Pesaro, Italy is a lovely seaside resort town set on the Adriatic coast in the region of Le Marche. Sandwiched between the Apennine Mountains and the sea, Pesaro offers gorgeous golden beaches, wild nature reserves, historic sights, public parks, and art museums.
Founded as a Roman colony in 184 BC, Pesaro became an important trading center along the Via Flaminia — an ancient road leading from Rome to the Adriatic coast. During the Renaissance, ruling families chose the city as the capital of their royal dukedom, which explains why today, it still has such a wealth of elegant villas and grandiose palaces.
With a population of just under 100,000, the city is the second largest city in Le Marche. An important center for music, art, and culture, Pesaro is probably best known as the birthplace of composer Gioachino Rossini.
Here are our picks of the top things to do on your visit to Pesaro.
Stroll Around Piazza del Popolo
Skirted on four sides by the town hall, a post office, municipal buildings, and the Ducal Palace (Palazzo Ducale), Pesaro's main square encircles the 17th-century fountain, which was restored in 1960 after being destroyed in World War II. The pavement within the square is etched throughout with strips of white stone. Located at the intersection of Via San Francesco, Corso XI Settembre, and a section of Via Flaminia — a remnant of the Roman city's forum — the plaza has been the political center of the city since the Middle Ages. The Ducal Palace was constructed around 1450 and enlarged in 1621 with the marriage of Federico Ubaldo Della Rovere with Claudia de Medici. At the same time, a group of bronze dolphins was added to the fountain.
Located in Piazza Mosca, this main civic museum of Pesaro contains an impressive collection of Renaissance ceramics, decorative artworks, and Giovanni Bellini's paneled altarpiece, the "Coronation of the Virgin" (circa 1470).
The birthplace of composer Gioachino Rossini (1792-1868) was recently expanded to add space on the second floor to display documentation of Rossini's works, prints, engravings, caricatures, and other memorabilia. Of special note is the portrait gallery with an impressive number of prints arranged in chronological order — from youth to old age — including a drawing by Gustave Doré depicting Rossini upon his deathbed. Rossini's operas, among which "The Barber of Seville" is his most famous, are performed at a music festival that takes place in the city each August.
Headquartered in the stately Palazzo Olivieri, this conservatory of higher learning was established in the early 1800s. Highlights of the compound include a large concert hall and an inner courtyard with a bronze statue of Rossini by Carlo Marochetti. Inside the palazzo are three important salons: the Gallery of Illustrious Men and Women of Pesaro, Sala dei Marmi with a cycle of impressive frescoes, and Tempietto Rossiniano which has a piano built in Venice in 1809. Also found are precious mementos and autographed manuscripts by the Maestro himself.
Developed in the early 1800s, the Orti Giuli was Italy's first public park. Designed in the neoclassical style, it is situated in the town center along the Foglia River and just a short distance from the Adriatic. The tranquil green space is popular in summer months, when it's the setting for parties and cultural events in the summer months. Any time of year, it makes for a pleasant stroll when the weather is nice.
Dip Your Toes in the Sand of a Blue Flag Beach
The Adriatic coast near Pesaro boasts a number of Blue Flag beaches, a designation awarded based on water quality and cleanliness of the beach. The Adriatic coast is already a very popular summer destination for Italians, with beaches lined with stabilimenti or beach bars, where patrons can rent lounge chairs and umbrellas.
About 8 miles (13 kilometers) from Pesaro is the hilltop hamlet of Gradara, where you can tour Rocca Costanza, a fortress with cylindrical stone towers in a quadrilateral layout. Commissioned in the 15th century by Constanzo Sforza, the fort was said to be the setting for the love story of Paolo and Francesca in Dante's "Divine Comedy." Going through several machinations over the centuries, at one point the fort was acquired by Cesare Borgia who employed Leonardo da Vinci to design a moat. Rocca served as a prison from 1864 until 1989, and these days it hosts summer concerts and outdoor theater events.
Parco Naturale Monte San Bartolo was established in the 1990s in order to conserve the delicate cliff-side and beach ecosystems along the North Adriatic coastline. This tranquil nature park boasts sweeping sea views and an abundance of bird and wildlife, plus the reserve has some notable archaeological sites of Neolithic, Greek, and Roman origins. Much of the park is accessible by foot along paths that lead trekkers through charming villages, past medieval villas, and gardens. Many paths lead down to the sea.
Named after the 15th-century Emperor Frederick III (the last emperor to be crowned by the Pope in Rome), this splendid palatial home and Mannerist garden complex was once the summer stomping ground of dukes, duchesses and their high-class friends. Built during the late Renaissance, today the villa remains a private residence. Visits can be booked on Wednesday afternoons in June through mid-September.
Gaze at the Sfera Grande di A. Pomodoro
This shimmering bronze sculpture of a deconstructed sphere was completed by Italian artist Arnaldo Pomodoro. It floats above the surface of a reflecting pool on Piazzale della Libertà. Over the years, the globe has become a favorite meeting point for those heading to the beach. Cast in 1998, the original work can be found in front of the entrance to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Rome.
Dedicated to the ancient art of falconry, Il Teatro dell'Aria (open-air theater) is an environmental education park that both young and old can enjoy. Located within the medieval fortress of Gradara, it was founded by a professional falconer. Live demonstrations of flying predators are presented mornings and evenings, and falconry workshops are also offered.