“How do you get to Urbino?”
It was a good question that came from a good friend when I declared I was off to explore a new part of Italy (new to me, I’m pretty sure Urbino has been on the Italian map for quite some time). I can plan a trip to Rome with my eyes closed (turn of phrase – please don’t test me), but Urbino, in Le Marche Region in Central Italy? I couldn’t even name the closest airport – not without looking at a map.
With a challenge in hand, I turned to my trusted travel planning resource (Google!) and found the answer to the question…with a few money saving tips besides.
Part of Urbino’s charm is that it doesn’t have an airport complete with Jumbo Jets running through it. Nor does it lay claim to a train station. But that doesn’t mean Urbino is inaccessible. The city has a number of airports close by, and Tren Italia’s main east-coast route runs directly through the region.
Urbino’s closest airport is Rimini (Federico Fellini Airport), which is 69km (42 miles) away from the city. However, Rimini Airport wasn’t an option for me as most of its flights are within mainland Europe on a seasonal basis.
Consequently, I looked (a little bit) further afield to find that Urbino’s next closest airports are:
Ancona (Falconara Airport), which is 89km (55 miles) away and is served by Air Dolomiti, Lufthansa, Alitalia, Belle Air, Ryanair and Volotea.
Perugia (San Francesco d’Assisi), which is 114km (70 miles) away and is served by Ryanair, Wizz, Belle Air, Alba Star, Olympic Air, AMC.
Bologna Airport, which is 182km (113 miles) away and is served by over 30 airlines ranging from the Big Boys like British Airways and Alitalia to the Bargain Basement likes of Ryanair.
Florence (Peretola Airport), which is 275km (170 miles away) and, similar to Bologna, is served by a good number of airlines (15 in total).
Tips for finding cheaper flights
Being a strict follower of good travel maths (slow travel + cheap travel = more travel), here are the tips I found useful when trying to book a cheap flight to Urbino.
- Play around with air and train combinations. I flew into Milan for a quarter of the price of flying to Bologna (from Manchester, which isn’t as well connected as London). Even with train fares added on, it was way cheaper, plus I got to stay in Milan for a couple of nights.
- To figure out the cheapest place to fly into, I recommend using Skyscanner. I usually start with a country by country search. For example, looking for flights from the UK to Italy produced prices that ranged from around €30 to €300 (return) across 30 different airports in Italy. (When I quote a price as ‘around’, I’m doing a fast and loose currency conversion.)
- If you’re time rich and cash poor, or just like a deal, consider the ‘out of town’ airports. Although flying Ryanair is rarely fun (though a sweet, Irish air steward did make me the nicest cup of tea on my last flight), they offer some of the cheapest rates into Italy. Although their airports may be a bit further a field (Bergamo is NOT Milan!), the price of a transfer is usually very reasonable – €5 each way using my Milan example.
- Some airports commonly produce cheaper flight prices than others. For example, Pisa is around an hour away from Florence by train and the journey costs €7.90 (one way), yet flights to Florence are often four times more than flying into Pisa. For example, in a recent search I found return flights to Pisa from the UK for around €35 compared to around €120 for a return to Florence. Ok, the airlines are different (Ryanair versus Vuelling), but that is still quite the price difference, assuming you can travel light and don’t incur baggage fees.
Flights will only get you so far in your journey to Urbino and at least part of your trip must be done by land. Absent a car, train is an excellent option. Not only does the Italian train network cover much of the country, there are both fast and slow trains and a good selection of travel classes meaning you can tailor your trip to suit your travel style and budget.
The nearest station to Urbino is Pesaro, which is 33 km away and is handily on one of Tren Italia’s main routes, as highlighted in the map, above. For a full, interactive version of the map, see here.
Tips for cheaper train travel
- There are limited cross country train routes in Italy (curse those mountains!), so make sure you know your end to end route before you book. For example, Florence (don’t forget to search for “Firenze”) may look close to Urbino on the map, but by fast train it requires routing north through Bologna instead of going direct across the country. This extra distance can add more time…and cost.
- Whenever you can, book train tickets in advance as prices rise closer to the day and can even get sold out entirely.
- Tickets can be booked online in English direct with Tren Italia. The site crashed quite a lot as I was trying to book but the cheaper, advance fares were worth the effort. Plus, you can print your tickets out at home saving time at the train station.
- Avoid the online ticket agents – most apply an admin fee and some even apply a the mark-up in price. Generally, double check any prices quoted in a currency other than euros (unless you’ve selected a converted rate online).
- Oay attention to the booking classes – I booked a few weeks in advance and was able to get a 1st class ticket for €1 more than standard class (free coffee and pastry, thank you very much…even if my feet couldn’t touch the floor from the big leather armchair seats).
- Don’t forget to validate your ticket before you travel – there are machines at all stations. Fail to do so, and you could face a fine.
- Perhaps obvious, but Italy has a number of train options – regional trains take about twice the time but save about half the cost.
Hire a car, and Italy is your oyster. It may not be the cheapest way to get around after combining hire cost and fuel, but it obviously offers the most flexibility. Plus, the more people you cram in (within legal limits, of course), the cheaper the relative cost becomes.
If you want to go by road, but don’t want the cost of car hire, bus is an option.
Regardless of your preferred mode of transport, you will need to make the last part of your journey from Pesaro to Urbino by road. If you have a car or budget for a taxi, that’s easy (though do be aware that taxi prices can be phenomenally high in Italy and western Europe generally).
If you’re on a budget, there is a bus service that runs from Pesaro to Urbino every half hour. The journey costs just a few euros and will drop you in the centre of Urbino…hopefully in time time for an aperitivo overlooking the cathedral, with an amazing stay in this beautiful city lying ahead of you.
Want to read more travel planning tips for Italy?
My visit to Urbino was courtesy of Regione Marche but I fell in love with the city all on my own.