, leads to romantic rooms with frescoed ceilings and fine ancient furniture. Nature surrounds the latter, right in the medieval part of the town. Peaceful and welcoming, the hotel features twelve rooms each own with its own peculiar style, where small and polished galleries are turned into elegant suites. In Saludecio, right in the old city centre, lies B&B Palazzo Albini Della Rovere with its rooms facing a yard with a 1470 stone well. In this masterpiece of architecture and history, you can have breakfast on the gallery, in the kitchen, in the basement room or in the garden.
Going back to the coastal area another interesting B&B is Opera 01, offering the comforts of a true maison de charme, from the en-suite steam bath for two to the in-room breakfast service. The place also boasts a wonderful hall, the Oper’Bacco Room, which you can book for candle-lit dinners, parties or corporate events.
If you love nature and prefer a hilly landscape, the area offers a wide set of farmhouses.
In the Valmarecchia area, in the wonderful town of San Leo, the Locanda San Leone, a charming medieval inn, is a true gem in a fascinating location. The Inn goes back to the XIII Century when the owners started building around the old mill, once a flour production site for the Duchy of Urbino, right on the border with the Malatestas’ lands. The Inn survived through the centuries preserving its original structure untouched. It still supplies the Inn with power, a good example of environmental sustainability and responsible energy choices. In San Leo, you can also stay at the Agriturismo La Lama, a XVIII Century river stone farmer’s villa, surrounded by farmed lands and woods under the towering fortress of San Leo. The farmhouse features a pool, a riding club, a coaching inn and riding stables. You can horsehide while your children play with ponies and donkeys, mountain-bike and trek following mountain trails, or visit the many fortresses in an area rich in myths and old legends.
In the upper valley of the Marecchia river, in Novafeltria, lies the B&B Pietra Salara, a strong stone manor with a turret and a splayed base. Its millstone, also used to grind the sulphur of the nearby mine of Perticara, was Federico Malatesta’s own idea: he had it built to mix sulphur with black coal to make gunpowder. Today, the millstone has lost its original role, it is surrounded by a fine garden and two arches forming a beautiful gazebo covered by climbing roses. In the breathtaking little town of Petrella Guidi, close to Sant’Agata Feltria, with its stone houses under the ancient-old tower and its gardens hidden by stones walls, rises the Casa della Luna, a mansion with independent entrance and garden offering a unique and magical experience to its guests. In some periods of the year, you can also stay at La Casa del Conte, an old four-storey castle with a breathtaking view on the valley and the nearby hamlets. Right here another option is the exclusive Petrella Guidi Historical Hideaway, with four peerless suites boasting fine furniture, works of art, a fitness area and a Turkish bath and offering several facilities: babysitting, personal trainer, masseur, cooking classes and gardening. A real treat for the mind and the body.
WHERE TO EAT
If you’re in the mood for good fish, go to Bellaria Igea-Marina, where you can try out the Trattoria Barslon, on the beach, or La Baracca, in the harbour area.
A must-go in Rimini is the restaurant Pescato del Canevone, right in the city centre, the Trattoria dalla Marianna, in the old part of the town called “Borgo San Giuliano”, or Dallo Zio, next to the Arch of Augustus. An exclusive location is the Quartopiano Suite Restaurant, as well as Club Nautico or Molo 22 in the beach area.
In Riccione you can’t miss out on Ristorante Da Fino and La Brasserie, where you can buy anything you fancy in the restaurant, from the fine cutlery and glasses to the preciously embroidered napkins; you can also take classes to learn how to use a “mattarello” and make pasta.
In Misano, you can’t miss out on the very elegant restaurant Le Vele, on the beach area, whereas in Cattolica try out the restaurant Da Bulen, for traditional dishes and a warm atmosphere made more welcoming by ancient-old tapestry, battered inn tables, hand-painted 40s’ chairs and old ceramics. On the promenade of the new marina it’s nice to stop by at sunset at the restaurants Il Faro and Capitano mio capitano, or enjoy an informal dinner (also available to take-away) at the inn Taverna a pesci in faccia.
In order to offer a complete overview of the delicacies of the area a little trip to the hinterland is also worthwhile: try Granaio, in San Giovanni in Marignano, right in the centre of this Malatesta style little town, or drive to the hills of the Valconca up to the restaurant Al Chiar di Luna, in Saludecio, or to the inn Osteria Amici miei, in Montecolombo. For a very special pizza dinner the restaurant O’Malomm, in San Patrignano (Coriano) offers a panoramic view on the coastal area. For a magic atmosphere and a view on the sea and the hills, the castle of Albereto, in Montescudo, provides an unforgettable experience. In the Valmarecchia area, in the charming town of Santarcangelo, La Sangiovesa is a must-go: you will get the chance to discover the history, the traditions and the poetry of Romagna. A few steps from there is another excellent restaurant: Lazaroun.
