UNESCO World Heritage Site #136: Portovenere, Cinque Terre, and the Islands

UNESCO World Heritage Site #136: Portovenere, Cinque Terre, and the Islands
UNESCO World Heritage Site #136: Portovenere, Cinque Terre, and the Islands

From the World Heritage inscription:

The Ligurian coast between Cinque Terre and Portovenere is a cultural landscape of great scenic and cultural value. The layout and disposition of the small towns and the shaping of the surrounding landscape, overcoming the disadvantages of a steep, uneven terrain, encapsulate the continuous history of human settlement in this region over the past millennium.

The towns of Cinque Terra are just beautiful. If you are ever in the neighborhood of Pisa or Genoa, you should consider making a trip there. You can visit the five towns by train, by boat or even on foot. It was the highlight of my recent cruise around Italy and would highly recommend it to anyone visiting Italy. It might not be as sexy as some of the other destinations in Italy like Rome, Florence or Venice, but it has its own unique charm. Try to avoid arriving on a day with cruise ships or show up before 10am or after 1pm to beat the crowds.

Overview

Portovenere, Cinque Terre, and the Islands (Palmaria, Tino and Tinetto)

Portovenere, Cinque Terre, and the Islands (Palmaria, Tino and Tinetto) is a collective property listed as one of the cultural sites recognized by UNESCO in Italy. This site was inscribed in 1997. This cultural landscape is considered of universal and cultural significance as it showcases how the impact of human activity transformed the steep slopes of Ligurian Coast. Specifically, these steep slopes are heavily planted with agricultural produce such as olive trees and vines.

The entire property covers up to 15 kilometer stretch along the coast starting from Cinque Terre to Portovenere. The three islands of Palmaria, Tino, and Tinetto are also included within the world heritage property.

Portovenere

Portovenere is a small town located on the Liguarian Coast of Italy. There are three villages that make up this town, which is included in the UNESCO World Heritage Property: Porto Venere, Le Grazie and Fezzano.

Portovenere, Cinque Terre, and the Islands (Palmaria, Tino and Tinetto)

Like the other towns included in this UNESCO property, the beaches in Portovenere are popular with tourists. In addition, it features a typical Mediterranean climate. There are several notable tourist attractions in Portovenere, aside from the beaches, which include the Gothic Church of St. Peter, St. Lawrence Church, Doria Castle, Byron’s Grotto, and the medieval nucleus in Le Grazie.

Cinque Terre

Cinque Terre is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Italy. On top of that, it is one of several properties comprised in the UNESCO site, Portovenere, Cinque Terre, and the Islands (Palmaria, Tino and Tinetto). This area represents a rugged portion of the coast near the Italian Riviera. There are five villages that make up Cinque Terre: Riomaggiore, Monterosso al Mare, Manarola, Vernazza, and Corniglia. The five villages and the coastline, together with the hillsides, are part of the Cinque Terre National Park, and the UNESCO property.

The carefully built terraces on Cinque Terre are a showcase of human ingenuity. Despite the rugged and steep landscape, humans were able to produce a village and make agricultural produce despite the challenges of the landscape. Another thing that makes it very charming and appealing to tourists, and also crucial in it being named as a UNESCO site, is the lack of corporate development in the area. The paths and terrains that are utilized by the villagers were all created by its human settlers in an effort to develop a living community that adapts to its environment.

Palmaria, Tino and Tinetto

Portovenere, Cinque Terre, and the Islands (Palmaria, Tino and Tinetto)

The islands of Palmaria, Tino and Tinetto are part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site that includes Cinque Terre and Portovenere. Although these islands are considered as one unit, each of them has their own majestic history and rich culture to boast. Each of these islands is visited by thousands of tourists per year.

Tino is only open to visitors during the month of September as it is located on a military base and is therefore off-limits to tourists on most parts of the year. Within the island, visitors can find castle ruins and other monuments. In Tinetto, there are several churches and ruined churches to explore. It therefore reflects the religious culture of the people that inhabit this island.

Palmaria is the most popular of these three islands. This island is best known for its beaches and the ocean that offers perfect condition for swimming, snorkeling and diving. There are also trails within these islands that while may be steep are prized for the amazing views of the sea and coast.


View my complete list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Italy.

View my complete list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

UNESCO World Heritage Site #135: Historic Center of Naples

UNESCO World Heritage Site #135: Historic Centre of Naples
UNESCO World Heritage Site #135: Historic Centre of Naples

From the World Heritage inscription:

From the Neapolis founded by Greek settlers in 470 B.C. to the city of today, Naples has retained the imprint of the successive cultures that emerged in Europe and the Mediterranean basin. This makes it a unique site, with a wealth of outstanding monuments such as the Church of Santa Chiara and the Castel Nuovo.

