Urbino was the city that our class stayed in for the first night of our trip, and it proved to be one of my favorites for its calm, quiet environment and beautiful hillside views. The walled city is quite small and sited high up on a sloping hillside. To give a sense of scale, Rome has an elevation of 20m with a population of 2.7 million, and Urbino has an elevation of 450m with a population of ~18,500. The high elevation allows for spectacular views of the hills and cooler weather, and the small population causes the city to remain quiet during the day, with a gentle bustling during the nights.
We arrived in the city around late evening time, just before the sunset. Our hotel was located on the top of a hill, so we all used elevators to bring our belongings to the building. We had the rest of the day to explore- and as soon as we situated our things and exited the hotel, we were greeted with stunning views of the surrounding hillsides.
There is an elegance in Urbino that I have not experienced before. There was an openness and friendliness to the town, and there was an air of security that enveloped even the most vast spaces. The colors of the buildings were clean and modest – off-whites, pale yellows, and tan bricks were set off by the gray cobblestone roads and piazzas. It was quiet enough to listen to the cool breeze, and the sunlight slipped into the urban landscape so gently – I often times would think of water color paintings as I walked through the town. We found ourselves walking uphill and downhill quite often, but unlike Rome where alleys are quite thin and dark, the roads of Urbino were quite spacious and well-lit. The breeze through these spaces was gentle and inviting – my jacket would flow with the wind as I walked. The quietness of the town could be attributed to the lack of vehicular noise – almost no cars would pass by, for most students and locals are able to simply walk anywhere & everywhere within the town.
The town is indeed quite small, both in terms of population and size. When my friends and I walked through the city, we realized that we could walk from one end to the other in less than 30 minutes (and of course, stunning views were on either side.) Often times, we would see familiar faces too – crossing paths with the locals occurred quite frequently during the evening. We would pass clothing stores, stationary shops, and many restaurants & cafes as we walked from our hotel to explore the city. The Palazzo Ducale, a Renaissance building in the center of the town and one of the most important architectural works in Urbino, became a landmark for us to meet and branch out.
Urbino is a simple, small, and quiet town on the hillside, and I really felt that the town’s tranquility was the perfect starting point for our journey.