Pesaro, on Italy’s Adriatic coast, a popular traditional seaside resort with sandy beaches. The original settlement, dating to the Roman era.
The composer Gioachino Rossini was born in Pesaro, and his home is one of the town’s proudest tourist sights. In the composer’s honour, each summer Pesaro hosts the Rossini Opera Festival. In 2008 the festival runs from the 9th to the 23rd August, opening with a recital by Juan Diego Flórez. For more information see the Rossini Opera Festival website (in our links panel).
The principal street, Via Branca, cuts through the historic centre, passing through the large Piazza del Popolo, the town’s main square, where you can admire the grand Ducal Palace (Palazzo Ducale). Continuing straight on along Via Rossini, you will pass Rossini’s house and the town’s cathedral (see below).
Pesaro’s cathedral (Cattedrale) on Via Rossini has an attractive Romanesque facade, and a history that goes back further than the present building. Excavations have uncovered stretches of early Christian mosaics underneath the current building, dating to two earlier churches on the site. These are visible beneath glass panels in the church floor.
There are a few small museums to visit in Pesaro. Rossini’s birthplace, the Casa Rossini is in the street now named after him. This small museum is open to the public and houses various bits of memorabilia. Rossini was born here in 1792, although his family only lived in the house for a few years. The Musei Civici (town museums) consist of a ceramics museum and an art gallery (pinacoteca), where the highlight is Giovanni Bellini’s Coronation of the Virgin. The Museo Oliveriano contains archaeological exhibits, many from a nearby Iron Age necropolis at Novilara.
Further out of town are two historic villas which are worth visiting when open – check with the tourist information office in Pesaro: Villa Caprile, which has an elegant garden with fountains (gardens open on summer afternoons), and the imposing Villa Imperiale (visitable on occasional guided tours bookable through the tourist information office).
The central seaside promenade is alongside Piazzale della Libertà, this is a good place to sit, look at the sea. On the same square you find the fantastically elaborate villa, it is the Villino Ruggeri, and was built between 1902 and 1907 in imaginative art nouveau style.
There are sandy beaches in each direction, and another around the corner at Baia Flaminia, on the far side of the port.
Fano (distance 10 km – time 15 min)
It was known as Fanum Fortunae after a temple of Fortuna located there. Its first mention in history only dates from 49 BC, when Julius Caesar held it established a colonia, and built a wall, some parts of which remain. The antique via Flaminia, an ancient Roman road leading from Rome to Ariminum (220 BC) reached in Fano the adriatic coast before going north to Pesaro and Rimini. At the entrance to the town you will still find the Arco di Augusto. Fano was destroyed by Vitiges’ Ostrogoths in AD 538. It was rebuilt by the Byzantines, becoming the capital of the maritime Pentapolis (“Five Cities”) that included also Rimini, Pesaro, Senigallia and Ancona. Fano was besieged by the Malatesta, the Papal administration and the Rovere.
The Corte Malatestiana, built after 1357 by Galeotto I Malatesta.
The Rocca Malatestiana (Malatesta Castle), partially destroyed in 1944. The most ancient part dates probably from pre-existing Roman and medieval fortifications.
The Museo Civico (Archeological Museum and Art Gallery), located inside the Palazzo Malatestiano, contains paintings by Guercino, Michele Giambono, and Giovanni Santi.
The Cathedral (12th century), which was erected over a pre-existing cathedral destroyed by a fire in 1111. The current façade is from the 1920s restoration, but is similar to the original.
The Fontana della Fortuna (Fountain of Fortune) (17th century).
Gradara (distance 14 km – time: 20 min)
Gradara is one of the best medieval villages of Italy enclosed inside a long city wall with a spectacular fortress, a superb example of military architecture. The fortress was completed by the Malatesta between 1307 and 1325 and has subsequently been restored several times and is known as to be one of the well preserved monuments. Do not forget to visit to rounds walkway, on one side you enjoy the overlooking the waters of the Adriatic Sea and just on the opposite side the olive groves and farms along with fields and vineyards. As per ancient belief, Francesca da Rimini and her lover, Paolo were killed in the year 1289. The scene of the tragic love story between Paolo and Francesca, as immortalised by Dante, “The trembling mouth, kissed me…”
Over the years, the ownership of this land was transferred to the Malatesta family ruled over Gradara for almost two centuries, then captured by the Sforza family in 1464. In 1493, Giovanni Sforza decorated this castle for his own bride, Lucrezia Borgia who was the daughter of Pope Alexander VI and sister of the lesser-known Caesar. The chapel comprises of a majestically done terracotta altarpiece, which forms the chief attraction in addition to the torture room and the armory found in this castle.
