Italy’s east coast region of the Marches serves a different role for each visitor. For beach fans, it’s a magnetic summer destination, where popular resorts alternate with quiet, sandy coves along the Adriatic.
For art aficionados, the walled city of Urbino is a rich location for revisiting the aesthetic grace and rich intellectual life of a Renaissance court. Many Italians have been to its capital, Ancona, to board long-distance ferries to the Greek islands.
And anybody who has eaten porchetta, a garlic-and-herb-stuffed, spit-roasted pork, has unknowingly paid homage to Marchesan cuisine, which claims the dish as its own. The region’s strange name comes from the Germanic word marka, which in medieval times meant a region bordering on the Holy Roman Empire. For much of the Middle Ages, the Holy Roman Empire and the Church fought over the region. The Italians took marka and called the region Le Marche, which was converted into the similar-sounding English name, the Marches.
For an under-visited part of Italy, the Marches has given support and inspiration to a surprising number of master artists, musicians and writers.
Renaissance painter Raffaele Sanzio (Raphael) was born in the northern city of Urbino. Some of his earliest frescoes are on display at the house where he was born, which is now a museum. Urbino was also the bir thplace of the prolific architect Donato Bramante, who designed dozens, if not hundreds, of churches and other buildings across Italy during the Renaissance.
The Marches’ rich patrons and high-budget churches also attracted outside artists such as Piero della Francesca, who developed his mathematical approach to perspective while working in Urbino.
The region’s status as a center for art and culture was due to the rise of independent power-holding families in the Middle Ages. Starting in the 12th century, the Marches’ remote, rippling terrain was cordoned off into sprawling feudal lands, and was developed and primped by patrons who poured their family resources into building and art projects.
The names of the aristocratic families who developed the region still ring in Italy’s ears like the names of long-lost royalty. Duke Federico of Montefeltro established a thriving court in Urbino. One of his courtiers, Baldassare Castiglione, documented its social life in his 1528 work, The Book of the Courtier, which became an instant best-seller—a “Miss Manners” for the aspiring Renaissance hot-shot. The Montefeltro’s ducal palace in Urbino is now home to the National Gallery of The Marches, with masterpiece paintings by Raphael, Piero della Francesca, Titian and others.
source: Immagini d’Italia
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