Naples is great city that is high on my list of places to return to. I was only able to spend several hours walking around the city, but I enjoyed the time I had.

Overview

Historic Center of Naples

The Historic Center of Naples is one of the cultural sites recognized by UNESCO as a world heritage site. It was inscribed into the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Italy in 1995 and covers more than 1,000 hectares of land area and a buffer zone of 1,350 hectares. Naples is one of Europe’s most ancient cities. It was founded by the Greek settlers in 470 BC.

To this day, the contemporary urban fabric in modern Naples contains and has preserved the elements of its long and storied past. It is evident in the wealth of historic buildings, street pattern and outstanding monuments found within the historic center of Naples.

How to Get Here

Historic Center of Naples

If you want to visit the Historic Center of Naples, there are several transportation methods available. You can travel via train from the Napoli Centrale Station. You can also travel by air. To get to Naples, you must take a flight to the International Airport of Capodichino. If you are traveling from other parts of Italy or outside of Naples, you can take the bus from any of the following bus liners: Marin Bus Lines or Sena Bus Lines.

About the Historic Center of Naples

The Historic Center of Naples is one of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Italy. The historic part of the city offers plenty of attractions for tourists to enjoy. From old and mysterious churches, to underground caves, and catacombs, you will find them all here.

Historic Center of Naples

The old part of Naples is dominated by churches and other religious structures. It is not uncommon to find several churches in one street in Naples. The historic center of Naples is filled with Baroque style churches and antique residences of the aristocratic families. The most important church in Naples is also found in the historic center – San Gennaro Cathedral. This cathedral is the venue of the annual Miracle Blood Ceremony. In addition to San Gennaro Cathedral, a few other churches are found in the city’s historic center such as San Domenico Maggiore and San Lorenzo Maggiore.

The San Severo Chapel is another fascinating architectural and religious structure within the historic center of Naples. In this chapel, you will find the mysterious anatomic machines. There are also beautiful Baroque sculptures that were made from the 17th and 18th century.

When exploring the historic center of Naples, make sure to visit the garden of Santa Chiara Convent. In this garden, you will find columns, benches, and ancient walls. From the convent garden, you can head to the Port Alba. This street within the historic center of Naples is notable for its booksellers. Aside from book hunting, you can also find several pizzerias along the street that you can sample for authentic Italian flavor.

If you are into exploring the dark side of history of Naples, you can explore the underworld of Naples. Beneath the city, there is a tufa or a labyrinth of caves that measure 80 kilometers in length. There are guided tours to this cave that last up to 1 and a half hours. The gate to this underground labyrinth is located at Piazza San Gaetano.


View my complete list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Italy.

View my complete list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites

UNESCO World Heritage Site #134: Archaeological Areas of Pompei, Herculaneum and Torre Annunziata

UNESCO World Heritage Site #134: Archaeological Areas of Pompei
UNESCO World Heritage Site #134: Archaeological Areas of Pompei

From the World Heritage inscription:

When Vesuvius erupted on 24 August AD 79, it engulfed the two flourishing Roman towns of Pompei and Herculaneum, as well as the many wealthy villas in the area. These have been progressively excavated and made accessible to the public since the mid-18th century. The vast expanse of the commercial town of Pompei contrasts with the smaller but better-preserved remains of the holiday resort of Herculaneum, while the superb wall paintings of the Villa Oplontis at Torre Annunziata give a vivid impression of the opulent lifestyle enjoyed by the wealthier citizens of the Early Roman Empire.

I had always wanted to visite Pompeii and I had my chance this year when the Carnival Magic stopped in Naples. Unfortunately, I was on a tour bus along with several thousand other people who all hit the site at the same time and Pompeii was packed. It really took away from the experience. If you want to see a Roman city which is almost as intact as Pompeii I’d suggest visiting Ostia Antica just outside of Rome. Very few people go there and you can see much of what you can in Pompeii. Likewise, visiting the nearby city of Herculaneum might be a much less busy choice.

Overview

Archaeological Areas of Pompei, Herculaneum, and Torre Annunziata

The Archaeological Areas of Pompei, Herculaneum, and Torre Annunziata is a collective property recognized as one of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Italy. The site was inscribed by UNESCO in 1997 under the Cultural category. This archaeological site is considered of significant cultural value because it freezes in time the picture of what life was like during a specific period in the past.

