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As of 2019, there are 55 UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Italy, tied with China for the most of any country. Of these 55 sites, 50 are cultural and 5 are natural.
Map of Italy’s World Heritage Sites
Italy UNESCO Sites
18th Century Palace at Caserta with the Park, the Aqueduct of Vanvitelli, and the San Leucio Complex (1997)
The monumental complex of Caserta was built during the 18th century to rival the Royal Palace of Madrid and the Versailles Palace in France. The creation of the complex was commissioned for by Bourbon king Charles III. It was recognized as one of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Italy for its exceptional ability to bring a unity from the palace, parks, and gardens. There is also a natural woodland, silk factory and hunting lodges within the complex. It is also exceptional in its ability to be integrated into the natural setting of the land.
Arab-Norman Palermo and the Cathedral Churches of Cefalu and Monreale (2015)
This is the newest cultural site included in the list of World Heritage Sites in Italy. It was inscribed on the list in 2015. It is a group of nine religious and civic structures that were built during the era of Norman Kingdom of Sicily, which was around mid- to late-12th century. The site includes two palaces, a bridge, and cathedrals.
Archaeological Area and the Patriarchal Basilica of Aquileia (1998)
The city of Aquileia was one of the wealthiest during the rise of the Early Roman Empire. However, it was destroyed around the mid-5th century. Today, the majority of the city remains unexcavated and is considered as one of the biggest archaeological reserves in the world. The patriarchal basilica in the site is also noted for its exceptional mosaic pavement.
Archaeological Area of Agrigento (1997)
This area was included in the UNESCO list for its outstanding ability to showcase Greater Greece art and architecture within the Sicily area. In fact, the Valle del Templi is considered a national monument and is the major attraction within this site. The park and landscape around the temple measures at 1,300 hectares and is the largest archaeological site in the world.
This cultural site is located in the province of Naples. It was included into the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Italy for its amazing preservation after the two flourishing towns of Pompei and Herculaneum were destroyed by the eruption of Vesuvius. The site has since been progressively excavated and much of the towns’ features had been preserved by volcanic ashes.
Assisi, the Basilica of San Francesco and Other Franciscan Sites (2000)
Assisi is a medieval city built on a hill. It is most famous for being the birthplace of Saint Francis. The Basilica of San Francesco is recognized by UNESCO for its medieval art masterpieces that include the paintings from Cimabue, Pietro Lorenzetti, Simone Martini, and Giotto. This has helped recognize Assisi as the main point of development for European art and architecture.
This botanical garden is located in northeast Italy. The garden was founded by the Venetian Republic during the mid-1500s, making it the oldest botanical garden that is in its original location. The garden is affiliated with the University of Padua. The garden measures over 22,000 square meters and is noted for its historical design and large collection.
Castel del Monte (1996)
This castle is located in the province of Bari, Apulia and was inscribed into the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Italy in 1996. The castle was originally built during the 13th century and features a combination of Muslim and Cistercian gothic architectural style. It is also one of the best examples of a perfectly symmetrical design.
The Cathedral of Modena has been around since the 12th century and is a work of two well-known artists in Italy: Lanfranco and Wiligelmus. The cathedral is the purest example of Romanesque art in the city. The UNESCO listing recognizes the piazza and tower next to the Cathedral of Modena.
Church and Dominican Convent of Santa Maria Delle Grazie with “The Last Supper” by Leonardo da Vinci (1980)
This site was included in the UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Italy in 1980. The site includes an entire complex with the refectory of the Convent of Santa Maria Delle Grazie as the main architectural feature. The work of Leonardo da Vinci, the Last Supper, is also found on the north wall of the complex.
Cilento and Vallo di Diano National Park with the Archaeological Sites of Paestum and Velia, and the Certosa di Padula (1998)
This is another cultural site in the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Italy. This cultural landscape of Cilento includes sanctuaries and settlements that portray the historical evolution of the land. It also served as an important trading route and also the center of political and cultural interactions during the medieval times. To this day, you will see the ruins of the city of Paestum and Velia on the site.
