With picturesque stone dwellings scattered along steep city streets and a tur-reted palace ornamenting its skyline, Urbino (pop. 15,000) encompasses all that is classic Italy. The city’s most remarkable monument is the imposing Renaissance Palazzo Ducale, in P. Rinascimento, though its facade is more thrilling than its interior. The central courtyard is the essence of Renaissance balance and proportion; to the left, stairs lead to the former private apartments of the Duke, which are now home to the National Gallery of the Marches. (Open M 8:30am-2pm, Tu-F and Su 8:30am-7:15pm, Sa 8:30am-10:30pm. €4, students €2.) Walk back across P. della Repubblica and continue onto V. Raffaello to Raphael’s birthplace, the Casa di Rafaele, V. Raffaello 57, now a museum that contains a reproduction of his earliest work, Madonna e Bambino. (Open M-Sa 9am-lpm and 3-6pm, Su lOam-lpm. €3.)
Bucci buses (0722 13 24 01) go from Borgo Mercatale to Rome (5hr. 1 per day, €19). Blue SOBET buses (0722 223 33) run to P. Matteotti and the train station in Pesaro, which sends trains on to Ancona (lhr. 4-10 per day, €2.10). From there, a short walk uphill on V.G. Mazzini leads to P. della Repubblica, the city center. The tourist office, V. Puccinatti 35, is opposite the palace. ( 0722 26 13; fax 0722 24 41. Open M-F 9am-lpm and 3-6pm. Hours change frequently.) Pensione Fosca , V. Raffaello 67, has large rooms five doors down from Rafael’s birthplace. (32 96 22. Singles €21; doubles €40; triples €43.) Hotel San Giovanni , V. Barocci 13, has simple, clean rooms. (0722 28 27. Open Aug.-June. Singles €23, with bath €33; doubles €3450.) Margherita supermarket is at V. Raffaello 37. (Open M-Sa 7:30am-2pm and 3-8pm.) Postal Code: 61029.
Ancona (pop. 100,000) is Italy’s major transportation hub for those heading east. Though industry and transportation are the main functions of this busy town, the old city provides a pleasant atmosphere for those passing through town. The Piazzale del Duomo, atop Monte Guasco, offers a view of the red rooftops of the town below. (Open M-Sa 8am-noon and 3-6pm, Su hours vary with Mass schedule.) Ferries leave Stazione Marittima for Greece, Croatia, and northern Italy. Adriatica ( 07150 211; www.adriatica.it), iadrolinija ( 071 20 43 05; www.jadrolinija.tel.hr jadrolinija), and SEM Maritime Co. (071 20 40 90; www.sem.hr) run to Croatia (from €37). ANEK (071 207 23 46; www.anek.gr) and Blue Star (Strintzis) (071 207 10 68; www.strinzis.gr) ferries go to Greece (from €50). Departure times and frequency vary, so consult a schedule ahead of time. Schedules and tickets are available at the Stazione Marittima. Trains arrive at P. Rosselli from: Bologna (21ahr. 1-2 per hr. €12); Milan (5hr. 1-2 per hr. €21); Rome (3-4hr. 9 per day, €15); and Venice (5hr. 3 per day, €15). Take bus #14 (€0.80) along the port past Stazione Marittima and up C. Stamira to reach P. Cavour, the city center. The tourist office in Stazione Marittima provides ferry info. (07120 1183. Open June-Sept. Su-M 8am-2pm, Tu-Sa 8am-8pm.) From the train station, cross the piazza, turn left, then take the first right and make a sharp right behind the newsstand to reach the Ostella della Gioventu , V. Lamaticci 7. (071 42 257. Reception daily 6:30-11am and 4:30pm-midnight. Dorms €13.) CONAD supermarket is at V. Matteotti 115. (Open M-Sa 8-l:30pm and 5-7:30pm.) Postal Code: 60100.
South of Rome, the sun gets brighter, the meals longer, and the passion more intense. The introduction to the mezzogiomo (Southern Italy) begins in Campania, the fertile cradle of the Bay of Naples and the Gulf of Salerno. The shadow of Mt. Vesuvius hides the famous ruins of Pompeii, lost to time and a river of molten lava, while the Amalfi Coast cuts a dramatic course down the lush Tyrrhenian shore. The region remains justly proud of its open-hearted populace, strong traditions, classical ruins, and relatively untouristed beaches.