Stands on the alluvial coastal plain of the Adriatic, at the mouth of the River Foglia, between the hills of Colle Ardizio to the south east and Colle San Bartolo to the north west.
The area has been inhabited since the 6th Century BC, when there was a harbour at the mouth of the Pisaurus, (now called the River Foglia). Later the Roman colony of Pisaurum was established here by Quintus Fabius Nobilior (184 BC). The walls were completed a decade later, in 174 BC. These were rectangular in layout, following the lines of the grid-like street plan, which can still be seen in the route taken by the streets of Via San Francesco-Corso XI Settembre and Via Branca-Via Rossini. After a varied history, the city gradually fell into decay until it was destroyed by the Gothic troops of King Vitiges (539 AD). Gradually rebuilt on the site of the Roman settlement, it became part of the Byzantine Maritime Pentapolis, together with Rimini, Fano, Senigallia and Ancona. Later, after a short period of Longobard rule, it was given by the Franks to the Pope and thus became part of the lands belonging to the Roman Church (774 AD). In the first half of the 12th Century it became a Free City. This marked the beginning of years of conflict with neighbouring towns (particularly Fano) as it attempted to expand its territory. This continued until Malatestino Malatesta became Podestà in 1285, to be followed by his son Giovanni (nicknamed “the Cripple”, and betrayed husband of the famous Francesca da Polenta, immortalised in Dante’s tragic poem about the love between she and her brother-in-law Paolo. In 1304, Giovanni was succeeded by his brother Pandolfo I, followed in 1326 by Malatesta Guastafamiglia, then in 1343 by Pandolfo II, a courageous sea captain under whose rule the Malatestas took the title “Lords of Pesaro”. The Malatestas were generous rulers during this period, as we can see today in the splendid Gothic entrance to the Church of San Francesco (known also as Madonna delle Grazie) as well as the fine tomb of the Blessed Michelina Metelli, who died in 1356. Pandolfo II, who was also a close friend of the poet Petrarch, died in 1373, leaving a young son who became Lord of the City in 1386. It was he, known as Malatesta “dei sonetti”, solder and scholar, who followed the example of his father and commissioned the construction of the magnificent Gothic entrance portals of San Domenico and Sant’Agostino and transformed his palace into a true noble court, thanks also to the contribution of his cultured wife, Elisabetta Varano da Camerino. His death in 1429 led to the decline of the Pesaro branch of the Malatesta family, when Galeazzo agreed by contract to hand the city over to Alessandro Sforza in 1445, to the wrath of his cousin Sigismondo, Lord of Rimini and Fano. The Sforza rulers (Alessandro, Costanzo and Giovanni) commissioned Laurana to build the aristocratic facade of the Palazzo Ducale (1461-1465). The also built the earliest part of the famous Villa Imperiale on the nearby hill of Colle San Bartolo, which was later extended and decorated in the 16th Century by Gerolamo Genga and numerous fine artists and craftsmen during the rule of the Della Rovere family. The Sforza family was also responsible for the fine inlaid choir stalls in the church of Sant’Agostino and for the construction of the Rocca Costanza, the sturdy castle which now houses the Pesaro Section of the State Archive. With the death of Giovanni Sforza, the unfortunate brother-in-law of Cesare Borgia, forced to submit to his arrogant ambition after having married his sister Lucrezia, the government of Pesaro passed to Francesco Maria I Della Rovere, nephew of Pope Julius II (1513). The Della Rovere family (Francesco Maria I, Guidubaldo II and Francesco Maria II) was responsible for the construction the vast pentagonal city wall, of which only the fine Bastion in the Orti Giuli gardens and the adjoining Porta Rimini survive, as well as the splendid church of San Giovanni Battista, a masterpiece by Gerolamo Genga. The family also extended the Palazzo Ducale by adding various apartments, built the octagonal church of Sant’Ubaldo and the fine Chiesa del Nome di Dio, as well as constructing the harbour and canal (which was later to be rebuilt by Gianfrancesco Buonamici in the 18th Century. It was under the rule of the Della Rovere family that Pesaro became part of the Duchy of Urbino, becoming effectively its capital until it passed to the Papal state (under Pope Urban VIII) on the death of Duke Francesco Maria II in 1631 (his young son Federico Ubaldo died before him, leaving him without a direct heir). From that period onwards Pesaro, together with Urbino, became the capital of the Papal Legation for Pesaro and Urbino. It was governed by a Cardinal Legate until the Napoleonic period and, after the Restoration, up until the Unification of Italy (1861). The city had many illustrious personalities during this period. Abbot Annibale of the Olivierian Abbots (1708-1709) was founder of the library and museum of the same name which is now housed in the 17th Century Palazzo Almerici. Gianandrea Lazzarini (1710-1809) was an architect, painter and scholar who designed Palazzo Olivieri (now the home of the Conservatorio Musicale “G. Rossini”) and decorated several of its rooms, as well as the noble Palazzo Toschi-Mosca and the former Diocesan Seminary. Domenico Mazza (1755-1847) was also from Pesaro. It was he who began the splendid historical collection of ceramics which is now housed in the Ceramics Museum – this forms part of the Civic Museum, together with the Art Gallery which includes that great masterpiece, “La Pala di Pesaro” (the Pesaro Altarpiece) by Giovanni Bellini (“Giambellino”). The 4th-5th Century mosaic pavements under the Cathedral (with 12th Century facade and redecorated 19th Century interior) are in the process of being restored. When work is complete it will be quite unique, both for the vastness of its tessellated area as well as for its perfect state of conservation. Another important place to visit is the small museum in the house where Gioachino Rossini (1792-1868) was born. The 19th century Teatro “G. Rossini”, designed by Pietro Ghinelli and inaugurated in 1818 is dedicated to this great opera composer. It is also the home of the annual Rossini Opera Festival.
The ancient walled towns of Novilara (215 m) and Candelara (204 m) also stand in the Pesaro district, on the hills to the right of the Foglia Valley, and look out from their battlements over the fine panorama. An early necropolis, of Piceno origin and dating back to the 8th-6th Century BC, came to light near Novilara during the last century.

Project categories: Itinerary, Itinerary

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