Urbino

Italian Collectables

IMG_4447-copy.jpg

Each issue of Lodestars Anthology ends with a series of collectables, 200 word features on people, places and ideas that work together to make our featured country truly grand. Here is a selection of our Italian collectables; with food integral to this vibrant country, of course they come with plenty of flavour ... and a dash of Campari. You can purchase the printed magazine here.

MILANO

Stand in a room basking in the glow emanating from Da Vinci’s Last Supper. Wander around the Piazza del Duomo and the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II with your neck craned upwards, staring at the behemoth archway, carvings and dome glass skylights. Get dizzy. Sit down and order a shakerato and collect your thoughts. Spend 25 minutes in a souvenir shop selling AC Milan and Inter Milan jerseys, trying to remember which one your boyfriend wanted, let alone which player’s number. Almost get into an argument with the shop keeper when you get the colours of each team mixed up. Spray every fragrance in every small boutique on yourself while (window) shopping along the Via della Spiga. Get lost (literally) in the historic Brera district. Partake in a culinary experience, dining on a saffron-infused risotto alla Milanese while a fleet of 30 Mini Coopers congregates in the piazza right outside. Take a sip of wine and kiss the tips of all five of your fingers at once, to complete the postcard-perfect scene you’re currently living out.

M. Pliatsikas

Milan

URBINO

If on a summer’s day you find yourself standing in il Mercatale, the large piazza-turned-bus terminal beneath Urbino’s ancient city walls, look up. Against a sky of childish blue you’ll witness an orchestra of swallows filling the air, engaged in dizzying acrobatic feats above the city’s Palazzo Ducale. The juxtaposition is brilliant - a silent, staid Renaissance structure frozen beneath a sky abuzz with avian daredevils.

Urbino rises almost organically from the hilly landscape of the northern regions of Le Marche. The vibrant centre of a constellation of small, walled towns that freckle the countryside. One cannot understate its Renaissance significance. A city of art and learning, its court served as the inspiration, and later, the setting for Baladassare Castiglione’s The Book of the Courtier, the definitive 16th century account of courtly life. More importantly perhaps, Urbino is the birthplace of the Renaissance master Raphael.

Urbino’s labyrinthine streets are dotted with churches, oratories and chapels with the 15th century UNESCO listed Palazzo Ducale standing, as it always has, in the city’s heart while the 16th century university ensures students breathe life into Urbino long after summertime tourists have absconded.

 

D. W. Grunner

Urbino

PANFORTE

Comprised of 17 ingredients, in homage to the 17 districts of Siena, panforte is Tuscany’s most famous cake. Candied fruits, including cedro and orange peel, along with lemon zest, blanched almonds, hazelnuts and pistachios, are combined with flour, cocoa, sugar, honey and spices - cinnamon, nutmeg, mace, coriander seed, cloves and white pepper - which are heated together, before being poured into a pan lined with rice flour paper to form a flat, sweet, sticky, dense cake.

Siena’s town archives attest to the fact that this fruit and nut cake has been made here since 1205. Legend has it that religious crusaders carried rounds of panforte with them on long journeys and that the cake was used as a form of currency in medieval times, paid each year in February to local monks and nuns. In 1879 Queen Margherita visited the town and in honour of the visit her moniker was added to the name, and thus panforte made to the traditional recipe, by bakers like the third generation Marabissi family in Chianciano, is now called ‘panforte Margherita’. A popular Tuscan Christmas gift, it is served after meals with Vin Santo, the local dessert wine.

C. Ratcliff

 

panforte

 

RED PASSION

Campari - bitter, aromatic, happiness in a glass. My ardour for the aperitif took me on a pilgrimage, a 27-hour commute from the Antipodes to the company’s headquarters in search of the secret recipe. A drink is the first order of business. Camparino, perhaps Milan’s most famous, and certainly best positioned bar on the edge of Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, is the birthplace of Campari; the famous liquor originally mixed, barrelled and bottled here in the cellar. Today, as everyday, aperitivo is served. Campari soda is the most requested aperitif. Although respect must be paid to Italy’s Negroni and Aperol Spritz.

The next morning at Campari’s now headquarters, Paolo Cavallo, director of the onsite museum, tells me of the company’s decision to open the exhibition space. “Our machinery is much less sexy than our ad campaigns,” he says. When I press Paolo for the recipe he is quick to respond. “It is a complicated formula of lots of different herbs, aromatics and citrus.” In the history of Campari only two people have ever known the recipe at any one time. “One family member and the CEO,” he says. “And I’m neither.”

 

C. Ratcliff

 

Illustration by Saara Karppinen

SAILING IN SARDINIA

Sardinia is a sailor’s paradise with over 1,000 miles of coastline offering pristine white beaches, turquoise-hued coves, rocky promontories and time-forgotten fishing villages. Delicious food, heartfelt welcomes and a sense of tradition combine to make the yacht charter scene here one of the most popular in the Mediterranean - and with over 300 days of sunshine there is plenty of time to enjoy the natural beauty.

Being only 12 kilometres from Corsica, both islands can be chartered, with the plentiful and diverse anchorages ensuring endless possibilities. Modern resort harbours allow for the discovery of unique surrounding villages or a spot of upscale dining and boutique shopping.

Most sailors focus on the northeast coast. The Maddalena Archipelago is a national marine park and once a permit is acquired, crystal waters reveal a seabed peppered with life and an abundance of dive sites. In the bays and harbours of the sophisticated Costa Smeralda (Emerald Coast), superyachts glide alongside skiffs on the shimmering sea, exploring luxurious towns and the intensely beautiful shore. There is freedom and adventure in sailing these warm waters, the extraordinary scenic setting a lure for all.