City of Verona (2000)
The city of Verona was named as one of the UNESCO sites in Italy in 2000 for its cultural value. It is located in northern Italy and is a popular tourist attraction. Verona’s artistic heritage is what has earned the nod from UNESCO – there are several operas, shows and annual fairs held in the city of Verona. In addition, this is also home to an ancient Roman amphitheater which was also used for theatrical performances during the ancient times.
The city of Vicenza was founded during the 2nd century BC but flourished during the Venetian rule. The city is best known for the works of Andrea Palladio, who created various architectural masterpieces in Vicenza to showcase classical Roman architectural style. You can find many of Palladio’s works, villas and buildings, throughout the Veneto region in Italy.
The Amalfi Coast is not only a popular tourist attraction but is also one of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Italy. It is recognized for its exceptional showcase of Mediterranean coastal landscape. The rural landscape and architecture in the region is also an example of how it adapted to the mountainous landscape.
Crespi d’Adda (1995)
This company town was established during the 19th and 20th centuries. It is located in the province of Bergamo in Lombardy. It served to be a town for workers of a textile manufacturing company. Today, the town that features a school, clinic, theater, and sports center, together with residential buildings had been preserved.
The city and province of Ravenna were recognized by UNESCO for its unique collection of early Christian mosaics. Some of them were believed to have dated to as far back as the 5th century during the time of the Roman Empire.
Etruscan Necropolises of Cerveteri and Tarquinia (2004)
This site comprises two large cemeteries that showcase two types of burial practices. It is also an evidence of the evolution of the Etruscan culture, which was responsible for the development of earliest urban civilization. The tombs in the cemetery are monumental; they were cut in the rock and topped with burial mounds.
The city of Ferrara was recognized as the center of intellect and art during the 15th and 16th centuries, which was the Renaissance period in Italy. Great artists like Andrea Mantegna, Jacopo Bellini, and Piero Della Francesca were responsible for creating the decorations on the House of Este. The concept of ‘ideal city’ was also established in Ferrara during this time.
Genoa: Le Strade Nuove and the System of the Palazzi del Rolli (2006)
These two attractions (Le Strade Nuove and System of the Palazzi del Rolli) were established in the 16th to 17th centuries during the height of Genoa’s seafaring and financial industry. It is the representative of the first major urban development project in Europe.
Historic Centre of Florence (1982)
The historic centre of Florence is an architectural and artistic attraction. Therefore, it is included in the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Italy. The city of Florence has become a symbol of the Renaissance in Italy. It rose to cultural and economic power under the rule of the Medici during the 15th century. The historic center features the largest collection of cultural heritage sites in the city.
Historic Centre of Naples (1995)
Naples was founded by Greek settlers during the 470 BCE, making it one of the oldest cities in Europe. It is part of the province of the same name. The city’s historic center is home to many important monuments including the Castel Nuovo and Church of Santa Chiara.
Historic Centre of Rome, the Properties of the Holy See in that City Enjoying Extraterritorial Rights and San Paolo Fuori le Mura (1980)
Rome served as the original center of the Roman Republic and the Roman Empire. It was established as the capital of the Christian world during the 4th century. In 1990, the UNESCO World Heritage Site listing was expanded to include the walls of Urban VIII to include several monuments such as the Forums, Trajan’s Column, and many other buildings of Papal Rome.
This medieval town is among the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Italy. It is also an important relay point for pilgrims traveling to Rome. There were around 72 tower houses built in the town to symbolize the wealth and power of the patrician families who lived in this town during the 14th to 15th centuries.
Historic Centre of Siena (1995)
Siena is the purest example of a medieval city in Italy. It rivals the city of Florence when it comes to urban planning. To this day, the city has preserved the gothic buildings that were built in the 12th century. The entire city of Siena was built around the Piazza del Campo and its surrounding landscape.
