Federico da Montefeltro is a rather illustrious figure. He was born illegitimate but the actual duke of early 15th century, Guidantonio da Montefeltro, who had no legitimate kids, declared him his son and thus heir, even with official approval of the pope. When he was a kid he was sent to several places including Venezia for better and especially classical education, which was partly responsible for him being the patron for arts as we know him today. He earned a lot of money as a condottiere (mercenary) in his early adult years which might had given him the power to bring forward arts and culture in Urbino and its surroundings. But he was still a commander and felt as such. I have read that he was among the leaders who inspired Niccolò Machiavelli to write his “Il Principe”, “The Prince”. His being a commander was also reason why he is always portrayed from the left side only: he lost his right eye and the upper part of his nose in a knight fight. The most famous painting of him and his wife, Battista Sforza, is the diptych.
(I should know more about him by now, since in a way he is “my” duca, regent of Montefeltro, where Gubbio once belonged to. But I am still in a learning curve about him. More one day).
Favorite thing: During Urbinos heydays many important people (scientists, artists...) came to live here, some were even born here. To memorialize those persons that contributed to the glory of Urbino, memorial tablets were placed on the houses where they lived. You can find them all over Urbino. Specially a lot of them you can find in Via Barocci, where nearly every house had an important tenant.
Favorite thing: Remiders of the year when a house was built are built in the walls of many buildings in Urbino. Most of them date back to second half of 15th century when the town bloomed ubder Federico II. But the numbers are old-fashioned and differ from modern ones. This one on the picture 1S92 actually means 1492. That S is a half 8, equals to modern 4.
Urbino came to Montefeltro family in 1155 as a reward for stifling a rebellion against emperor Barbarossa. The town bloomed during the reign of Federico II da Montefeltro (1422-1482). He didn't just give the town it's present form, but made Urbino one of the cultural and artistical centers. Gaining power over some neraby towns he created his own dukedom.
It came in decline in 1508 when son of Federico II, Guidobaldo, died without a heir.
At the end of 16th century Urbino again came to power for a very short time and in 1631it came finally under the authority of church. Many of the works of art were then moved to other cities, like Rome and Firenze.
Fondest memory: On the picture is the relief of Federico II. It's very similar to the very famous painting made by Piero della Francesca. He made portraits of Federico and his wife Battista Sforza which can be seen in Firenze in Galleria Degli Uffizi.
I think the Marches are poised to become the "next" Tuscany or Umbria. It's not far from Florence and is relatively undiscovered.
If you go, try the Ascoli olives--I can't remember the correct name in Italian. They are olives that are stuffed and then deep-fried. A lot of work for an appetizer!
Favorite thing: To get a real feel for life in the university town of Urbino, it is a good idea to get a table in a busy area such as the Piazza Della Republica and watch the world go by.