Cartoceto (distance 31 km – time 35 min)
A beautiful village known as the Città dell’Olio The area produces some of the Marche region’s finest olive oil as well as formaggio di fossa, a cheese that is closed up in underground caves to mature. The extra virgin oil from Cartoceto in the province of Pesaro is now protected under the EU’s DOP (denominazione di origine protetta) scheme.
Cartoceto is also known for his micro climate and the rich history which leads back to foundation of the village in the year 264 b.c.
Urbino (distance 36 km – time 50 min)
Urbino was the Roman Urvinum. Although a small town had stood in this location as early as roman times, it started to gain in importance with a defensive role in the war between with the goths and the Romans in the 6th century. In 1213 it came into the hands of the Montefeltro family. By the end of the 13th century the town had become an important regional centre. It was at its most prosperous in the late 15th and early 16th centuries. Much of that we see today dates from that period of prosperity, above all the period during which Federico de Montefeltro was the Duke of Urbino (1444-82), who acquired the ducal title.
The construction of the Ducal Palace, which dominates Urbino, was begun for Federico de Montefeltro. It is a very important renaissance masterpiece, listed as UNESCO world heritage site. The work of the architects had to cope with difficult architectural problems because of the land shape. To Laurana (one of the architects) is due, in particular, the courtyard and balconies. This is the most original part of the building – the façade is closed by two slender towers, surmounted by pinnacles, and the centre boasts three overlapping arches.
Federico, nicknamed “the Light of Italy”, is a landmark figure in the history of the Italian Renaissance for his contributions to enlightened culture. He imposed justice and stability on his tiny state through the principles of his humanist education. He supported for example also the development of fine artists, including the early training of the young painter Raphael.
Nowadays the palazzo ducale houses the Galleria Nazionale delle Marche which is one of the best collections of Renaissance paintings in the world. Among the masterpieces: the “Portrait of a Lady” by Raffaello (better known as “The Mute Woman”), two paintings by Piero della Francesca: the “Flagellation of Christ” and the “Madonna of Senigallia”, two Titian paintings, “The Last Supper” and the “Resurrection” of Christ.
Other things to visit in Urbino: the cathedral, Church of Sant’Agostino, Palazzo Albani, the House of Raffaello, the “Fortezza Albornoz”, where we you can overlook the entire city and enjoy the views of verdant countryside.
San Marino (distance 60 km – time 60 min)
San Marino is the world’s oldest republic and Europe’s third smallest state. It lies 657m above sea level with spectacular views of the surrounding countryside and coast. According to the tradition the founder of San Marino, a Christian stonemason named Marinus the Dalmatian, climbed Mt. Titano to found a small community of Christians, persecuted for their faith by the Emperor Diocletian. The owner of the land, Felicissima, a sympathetic lady of Rimini, bequeathed it to the small Christian community of mountain dwellers, recommending to them to remain always united.
The capital of San Marino is itself called ‘San Marino’ and is situated high up on a mountain top. The capital is surrounded by a wall and three distinct towers overlook the rest of the country. The site “San Marino: Historic Centre and Mount Titano” has become part of the UNESCO World Heritage List in 2008.
Palazzo Pubblico. The Romanesque building was the work of architect Francesco Azzurri (1894) built over the foundations of the original ‘Parva Domus Comunis’. The building was recently reopened.
Changing of the Guard. Performance honour service at the Palazzo Pubblico. It performed every hour on the half hour from 8:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. from mid May through the end of September.
Guaita fortress (first tower). First fort built in the XI century and restored several times. Some of the rooms were used as a prison.
Cesta fortress (second tower). Dates back to the XIII century. It is found on the high peak of Mount Titano. The inside houses the Museum of Arms containing arms from the XIII to the XIX centuries.
Montale fortress (third tower). Watchtower. This tower was extremely important during the war with the Malatesta. Although it can only be viewed from the outside, it provides a highly suggestive panorama.
Museo di Stato (National Museum). Housed in the Palazzo Pergami, this museum holds archaeological and artistic testimony of the history and legend of the Republic of San Marino.
Museo Pinacoteca San Francesco. San Francesco Museum-Picture Gallery
Galleria d’Arte Moderna e Contemporanea. Modern and Contemporary Art Gallery approximately 750 works, collected historically from the early XX century to the present.
San Leo (distance 70 km – time 80 min)
San Leo, the historic capital of Montefeltro, is situated in the heart of the Valmarecchia, on a 650 metre-high hill. In ancient times the Romans built a temple here dedicated to Jupiter, ‘Feretrus’, for which the place was called “Mons Feretrus” (‘Mount Feretrus’). In the fourth century AD it was called San Leo, from ‘Leo-ne’, who founded a place of Christian worship.