Historic Centre of the City of Pienza (1996)
The city of Pienza is located in Tuscany, Italy. It was Pope Pius II that initiated the Renaissance town planning in the city to update the look of his birth city. Architect Bernardo Rossellino was tapped to transform this urban space into a pure Renaissance town. Within this city, you will find many Gothic style churches and monuments.
Historic Centre of Urbino (1998)
The town of Urbino is located on a hill that was recognized as one of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Italy in 1998. During the 15th century, the cultural growth in Urbino attracted artists and scholars from different parts of Italy. It suffered a cultural stagnation by the turn of the 16th century, which has been preserved until today.
Isole Eolie (Aeolian Islands) – 2000
This is a volcanic archipelago located north of Sicily, which was named after demigod Aeolus. This is a popular tourist destination and was listed as a natural site under UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Italy. The present shape of the island was formed due to volcanic activity for approximately 260,000 years.
Late Baroque Towns of the Val di Noto (2002)
The eight towns in Sicily represent a collection of architectural and artistic achievement during the late 17th century. From the urban buildings and town planning of these towns, they all depict that late Baroque style.
Longobards in Italy, Places of the Power (2011)
There are seven groups of important buildings that were recognized into this site. These buildings, monasteries, fortresses and churches are referred to as a group as “Places of the Power”. These properties exemplify Lombard’s role in the development of the spiritual and cultural landscape of the town during the spread of Medieval European Christianity.
Mantua and Sabbioneta (2008)
Located in the Po Valley in Italy, these two cities represent the purest example of Renaissance town planning. Mantua’s city layout showcases the different stages of growth during the Roman Period. Meanwhile, Sabbioneta can be referred to as a single-period city with its angle grid layout.
Medici Villas and Gardens in Tuscany (2013)
The gorgeous and splendid Medici Villas of Tuscany made it to the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Italy in June 2013. There are a total of 12 villas and 2 gardens included in this site. According to UNESCO, they were included as a heritage site because they exemplify modern European culture and rural construction that was in harmony with nature.
Monte San Giorgio (2003)
This is a natural site recognized by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site in order to preserve this wooded mountain. The site is recognized as the best-known record of marine life during the Triassic period. The region of Poncione d’Arzo was recently added to the preserved area by UNESCO.
Mount Etna (2013)
This is another natural site included in the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Italy. Mount Etna is an active stratovolcano located on Sicily’s east coast. Mount Etna is the tallest active volcano in Europe wherein its fertile volcanic soils aid in the agriculture and vineyards of the land.
Piazza del Duomo, Pisa (1987)
There is a large concentration of monuments within the Piazza del Duomo. In particular, there are four major architectural monuments that include a cemetery, cathedral and baptistery. The Leaning Tower is the most distinguishable monumental art, not only in Pisa but in all of Italy.
The coast between Cinque Terre and Portovenere is not only a famous tourist attraction (a favorite among photographers) but also one of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Italy. The layout of the small towns within the area and how they blend seamlessly with the prevailing landscape has earned them the nod from UNESCO. The steep and uneven terrain and the settlements that were established here is proof of the humans’ ability to adapt to the surroundings and thrive over the past millennium.
This site listing is a collection of prehistoric dwellings or remnants of earlier settlements near the Alps. The site is shared by several other countries that are located along the borders of the Alps. Most of these homes were built near rivers, lakes or wetlands.
This UNESCO site in Italy is a group of buildings located in the province of Turin in Italy. It was inscribed on the list in 1997. The buildings are located in Turin and Piedmont with the most notable inclusions being the Palazzo Reale, Reggia di Venaria Reale and the Castle of Govone. These buildings were tied to the House of Savoy, an ancient royal family in the year 1003.
Rhaetian Railway in the Albula / Bernina Landscapes (2008)
This railway system connects Italy to Switzerland and ties two of the most historic railway lines in Europe. The railway route passes through the Swiss Alps. It was opened in the early 20th century and is composed of an impressive set of structures that include viaducts, bridges, and tunnels. It is noted for its outstanding feat in the technical, architectural and environmental aspect tied with civil engineering.
