What man of culture, what traveller does not have the image of the noble Urbino in mind? A postcard that includes the gentle towers of the Ducal Palace intent on standing out against the rugged Apennine landscape and merging with the brick of the old town, with the domes and bell towers of the many churches.
Not everyone, however, knows the place from where the famous photograph is taken more often than not: we are talking about Rocca Albornoz, which from the top of its hill San Sergio (485 meters above sea level) keeps an eye on the whole town and most of the countryside.
The fortification was erected between 1367 and 1371 on a site already owned by the Montefeltro family to replace the Old Cassero, a group of fortified houses considered too small and poorly equipped to ensure efficient defence of the town. And in spite of the name, it was not Cardinal Egidio Alvarez Carillo de Albornoz who built the fortress - in view of the Pope's return from Avignon - but rather his successor Angelico Grimoard.
At the beginning of the 16th century, the fortress was set in the new Rovereto walls, walls that only a few years later Leo X had knocked down to prevent the city from being defended by the rebels in case of revolt. In fact, the Pontiff's move was anything but risky if we consider that he himself had made a good move to oust the Della Rovere family from the leadership of the dukedom and, at the same time, useful to facilitate the rise to power of his nephew Lorenzo de' Medici. The Medici dominion, however, was but a very brief parenthesis for Urbino, a parenthesis that ended with the death of Leo X.
In 1683, when the pressing needs of war ceased to exist, Rocca Albornoz was ceded to the Discalced Carmelite Fathers who, however, enjoyed the structure less time than they had hoped for because just over a century later it ended up in the hands of men in Napoleon's pay to be restored to a defensive structure.
Even today, to the detriment of the many modifications and reconstructions, this fortress is still one of the places that those who wish to visit Urbino absolutely cannot miss. In fact, Rocca Albornoz has not only kept intact over the centuries its charm as a grim soldier, but since a few years it also houses the small and charming museum "Bella Gerit": the section dedicated to military equipment between '300 and '500 is really curious.
The massive and stocky rectangular brick building, characterized by two semicircular towers, since 1975 is inserted in a spacious park dedicated to the Resistance. A place that seems designed especially for the visitor who wants to take a little break, maybe lying on the lawn with a thirst-quenching drink in hand, without giving up even for a moment to rest his eyes on the beautiful City of the Dukes.