Piazza Della Repubblica: The Heart of Urbino’s Social Life

The café-lined square is where residents and students come to relax

URBINO, Italy – It’s just before 10 in the morning when  Andrew Dorofte, a brawny, strong-jawed barista, starts his eight-hour shift at café Segafredo in  the Piazza Della Repubblica, this Renaissance city’s central meeting place.

The cool morning air has dissipated and the temperature is already approaching 90 degrees  as delivery men, eager tourists and University of Urbino students scurry across the unfilled square.

“The piazza is great,” said Dorofte, 22, in a thick Romanian accent setting up the  tables and chairs in the outdoors safe. “It’s quiet during the morning hours but in the evening this place is full of students, lots of drinking and excitement.”

It wasn’t always that way, said 20-year Urbino resident and restaurant chef Paul Bertinalli.

“It’s totally changed,” said Bertinalli, 60, wearing pink and yellow-stripped chef pants as he sits atop a stool on the edge of the piazza. “The mentality of the people is much different. I prefer the piazza 20 years ago.” Bertinalli said,

He’s not the only one. Giuseppe Cancellieri has been hairdressing in Urbino for 39 years and shares the chef’s yearning for the old days. Both men remember a time when the piazza was primarily full of local residents – their friends – rather than young university students.

To Bertinalli and Cancellieri, the piazza is a place where they come to work and socialize with other business people and remaining Urbino natives. The piazza they prefer is survived now only in memory and photographs.

Urbino  has two main piazzas, but Piazza Ducale, just up the street and fronted by the Ducal Palace, the cathedral and city offices, is much more formal. Repubblica, with its four cafes and bars, has become the focal point of the city’s informal social life, the place where many students and young people experience some of their most memorable moments.

In fact, it’s Urbino’s small population size that gives this piazza such a diverse dynamic.

For example, in larger Italian cities residents and students choose a piazza they prefer based on their occupation or field of study, Bertinalli said. But in Urbino, the Piazza Della Repubblica  forces the whole community into one common area.

Twenty-three-year-old, Pasquale Del Prete, a fifth year  pharmacy student, said he appreciates all that the piazza has to offer. “Life in the piazza is a great place to hang out and meet new people,” Del Prete said, “even if it forces you to abuse alcohol.”

But for Ilaria Daniele, 23, a recent university law graduate, the piazza has played an integral role in her life and education. It’s a place where she used to come to blow off steam after long study sessions and exams. And it’s where she recently strutted around dressed as a red-headed clown with balloons pinned to her back after graduating, part of the commencement traditions here.

“For me the piazza is the heart of Urbino,” said Daniele, recalling her last years in the city square. “It’s where you meet people, make friends, and relax after studying for exams. That’s the thing I’m going to miss the most.”

Several days after her graduation, Daniele returned to her home town of Naples to live with her family.

“Urbino is a very small city,” said Bertinalli. “It’s a city for everyone, different from other cities because at night we’re together, opposed to other university cities, where all the people are in their own groups.”