Pesaro is a large town on the Adriatic coast to the north of the Le Marche region of italy.
The town of Pesaro has a split personality. To many of those who visit the town, especially during the summer months, it is simply a popular family beach resort on the Adriatic. But a few hundred metres inland and behind the hotel strip that lines the beach, the 'other' Pesaro also deserves your attention, above all for the well preserved medieval town.
Pesaro is a city with unique characteristics that make it a place of great tourist interest. On the one hand there is the ancient city with its prestigious historical center, on the other it is one of the most famous seaside resorts of the Adriatic.
Preserved to this day the ancient Roman structure of the city is divided, according to the traditional Roman technique, into four equal parts by the intersection of the “Cardo” and “Decumanus” Maximi. Start your visit in Piazza del Popolo, home to the impressive Palazzo Ducale. The square and surrounding streets contain various attractive buildings, and lots of cafes and expensive shops.
The Palazzo Ducale was built by Alessandro Sforza in the second half of the 15th century. The façade consists of a portico of six pillars and arches, and an upper floor with windows crowned with five coats of arms, festoons and cherubs.
The Cathedral, with three aisles, dates from the late Romanesque age. The façade, an example of Romanesque-Gothic architecture, has a Gothic portal surmounted by a band of arches. The floor is all inlaid with mosaics, believed to date from the second half of the sixth century BC.
Among the mosaics, of which the Cathedral has many, the most important are those of the nave, with the pattern of so-called "lamiae," that is the "mythical witch vampire with human heads and bodies of birds" (A. Ciaroni, “Maioliche del Quattrocento a Pesaro”, 2004).
In the interior of the cathedral are outstanding figures of animals with a clear symbolic meaning, such as doves, symbolizing peace; hares, greyhounds and a griffin.
Also worth visiting is the Imperial Villa, situated on the San Bartolo hill, which was built in 1529 by Francesco Maria della Rovere, Duke of Urbino. The paintings in the villa are mainly by Bartolomeo Genga (1518-1558), under whose direction Bronzino (1503-1572) also worked.
The frescoes by Genga represent the reconquest by Francesco Maria della Rovere of the Duky of Urbino, which Pope Leo X took away from him after the death of Pope Julius II della Rovere because of the 'unjust and slanderous accusations of treason, for which he was excommunicated'. Because of this in the 'Hall of Audience' Genga painted "The Calumny of Apelles", symbolically represented as a figure with long ears, and blinded by a heavy veil before the eyes symbolically representing ignorance.
Also in the villa and painted by Dosso Dossi (1490-1542) from Ferrara, a collaborator of Genga, are the frescoes in the Hall of the Caryatids, and the painting of 'Charity' by Francesco Menzocchi.
Other highlights in Pesaro
Near the Palazzo Ducale is the native house of Gioachino Rossini (1792-1868), whose interior is now a museum dedicated to the composer, consisting of a collection of posters, prints, portraits and caricatures of the author. it is said that it was in this house that Rossini composed the famous 'Barber of Seville' . Enthusiasts might like to time their trip to pesaro to coincide with the summer music festival in Pesaro and a chance to hear a Rossini opera.
Outside the hsitorical centre of Pesaro is a medieval fortress, called 'Costanza' from the name of Costanzo Sforza (1447-1483). The building was started in the second half of the 15th century and looks like a mighty fortress, with four corner towers and the tower that dominates the center of the castle.
Finally, we recall the majolica industry, a very important part of the Pesaro economy from the 15th and 16th centuries onwards. The extraordinary majolica workmanship here won the admiration of the great lords of the time and even the Popes:
Majolica of Pesaro
In the 15th and 16th centuries the majolica of Pesaro became famous around the world
“Dennistoun in his history of the dukes of Urbino refers to a letter among the diplomatic archives of the duchy presented at Florence dated 1474, from Pope Sextus IV (1414-1484), in which he thanks Costanzo Sforza, lord of Pesaro, for a present of most elegantly wrought earthen vases which for the donor’s sake are prized as much as gold or silver instead of earthenware." (C. Drury E. Fortnum)
Another letter from Lorenzo the Magnificent [1449-1492] to Roberto Malatesta [1440-1482] of Pesaro, thanking him for a similar present, says, "they please me entirely by their perfection and rarity, being quite novelties in these parts, and are valued more than if of silver, the donor’s arms serving daily to recall their origin.” (C. Drury E. Fortnum, “Maiolica”, 2005, pp. 106-108).
Pesaro Museum and Art Gallery - a guide to the highlights
An exploration of the great artistic tradition of the city should include a visit to the Pesaro Museum and Art Gallery, which holds works from various churches.
The works exhibited in the "Bellini Room" testify to the artistic history of Pesaro under the rule of the Malatesta and Sforza. Among the most remarkable works of art are the 'Coronation of the Virgin' by Giovanni Bellini* (1433-1516) for the church of San Francesco. This painting by Bellini, dated around 1474, is painted with in oils with a remarkable brilliance.
* Bellini's links with Pesaro were very close because the painter's stepmother, Anna Rinversi, was a native of Pesaro, as were several other members of the Bellini family
From the artistic point of view, Pesaro also boasts of ties with Venice, as evidenced by the presence of artists such as Paolo Veneziano (1333 circa-1358), with the "Stories of the Virgin", in the style of Giotto, and Jacobello del Fiore (1370 circa-1439) with the polyptych of the Blessed Michelina. Marco Zoppo (1433-1478) from Bologna painted “The Virgin and Child with Saints John the Baptist, Francis. Paul, and Jerome in 1471 for the church of San Giovanni.
In the Hercolani-Bellini Room in Pesaro Museum we can see the artistic output of certain 17th century painters from Bologna, such as the" Fall of the Giants" by Guido Reni (1575-1642) and the" Mercato" by Aureliano Milani (1675-1749).
In the Cantarini Room, of particular note are the "Penitent Magdalene" and "St. Joseph" by Simone Cantarini, called Simone da Pesaro (1612-1648) and the "Last Judgement", attributed to Palma il Giovane (1544-1628), the favorite artist of the court of the Della Rovere.
In the "Hall of Still Lifes", are works by Christian Berentz (1658-1722), Vettor Romogni (18th century) and a work which marks an important passage in Caravaggio's style by Tommaso Salini (1575-1625). Finally, in the 'Hall of the twentieth century' are more recent works by local artists.
The Museum is located on the ground floor and has over two thousand items with various artifacts from Roman times such as portraits in marble and gold coins; the remains of the necropolis of Novilara including the famous stele of naumachia [naval battle]; various Roman sculptures including a portrait of Gaius Caesar [20 BC-21 AD], son of Marcus Vipsanius Agrippa [63-12 BC] and Julia the Elder [39 BC-14 AD], and a marble head of Livia, wife of Augustus [58 AD-29 BC].
The associated library has a collection of more than 300,000 printed volumes, with hundreds of other incunabula, and manuscripts.
Local food specialities
No visit to Pesaro would be complete without sampling the local specialities, such as the so-called "Pasticciata alla Pesarese" and "olivette di vitello, ideal after a walk or a trip to Gabicce Mare and Fano, famous sea bathing places on the coast at Pesaro.
See also history and etymology of Pesaro
Map of Pesaro sightseeing & popular sights
Selected places to visit near Pesaro, Italy
See the Marche guide for more travel ideas...