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Of I read one more article about Italy that describes a place as the "Best Kept Secret in Italy", I believe I might just drive a nail through my head to relieve the suffering. The Region of Marche is my adopted home in Italy and I believe it worthy of much more respect than such a mundane phrase would render. Le Marche's charms are famous and yet, largely undiscovered by mainstream tourism.
Marche borders Umbria, but is far less mountainous with gentle rolling hills and an abundance of lush farmland, which extends all the way to the Adriatic Sea. You won't find many tourist traps and you certainly won't hear much English being spoken. What you will find however, is a place where tourists are not inclined to be seen in large numbers. Don't take this to mean that you will have trouble finding hundreds of small shops from which to purchase anything your heart desires.
The castle also houses a number of beautiful paintings by Federico's personal artist who had a son by the name of Rafaelo, known in the west as Rafael. When you leave the palace, it is but a short distance to the actual house where Rafael was born and learned to paint from his father.
There is a large university in Urbino, and it is naturally called the University of Urbino. The student population is about 15,000 and many of them speak English, but don't ask a student to visit the Ducal Palace with you. A long standing superstition at the university forbids students who have not yet graduated from entering the palace, under penalty of sabotaging the completion of their education. After graduation, palace visits are no problem.
So, go ahead and enjoy Le Marche. Just keep it our little secret.
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