Driving a bit further in the hinterland you will find Verucchio, where you can eat in a cave and visit the well-furnished wine cellar of the Rerstaurant Mastin Vecchio. Continuing on the same road, in the Upper valley of the Marecchia River, another very good restaurant is La Locanda dell’Ambra di Talamello, right in the city centre of Talamello, an old castle where you can also admire underground pits which have been used for centuries to mature cheese.
For those who are looking for award-winning dinners try out Il Piastrino, in Pennabilli, Il Povero diavolo in Torriana, or go back to the coastal area to Guido, in Rimini, and Vicolo Santa Lucia in Cattolica.
The final flourish is a hand-made ice cream. La Cremeria, Via Mancini, Cattolica, Panna e Cioccolato in Riccione, Il Castello in Rimini all offer delicious ice-creams made with healthy, local produce in line with the Slow Food philosophy.
You can’t visit the area without tasting Piadina: a sort of flat bread filled with cold cuts, cheese or vegetables. In Rimini try it out at Dalla Lella, NudeCrud, close to the Bridge of Tiberius, or at La Casina del Bosco in the beach area. In Misano Adriatico have it at Il Capriccio di gola and you won’t be disappointed!.
Enjoy an active holiday
Rimini and the surrounding area have always been a place where trends of the future are established and predicted. During the summer, on the beach, in clubs and on the street, the city creates and anticipates new trends and lifestyles, which will establish themselves everywhere in the months to come. A case in point is the attention to wellness and to physical and mental shape: Rimini Wellness has been a very popular trade fair anticipating the trends in the sector for years. Many hotels have set up spa areas to offer their guests relax and renewal experiences. In the bath establishments of Rimini and Riccione, whether they are surrounded by woods or directly on the beach, you can follow specific paths to give back energy and vitality to your own body. Some of them are also equipped with open-air gyms and bathtubs. On the coastal area you will also find the “Spiagge del benessere”, bath establishments with a special focus on wellbeing, where you can work out in the sea, discover new bio-natural disciplines (like eastern dancing and meditation) and massage techniques, or you can sail at sunrise with historical sailing boats. Our beaches offer a pretty active holiday: from Bellaria Igea-Marina to Cattolica beach volleyball, beach basketball, beach soccer fields and beach tennis courts follow one another. For weight lifters, many bath establishments are well equipped with gyms and bikes for spinning. Plus, if you cannot escape the lure of the sea, there are facilities where you can learn how to sail, wind or kite surf. Nevertheless, the true beach sport is Frisbee and its Paganello tournament, organized every year over Easter, with thousands of Frisbee players coming from all over the world for the Beach Ultimate and the Acrobatic Frisbee World Cup, reviving the city with music and performances.
The hinterland also offers good opportunities for open-air experiences. For golf fans there are the Rimini-Verucchio Golf Club in Villa Verucchio and the Riviera Golf Resort, in San Giovanni in Marignano. A wonderful and innovative riding centre is the Riviera Horses.
The area is also particularly suitable for biking: flat streets on the coastal area, thrilling rises and falls on the hills for mountain bike lovers, breathtaking landscapes and valuable historic spots. Cyclo-tourism is well rooted in the area featuring bike-hotels well equipped to meet the needs of professional bikers and amateur cyclists, thanks to the love for biking of visitors and hotel owners alike. They offer high quality facilities and services such as skilled guides, a workshop to mend or store bikes, restaurants, cycling and mountain-bike routes, maps of every road.
The natural park, Parco Naturale Sasso Simone e Simoncello, also provides some seven riding paths and facilities for horses and horse riders. The Marecchia area is the best place to go for free and rock climbing, thanks the rocky peaks in Verucchio, San Leo, San Marino, Maiolo, Perticara and Pennabilli. Together all these places create a unique climbing itinerary and also feature a climbing school. The area is today a reference point for adventure lovers, thanks to adventure parks like Sky Park. Fishers won’t be disappointed since fish is a staple here because of the area’s pure and limpid waters, wonderful landscapes and plenty of fish to catch with fly fishing and catch and release. You can also game fish in many lakes, like those approved by the Italian Federation of Fishing in Poggio Berni, Igea Marina or Coriano, equipped with facilities for fishers. Trekking routes also offer a thrilling experience on the hills and planes of the valleys or in the most beautiful natural areas such as the natural oasis of Torriana and Montebello or the Natural Reserve of Onferno with its caves.
And why not experiencing the thrill of speed given by Super bike or Moto GP Competitions at Misano World Circuit? Every year the circuit offers a wide range of sport performances for sport lovers, a unique opportunity for motor geeks who can see their champions performing live.