It became possible when Vesuvius volcano unexpectedly erupted in 79 AD. The erupting volcano produced layers of ash and rock that completely covered its surrounding towns. Pompei was one of those towns that was hit fully by the volcanic eruption. This town of 25,000 people was an urbanized and commercial town at that time. It got completely wiped out and covered by the ash from the volcano.

The sites were discovered in the 16th century; however, further exploration of these ancient towns was not executed until 1748.

About Pompei

Archaeological Areas of Pompei, Herculaneum, and Torre Annunziata

Pompei is an ancient Roman city that is located near Naples in the region of Campania in Italy. The city was destroyed and covered in ash after the explosion of Mt. Vesuvius. According to researchers, the town of Pompei was discovered in the 6th or 7th century BC. Rome ruled the town in the 4th century BC and had around 11,000 residents by the time of the historic explosion. The entire town was self-sustaining with houses, a complex water system, port, amphitheater and a gymnasium. All of these were preserved by the volcanic ash that covered the entire city.

For 1,500 years, the city was deemed lost until the 16th century when the site was re-discovered. There were many artifacts found at the preserved ancient city by the time of the excavations. Today, Pompei is one of the most visited tourist attractions in Italy with an annual visitor count of 2.5 million.

Herculaneum

Archaeological Areas of Pompei, Herculaneum, and Torre Annunziata

Herculaneum is best known as one of the towns that were destroyed and covered in ash when Mt. Vesuvius exploded in 79 AD. The ruins of this town are also located in Campania region in Italy. Due to the volcanic flow, it is one of the ancient cities that were greatly preserved by the ashes from the volcano. The preservation of Herculaneum was different from the other cities included in this list because it had wooden and organic-based objects that were preserved during the explosion. During the excavation of the site and a few other cities that were affected by the explosion, there were 300 skeletons uncovered together with objects like roofs, doors, beds and some food items. This proved that there were some inhabitants that were trapped in the town during the explosion. All along, researchers thought that the towns near the volcano, specifically in Herculaneum, had been evacuated.

Although Herculaneum and Pompei belong to the same archaeological site listed by UNESCO for the same phenomenon, the wide array of fine houses in Herculaneum exhibit the fact that this town was wealthier than Pompei.

Torre Annunziata

Archaeological Areas of Pompei, Herculaneum, and Torre Annunziata

This is a city and commune located in the Campania region of Italy. This city is part of the Archaeological Areas of Pompei, Herculaneum, and Torre Annunziata that was enlisted as one of the cultural UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Italy. This city was located at the foot of Mt. Vesuvius; thus, it was one of those towns covered with ash when the said volcano exploded.

Prior to the explosion, the city was popular as the seat of various industries including pasta making and ironwork food processing. Today, the town still exists and its economy is supported by various industries including pharmaceutical, naval and armament.


View my complete list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Italy.

View my complete list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

The Pine Trees of Lanai

Pine trees on LanaiWhen you think of Hawaii, one of the first images which pops into your head is probably a palm tree on a white sand beach. Indeed, Hawaii does have its share of palm trees. On the island of Lanai, however, the tree you will be most likely to find isn’t a palm tree….it is a pine tree.

The story of the pine trees of Lanai is one of the interesting stories I come across when traveling that shows how people can find innovative solutions to their problems.

The first thing you need to know is Lanai is a rather dry island. It has the least amount of rainfall of all the Hawaiian islands because the mountains on Molokai and Maui capture most of the rainfall which comes its way.
Continue reading “The Pine Trees of Lanai”

May 2011: Questions & Answers

Post box in CroatiaIt is time once again to open up the virtual mailbag and answer the questions which you have been dying to know….

Marianne Schwab asks: What are your top five tips for taking GREAT photos? Get a little technical please. :-)

I am a self taught photographer. I’ve never taken a course or read a book. Everything I’ve done has come from taking a lot of bad photos and researching things online. There isn’t really a lot technical to be said about taking great photos. Here are my tips:
Continue reading “May 2011: Questions & Answers”

Thoughts on my Central Europe Trip

Before I get too far into Europe, I figure I should go back and do a quick review of my time in the Czech Republic, Austria, Slovakia and Slovenia. It was only a quick trip of 10 days, but I was able to get a taste of the region and see some of the things which I’ve wanted to see. Here are some of my thoughts from the trip:

Most Pleasant Surprise

River in Ljubljana Ljubljana, Slovenia. I had no idea was I was in store for when I visited Ljubljana. When I arrived I couldn’t even pronounce it and I didn’t know much about it other than it was formerly in Yugoslavia. It is a charming city, very walkable, affordable by European standards and is one of the smallest capitol cities in Europe. The only downside to the city is that it has a pretty bad graffiti problem. I’m surprised that Ljubljana doesn’t get more of the backpacker crowd considering how cheap it is and how close it is to Vienna and Venice.
Continue reading “Thoughts on my Central Europe Trip”

