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Historic Centre of Urbino
Urbino, positioned on two hills, dominating a gentle landscape, it is almost completely surrounded by wall and ramparts. Its medieval quarters, filled with churches and narrow, steep streets, are rich in beautiful monuments and other interests for tourists. Symbol of the Italian Renaissance and birthplace of Raffaello and Bramante, Urbino preserves an urban structure and a large part of its edifices from its golden years. This is one of the major art towns in the world, both because of its history and for the many buildings and works of art which are housed here. Walking around the hilly streets and alleyways of Urbino itself, there is still plenty of evidence of its long artistic and cultural history - the neo-Palladian Cathedral, rebuilt by Valadier after the 1784 earthquake, the church of San Domenico, with its magnificent portal, built in travertine stone, over which stands a copy of the lunette by Luca della Robbia, the Medieval church San Francesco with its fine pointed Gothic bell tower and great altar-piece by Federico Barocci, the Oratory of San Giuseppe with its famous 'Presepe' (Nativity Scene) by Brandani, Palazzo Albani (15th-18th centuries) and the nearby Church of Santo Spirito (16th Century) and the birthplace of Raphael, which now houses the Accademia Raffaello Sanzio, founded in 1869. Further up stands the Fortezza Albornoz.
From its battlements we can look out over the twin towers of the Ducal Palace, and across to the 15th Century church of San Bernardino, on one of the neighbouring hills, which houses the Mausoleum of the Dukes. Below the town, at Borgo Mercatale, we can admire the semi-cylindrical spiral ramp which was built in the 15th Century by Francesco di Giorgio Martini and, above it, the 19th Century Teatro 'R. Sanzio'. Higher still are the apse, dome and bell tower of the Cathedral and, to the side of them, next to the large windows of the palace's hanging garden, the magnificent western frontage of the Ducal Palace.
Urbino is known for its highly frequented University, which offers courses also for foreigners, as well its "Accademia di Belle Arti, Istituto Superiore di Grafica and Istituto d'Arte del Libro". Urbino celebrates La Festa del Duca each August - this is an historical procession in period costume through the streets of the town centre, in which acrobats and fire-eaters take part, and which culminates in a tournament held in the presence of the Ducal Court.
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