I started the day by visiting the market at Senigallia, down the coast from Fano. I was little prepared for the stunning elegance of the old town. Wide bridges take you across the river, then though arches into the smaller streets. Columns line the quays where the main part of the market took place – clothes, shoes, jewellery etc.
Further down the quays, the fruit and vegetable market was located in the old Agora or market, a semi circle of stone buildings facing in on the central area of the outdoor market place, dating from Roman times. It had been renovated and preserved with great precision and attention to detail. So while I came to Senigallia for the market, I was bowled over by the architecture and the Old town.
Later in the day, I drove inland to Urbino. This is a must see city if you are on Italy’s east coast. I drove through Fano, then along the old Via Flaminia towards Rome. Roman History was one of my favourite subjects in school and it thrilled me to follow the ancient road towards Roma. Perfectly level of course, built as only the Romans knew how. We in Ireland never had the benefit of Roman roads like the rest of Europe as they clearly did not think it was worth their while invading as they did in England.
A word about Fano – a significant old Roman town where you will see the most imposing walls and fortresses topped with intricate stonework and images of emperors. Again not to be missed.
When I reached Urbino, I went straight to the Palazzo Ducale built to the order of Frederico Montefeltro, in the fifteenth century, a ruler, warrior, patron of architecture and art, from the fifteenth century , in other words, a Renaissance man. He ensured that Urbino became a major court and important centre of political and cultural matters. Concerned for his subjects, he ruled fairly. He commissioned Luciano Laurano to build the Palace, in accordance with the latest theories of building and architecture. The result is a beautifully proportioned but enormous palace, with room after massive room and vaulted ceilings topped by the Eagle, the crest of the Montofeltros. The Palace today houses the National Gallery of the Marche area and contains many works by Piero di Francesco, Paulo Ucello and the famous La Muta by Raphael.
One of the more stunning of the paintings to me, is the Madonna of Senigallia, yes the place I mentioned as having the market earlier in this blog. I seldom take photos of paintings but I was so taken by the colours and the expressions on the faces – seeming in awe yet very concerned – a sense of foreboding as to what is to come, that I broke my usual rule.
One of the rooms or studios is walled in the most wonderful cabinetry. The designs make optical illusions so that musical instruments seem to protrude from the walls.
At the risk of sounding hopelessly romantic, I will share with you a moment that was utterly Italian. As I walked down from the Palace towards where my car was parked, I stopped on one set of battlements that overlook the road that winds around the base of the Palace. I was looking at the surrounding hills with their Cypress trees and sloping fields when a row of motor cyclists came into view, lazily making their way around the bends. I noticed one of them was wearing full leathers and I wondered why he was the only one dressed like that. Then one of other riders looked up at me, beeped the horn and waved. I returned the wave and that was it. But it had a touch of magic to it, a kind of Italian style and spontaneity on a beautiful sunny afternoon when it was truly good to be alive.