Walking Is the Way to Go in Urbino

By Denise Harroff, Co-Editor

When traveling to the ancient town of Urbino, Italy, a tourist should plan to bring one, two, maybe even three pair of their most comfortable walking or hiking shoes. Walking is a way of life in the town. Residents of all stages of life walk everywhere within the city center—the walled heart of Urbino—to get from point A to point B. And if someone touring the little town is used to flat terrain, motor transportation and roads without incline, the foot-travel can be shocking to the foot and leg muscles.

Everyone walks in Italy, even when it's raining! Photo by Kathryn Jones-Malone
Everyone walks in Italy, even when it’s raining!
Photo by Kathryn Jones-Malone

Manuela Palmucci, an Italian tour guide, explained that the few motor vehicles seen throughout the town are only permitted on the roads of the city center if they belong to residents, are a part of public transportation or are transporting goods for businesses. Other than those who ride buses or drive tiny cars, Vespas and motorcycles, everyone walks.

The residential women in the town do not seem to allow the vast amount of walking to affect their style of their footwear. They can be seen wearing anything from sparkling sandals to small heels to high wedges. The elderly in town also do not let the steep cobblestone roads deter them from traveling by foot. They can be seen all hours of the day, walking up and down the elevated roads. They sometimes use canes or prefer to walk during dusk or dawn to stay out of the heat in the summer, but they tend to keep up with the pace of the rest of the townspeople.

After using a FitBit to calculate the average steps taken per day in Urbino, I found that one can expect to walk about 6.5 miles a day. The information from the FitBit also calculated an average of 81 flights of stairs traveled a day.

The roads in Urbino are all very similar—a cobblestone or brick layout—but they do have their differences. Many of the roads are more like alleyways: very narrow with only enough room for a couple of people or a single motorcycle. They are small, and the three- and four-story vertical buildings make them look even smaller.

To get to the University of Urbino, the class had to walk the steep streets of Urbino.
To get to the University of Urbino, the class had to walk the steep streets of Urbino.

When getting more personal with the town and adventuring into the maze of roads, one will find that some roads are lined with raised brick. Palmucci also explained in her tour that these scala (ladder) roads were originally paved to offer as a grip for the hooves of horses when riding through the town horseback. Now, of course, horseback riders are not to be found within the bustling town, but the raised scala roads remain. They do provide a grip for walkers, however, as a step-by-step guide up some of the steeper hills within the city center.

The roads also often break into open areas, called piazzas (plazas). The piazzas are usually busy with visitors during the day and are sometimes a site for celebrations, gathering crowds, eatery patios and very often for statues, landmarks and pieces of art. For instance, the Piazza della Repubblica is an open area with a fountain, and, like most of the city center, it is made of cobblestone. However, the plazas have a flat terrain and more open sky—less looming buildings within close range of one another. These plazas break away, like a spider web, to connecting roads that begin the steep, narrow trek to other parts of the city center. Urbino has five plazas: Piazza Duca Frederico, Piazza della Repubblica, Piazza Rinasciamento, Piazza Pascoli and Piazza S. Francesco. All of the plazas are in the heart of Urbino, and a traveler must go through multiple steep, narrow, stone or brick roads to reach them.

The roads that run through the outer city of Urbino, beyond the walls, are quite different—highways of concrete and two-way roads for vehicles of various sizes. However, the roads within the Urbino city center’s walls are unique and give a true feel for the city’s history. The earth-tones of the stones give a wanderer a natural, historical feel, as if traveling back in time. These roads are a part of the city’s personality, and the view is well worth the daily walk.

One of the largest “scala” (ladder) roads I could find was on Via Foro Posterula. A good address to use on the interactive map is Via Foro Posterula 61029 Urbino, Province of Pesaro and Urbino Italy. That is the literal address on Google Maps.

Without traditional gardens, Urbino makes due with potted plants EVERYWHERE!
The steep roads were lined with plants and flowers. Italians don’t let not having a yard prevent them from having gardens!

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