Because of its impregnable position, the town has always been at the centre of numerous civil, military, religious and political events. The town became a diocese, a county seat, a republic, a vicariate and from 1631 until 1860 it was incorporated into the Papal State.
The village is renowned because it hosted the mysterious and fascinating “alchemist” Giuseppe Balsamo, better known as the Count of Cagliostro, the most famous prisoner of the San Leo fortress. A self-styled magician, thaumaturg, fortune teller, alchemist and foreseer, a frequent caller at courts and social gatherings, appreciated by the European nobility and princes. He was condemned to death by the High court of the Holy Office and later pardoned with imprisonment for life by Pope Pio VI. He served 4 years and 4 months of hard imprisonment and died there in 1795.
The most important monuments are: the Fortress, the Parish Church, the Cathedral, the Franciscan Convent of St. Igne.
Jesi (distance 72 km – time 60 min)
Jesi’s most striking feature is a belt of massive 14th cent. walls, built on Roman foundations, strengthened with buttresses and impregnable towers, and topped by houses.
We start in Piazza Federico II where the Roman forum of Aesis once lay. Its name recalls the birth here of the fabled Medieval Hohenstaufen Emperor Frederick II in a tent on 26 December 1194. Frederick, known as Stupor Mundi for his stirring deeds, endeared himself even more to the city when he later called it his special city, its very name seeming to recall that of Jesus.
Jesi’s largest square is dominated by the town’s 18th cent. theatre, Teatro Pergolesi, home to a prestigious autumn opera season and named after the composer Pergolesi.
Giovanni Battista Pergolesi was born in Jesi in 1710 but made his name at the Court of Naples where he wrote many sacred dramas, cantatas and serenatas. But his lasting fame was as a composer of opera buffa, the most famous of which is La Serva Padrona of 1733. Pergolesi was suffering from ill health and retired to the Franciscan Monastery at Pozzuoli where he wrote his celebrated Stabat Mater and Salve Regina and where he died in 1736 at the age of 26.
Gubbio (distance 88 km – time 80 min)
Its historical center is of decidedly medieval aspect: the town is austere in appearance because of the dark grey stone, narrow streets and Gothic architecture. The city’s origins are very ancient: as Ikuvium. It was an important town of the ancient Umbrian people in pre-Roman times, and is famous for the discovery there of the Eugubine (or Iguvine) Tables, a set of bronze tablets that together constitute the largest surviving text in ancient Umbrian. Gubbio was an important ally of Rome, as attested by its Roman theatre, the second – largest surviving in the world and with the fall of the Empire the following centuries were quite turbulent. Gubbio became very powerful in the beginning of the Middle Ages. The town sent 1000 knights to fight in the First Crusade under the lead of count Girolamo Gabrielli. With the decline of the Gabrielli family, the domination of the Counts and Dukes of Urbino gave rise to a period of civic prosperity, especially under the dominion of Guidantonio and Federico di Montefeltro. Federico began the construction in Renaissance style of the Ducal Palace Gubbio. The maiolica industry at Gubbio reached its apogee in the first half of the 16th century, with metallic lustre glazes imitating gold and copper
Loreto (distance 90 km – time 60 min)
The Holy House of Loreto is one of the most revered Marian shrines in the world. Since medieval times, the Holy House has been believed to be the very home in which the Virgin Mary lived, conceived and raised the young Jesus.
According to Catholic tradition, the Holy House came under threat during the turmoil of the Crusades, so in 1291, angels miraculously translated the house from its original location to a site in modern-day Croatia…….a small house suddenly appeared in a field in Croatia……the bewildered parish priest, brought to the scene by shepherds who discovered it, had a vision in which the Virgin Mary revealed it was her former house.
On December 10, 1294, the house was again moved by angels because of the Muslim invasion of Albania. It landed first in Recanti, Italy, but was shortly thereafter moved for a third time to its present location in Loreto. Scientists are said to have confirmed the materials to be the same as those found in Nazareth and the house lacks normal foundations. Many historians, Catholics included, are not entirely convinced.
In 1469, a large basilica was built over the Holy House at Loreto, and has been rebuilt and repaired periodically since its construction, leaving it with a Renaissance exterior and Gothic interior.
Over the centuries, the Santa Casa di Loreto in Italian, has been venerated by pilgrims, including many popes and saints, and numerous miracles and healings have been reported.
Frasassi (direction Genga – distance 100 km – time 75 min)
The enchanting Frasassi Caves are certainly one of the most important environmental attractions of our territory. Approx. 18 Km of underground caves have been discovered over the years since 1971.
In 1974 the first caves were officially opened to the public, so that today during the 1-hour visit you can admire some of the most fascinating underground landscapes, shaped by nature over million years into a fairy tale environment.
The temperature in the caves is 14°C!