A. Terrell

 

Illustration by Saara Karppinen

Urbino

Urbino Words and Photographs by David Warren Grunner

If on a summer’s day you find yourself standing in il Mercatale, the large piazza-turned-bus terminal beneath Urbino’s ancient city walls—look up. Against a sky of childish blue, you’ll witness an orchestra of swallows filling the air, engaged in dizzying acrobatic feats above the city’s Ducal Palace. The juxtaposition is brilliant—a silent, staid Renaissance structure frozen beneath a sky abuzz with avian daredevils.

Urbino, literally little city, rises almost organically from out of the hilly landscape of the northern regions of Le Marche. The vibrant center of a constellation of small, walled cities and towns that freckle the countryside, Urbino remains, even to this day, unconnected to the intricate system of railways that wind through Italy like a path of steel veins, joining towns and cities to one another. Instead, one must either come by bus or by car. And, yet, this only adds to its charm. Approaching on a July morning, one winds down narrow roads adjacent to sloped fields ablaze with sunflowers until, unexpectedly, the city emerges. The nearly theatrical character of its appearance is intentional—the two towers of Urbino’s Ducal Palace were constructed on angle so as to meet the gaze of visitors and welcome them to Duke Federico da Montefeltro’s court. The dramatic effect—a visible manifestation of the Duke’s prowess—remains as potent today as it was hundreds of years ago. 


Urbino

The pomp and bragging rights are, after all, well earned. One cannot understate Urbino’s Renaissance significance. A city of art and learning, its court served as the inspiration and, later, the setting for Baladassare Castiglione’s The Book of the Courtier, the definitive sixteenth century account of courtly life. More importantly, perhaps, Urbino is the birthplace of the Renaissance master Raphael (nee Raffaello Sanzio) whose presence is felt throughout the winding city streets. Walking up the aptly named Via Raffaello from La Piazza della Republica, Urbino’s central square, visitors can duck inside the unassuming and humble birthplace of the artist, once home to his father, an artist and poet before him. For those brave enough to tackle the entirety of Via Raffaello by foot—a city whose central quarters must be taken in on foot, Urbino’s steep hills are not for the faint of heart—a small park dedicated to the artist awaits. From this point, on a clear day, one can spy the Adriatic in the distance, its pellucid blue meeting the sky and obfuscating the horizon. On summer nights, the city’s children gather to play hide-and-go seek, using the marble busts of poets and writers as well as the towering statue of Raphael himself as hiding places.

Urbino

Urbino’s labyrinthine streets are dotted with churches, oratories and chapels, each unlike the other. One of the most striking, the fourteenth century Romanesque-Gothic Chiesa di San Francesco (dedicated to Saint Francis of Assisi), rests within the small square near the bottom of Via Raffaello, Piazetta delle Erbe, which is home to a small farmers market throughout the week. San Francesco’s bell tower, speckled with grass, looms large above the small square. A journey through the adjoining winding and narrow alleyways will take you to a true gem hidden behind the city walls—l’Oratorio di San Giovanni Battista (The Oratory of Saint John the Baptist), a small chapel dating from the 1300’s whose walls are covered in frescos painted by the Salimbeni brothers.

The city’s Ducal Palace, a 15th century Renaissance structure and now UNESCO World Heritage site, stands, as it always has, in the heart of Urbino. Entering via the small square adjacent to the city’s cathedral, a vaulted passage way lets onto il Cortile d’Onore, the palace’s interior courtyard, a touchstone of Renaissance geometry and architectural equilibrium. Imposing high ceilinged halls with frescoed walls give way to smaller galleries and balconies that offer views of the surrounding hillsides. Most importantly, the Ducal Palace houses the National Gallery of Le Marche—a stunning collection that boasts works from the likes of Raphael, Piero della Francesca, Titian and Barocci. Perhaps the greatest treasure of Urbino’s collection is the 1470 canvas The Ideal City, attributed to Piero della Francesca, which hangs on the far wall of a smaller gallery and can be read as a portrait of Urbino itself.

Urbino

Urbino

In the summer, Urbino bustles. Its cobblestones streets are filled with tourists, wide-eyed with cameras in hand. International students flock to the city for exchange programs and language immersion courses, mingling themselves with the locals who are generous and known for their hospitality. Throughout these summer months, Urbino hosts literary and artistic events, academic conferences open to the public, and baroque and classical music concerts that go late into the night in the various courtyards throughout the city. Now in its second year, Urbino is also home to a unique and burgeoning program, Shakespeare in Italy, a fourteen day actor’s residence dedicated to exploring and celebrating the Bard’s fascination with Italy. The city’s fortress, tucked within a park commemorating the resistance to Fascist rule, which offers breathtaking panoramic vistas of the city from on high, was once home to the yearly kite flying competition. The height of summer celebrations arrives in mid-August, when Urbino hosts its annual Festa del Duca, a three day long celebration during which the historical center of Urbino is returned to the Renaissance.

Urbino

Urbino

Come the autumn and winter months, however, Urbino becomes a sleepy city filled with those who flock to its University—one mustn’t forget that, for all intents and purposes, Urbino is a university town, home to a 16th century university with, at any given time, to nearly 13,000 students. These students, both Italian and from across the rest of the EU, breathe life into the city, filling the squares and cafes long after the tourists have absconded.

Still, even in the face of its history, its plethora of cultural institutes, its rich and varied culinary offerings and, most importantly, its unparalleled beauty, Urbino remains a secret to many outside of Italy, drawn more to the majestic and fabled cities of Rome, Venice and Florence. Yet, though she be but little, she is fierce—spend a couple of days in Urbino and, as you watch her disappear in the rearview mirror while you meander down the same slender roads you travelled upon to reach her, you’ll find all your stay nearly impossible to forget.

Urbino

Urbino

Urbino

Urbino

Urbino

Urbino

Urbino

Urbino