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A view of Urbania near Urbino Italy
Sassocorvaro fortress courtyard near Urbino Italy
Mondavio castle near Urbino Italy

Urbino History

Historians do not know very much about Urbino's original inhabitants, who preceded the ancient Romans. However, the town itself was founded by the Romans, who called it Urbinum Metaurense, which comes from "city" (Urbinum) and "by the Metauro River" (Metaurense).


Beginning in 1234, Urbino's fortunes were attached to the Montefeltros. They were mountain warlords from San Leo, who gradually extended their influence into the northern part of Marche, and eventually ruled Urbino during The Middle Ages and the Renaissance. Many were condottieri working throughout Italy, serving various masters. In 1443, Oddatonio da Montefeltro earned the title of Duke for his service.


His half-brother and successor, Federico (1444-82), was the most successful of the family condottieri, and earned the money for his famous palace serving Alfonso of Naples and the Pope. Federico learned Greek and Latin, and the library he assembled was one of the best in Europe. It is said that he banished gambling and cursing and encouraged cleanliness from the people of Urbino. His wife, Battista Sforza, was beloved by her subjects; both were immortalized in Piero della Francesca's famous portraits now in the Uffizi.


Their son, Guidobaldo I (1472-1502) was as enlightened a ruler as his father and founded the Universita' degli Studi in 1506. When Guidobaldo died without an heir, the duchy fell to a nephew, Francesco Maria della Rovere. When the della Rovere dukes died out, they willed Urbino to the papacy in 1626, leading to its rapid decline.

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