UNESCO World Heritage Site #133: Old City of Dubrovnik

UNESCO World Heritage Site #133: Old City of Dubrovnik
UNESCO World Heritage Site #133: Old City of Dubrovnik

From the World Heritage inscription:

The ‘Pearl of the Adriatic’, situated on the Dalmatian coast, became an important Mediterranean sea power from the 13th century onwards. Although severely damaged by an earthquake in 1667, Dubrovnik managed to preserve its beautiful Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque churches, monasteries, palaces and fountains. Damaged again in the 1990s by armed conflict, it is now the focus of a major restoration programme co-ordinated by UNESCO.

Dubrovnik is an very nice, historic town on the Adriatic. Almost all of the original walls of the city are still in place and the old city managed to escape too much damage during the break up of Yugoslavia. I arrived in Dubrovnik during a stop on a cruise ship which was just enough to explore the old city on my own time. I was able to walk twice around the walls of the city as well as explore many of the side streets of the old town itself. It is listed as one of the top 100 Wonders of the World by Howard Hillman.

Overview

Old City of Dubrovnik

Dubrovnik is a city in Croatia located along the Adriatic Sea. It is part of the Dalmatia region and is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Europe, not just in Croatia. The Old City of Dubrovnik is one of the fastest rising destinations for tourists in the country and is one of the cultural UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

The city prospered for its maritime trade activity and flourished during the 15th and 16th centuries. It became known for its wealth and skilled diplomacy. It also underwent restoration work in the 1990s and early 2000s.

About Old City of Dubrovnik

The Old City of Dubrovnik juts out into the Adriatic Sea and features a rugged limestone mountain as its backdrop. It is considered as one of the finest and best preserved medieval cities in Europe. At one point in history, Dubrovnik rivaled Venice for its reputation as a trading port. The entire city is also built with a wall. These huge and sturdy stone walls that were built from the 11th to the 17th centuries provided protection to the entire city-state. To this day, these walls remain standing and has become a huge part of Dubrovnik’s identity, particularly within the historic center.

Old City of Dubrovnik

The Old City and historic center of Dubrovnik is remarkably one of the best places to see in the city. Despite being a small area, there are many attractions to see. The small space makes the city easy to explore on foot. The entire historic center is surrounded by medieval ramparts that offer a sense of protection throughout this entire settlement especially during the Medieval times. To enter the historic center of Dubrovnik, you must pass through the Pile City Gate. This serves as the main entrance for the city, which is overlooked by two forts. Minceta Fort is one of the most beautiful forts in the world and has become a symbol of the city of Dubrovnik. Meanwhile, Bokar Fort is built to defend the city from any attacks coming from the sea. Today, the fort serves as venue for performances particularly during the annual Dubrovnik Summer Festival.

Upon entering the city gate, you will be greeted by the beautiful and awe-inspiring Onofrio Fountain. This is the favorite meeting place for the youth in the city. Another one of the most interesting monuments within the Old City of Dubrovnik is the Franciscan Monastery. This monastery features the perfect blend of Gothic and Romanesque architecture.

As you continue exploring the historic center for the Old City of Dubrovnik, you will be able to explore the most popular street in Dubrovnik: Stradun. This street is filed with souvenir shops, cafes, bars, coffee shops, and galleries. This street is never quiet and is always bustling with people. There are also several street entertainers that delight the crowd of tourists.

When you reach the end of the Stradun Street, you will find a lovely square that is another favorite among tourists. This square is home to many important historical sights within Dubrovnik. One of them is the Sponza Palace, which was built in the 16th century and is used for housing the National Archives today. Another magnificent historical and architectural feature is the Rector’s Palace. This is a Gothic-Renaissance structure that features finely carved capitals and is best known for its ornate staircase. Meanwhile, the St. Savior Church is located right next to the Franciscan Church and Monastery. These two are important remnants from the Renaissance period.

Old City of Dubrovnik

When you are done exploring the main street, you can explore the narrow streets and alleys throughout the city of Dubrovnik. You will find a lot of hidden gems and historic treasures along the way.

About the Walls of Dubrovnik

Aside from the beautiful historic center and the architectural structures preserved within the Old City of Dubrovnik, the walls that surround the entire city is probably one of its most significant features. The walls of Dubrovnik measures 2 kilometers in length that covers around the city. The walls range from 4 meters to 6 meters in height. The walls are thicker on the landward side as compared to the seaward side. These walls are also built with towers and turrets to provide additional protection for the city.

View the complete list of UNESCO World Heritage sites I have visited.

UNESCO World Heritage Site #132: Palace and Gardens of Schönbrunn

UNESCO World Heritage Site #132: Palace and Gardens of Schönbrunn
UNESCO World Heritage Site #132: Palace and Gardens of Schönbrunn

From the World Heritage inscription:

From the 18th century to 1918, Schönbrunn was the residence of the Habsburg emperors. It was designed by the architects Johann Bernhard Fischer von Erlach and Nicolaus Pacassi and is full of outstanding examples of decorative art. Together with its gardens, the site of the world’s first zoo in 1752, it is a remarkable Baroque ensemble and a perfect example of Gesamtkunstwerk

When you visit Schönbrunn Palace, you get the strong impression that at one point an Emperor or Empress of Austria visited France and was the guest at the Palace of Versailles. When they got back home they said “We have GOT to have one of those”, and construction on the palace was begun.

It is incredibly ostentatious and it is a surprise that they didn’t have a revolution in Austria as well as France.

Overview

Palace and Gardens of Schonbrunn

The Palace and Gardens of Schonbrunn is one of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Austria. Its grandeur and beauty can compete well with that of the Palace of Versailles in France. This palace was built in the 18th century as an imperial summer residence. The palace features Baroque architecture and has over 1,400 rooms. Along with the palace, the gardens are also quite popular among tourists. With a history of over 300 years, this site reflects the tastes and aspirations of the Habsburg monarchs.

Schonbrunn Palace

Palace and Gardens of Schonbrunn

The history of the Schonbrunn Palace date back to the late 16th century when Emperor Leopold I commissioned an imperial palace to be built that would rival that of France’s Palace of Versailles. This led to the building of a Baroque Imperial Palace at the former site of the Palace of Klatterburg. This palace was built from 1696 to 1730 and consists of 1,441 rooms and apartments. The palace underwent alterations from 1816 to 1819 and after the World War II.

Even though there are over 1,400 rooms in Schonbrunn Palace, only 40 of these are open to the public for those visiting the Palace and Gardens of Schonbrunn. Some of the notable rooms to be explored during your tour include the West Wing, Walnut Room, Emperor’s Audience Chamber, Empress Elisabeth’s Salon and the Franz Joseph’s Bedroom.

The Hall of Mirrors is probably the most notable part of the entire Palace of Schonbrunn. This area is filled with crystal mirrors that are placed in gilded Rococo frames.

Schonbrunn Gardens

Palace and Gardens of Schonbrunn

The second half of the UNESCO site Palace and Gardens of Schonbrunn is the park and garden. This area covers up to 500 acres of land area. It was laid out during the 1900s and like the palace is also built using the Baroque style. The garden is accentuated by the impressive 44 sculptures of mythological creatures made with marbles. In addition to these sclptures, don’t forget to visit the Neptune’s Fountain.

Another impressive structure within the Schonbrunn Garden is the Palm House. This structure was built in 1883 and is the largest greenhouse in Europe. It is composed of three sections and one of them contains exotic plants. The others are made up of hundreds of species of butterflies.

Another must-see when exploring the Palace and Gardens of Schonbrunn is the Classical Gloriette. This was built in 1775 on a hilltop with an overlooking view of the palace grounds. The central structure is a triumphal arch with arcaded wings on each side of the structure.

Practical Tips and Information

Palace and Gardens of Schonbrunn

Before you make your way to Palace and Gardens of Schonbrunn in Vienna, you need to know these tips:

  • If you want to avoid waiting on a long queue, buy your tickets online before your intended visit to save time. You can buy your tickets here.
  • If you forgot to buy your tickets beforehand, you can get ahead of the line by arriving before the opening time. You can also come at either 3 or 4 PM where there is no more queue. You will still have about 2 or 3 hours to explore the palace and gardens.
  • If you want to explore the palace, do so when it is not too crowded. There is no AC inside the palace; hence, it can get too hot and humid when there are too many people inside.
  • The peak season is from April to Septembe, which peaks at July to August. January and February are the two quietest months in terms of tourist visits and activity.
  • The palace is wheelchair accessible. Hence, anyone who is visiting on a wheelchair should have no problem exploring it.
  • When you are done exploring the palace and gardens of Schonbrunn, you will have a few other attractions to see including the Maria Hietzing Church, Hietzinger Cemetery and Vienna Technical Museum.

View the complete list of UNESCO World Heritage sites I have visited.