Rock Drawings in Valcamonica (1979)
This is a cultural listing in the UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Italy. These stone carvings can be found in the Camonica Valley of Brescia Province in Italy. It is believed to be one of the largest prehistoric petroglyphs in the world. It was the first site recognized by UNESCO in Italy.
Sacri Monti of Piedmont and Lombardy (2003)
The Sacri Monti, or Sacred Mountains, is a series of chapels and architectural features (there are a total of 9) in northern Italy that was built from the late 16th to early 17th centuries. These buildings were constructed in dedication to the Christian faith. However, aside from the religious importance, these buildings were also notable for their distinctive ability to blend in with the natural landscape of the land, which consists of hills, forests, and lakes. It was inscribed into the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Italy in 2003.
Su Nuraxi di Barumini (1997)
This archaeological site in Sardinia, Italy was recognized into the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Italy in 1997. This site is a settlement during the 17th century BCE Nuraghe, which consists of four corner towers with a central one, and a village. According to scholars, these buildings were the best expression of the Nuragic civilization and was thus recognized by UNESCO as a culturally important site.
Syracuse and the Rocky Necropolis of Pantalica (2005)
Located in the province of Syracuse in Sicily, this site consists of two main features. The first one is the Necropolis of Pantalica, which is home to over 5,000 tombs that date back to as far back as the 7th century BC. The Ancient Syracuse is the other half of the site. It forms the nucleus of the city’s foundation with many ancient features such as the Temple of Athena, Greek Theatre, a fort, a Roman amphitheater, and many more.
The Dolomites (2009)
The Dolomites is a mountain range in northeastern Italy. It forms part of the Southern Limestone Alps and extends to several provinces in Italy. There is one national park (the Dolomiti Bellunesi National Park) and several other regional parks that are included in this heritage site.
The Sassi and the Park of the Rupestrian Churches of Matera (1993)
This site is recognized as one of the World Heritage Sites in Italy for its pure example of the troglodyte settlement in the Mediterranean. According to scholars, the first inhabited settlement in the region dates back to the Paleolithic period. There were also other settlements that were built after that, which also indicate the development of human history in the region during that time.
The Trulli of Alberobello (1996)
Located in Puglia, this is a collection of limestone dwellings that showcase the use of drywall construction, a well-known building technique used during prehistoric times. The trulli is the term used to refer to the roughly worked limestone boulders that were obtained from fields near the region. These structures are pyramidal or domed in shape with roofs.
Val d’Orcia (2004)
Located in the Tuscany region of Italy, Val d’Orcia is a series of hills that start from Siena and ends in Monte Amiata. These hills are cultivated and provide the perfect backdrop for the picturesque towns of Pienza, Montalcino, and Radicofani. This landscape has been depicted in several modern photographic works for its perfect backdrop.
Venice and its Lagoon (1987)
Venice established itself as a maritime power during the 10th century. It is a popular tourist attraction for the architectural masterpiece all over the city. In fact, you will find works from many known artists such as Giorgione, Veronese, Titian, and Tintoretto.
Villa Adriana, Tivoli (1999)
Also known as Hadrian’s Villa, Villa Adriana is a Roman archaeological complex located in Tivoli. It is owned by the Republic of Italy. It is considered a culturally important site since it served as a retreat for Roman Emperor Hadrian during the 2nd century AD.
Villa d’Este, Tivoli (2001)
This 16th-century villa in Tivoli is well known for its hillside Italian Renaissance garden. The garden also consists of elaborately designed fountains. Today, Villa d’Este is an Italian state museum and was added to the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Italy in 2001.
Villa Romana del Casale (1997)
Built during the first quarter of the 4th century, this Roman villa is known as the richest, largest and most comprehensive collection of Roman mosaics that ever existed. It is also one of the most luxurious villas built in Sicily during the early 4th century.
Vineyard Landscape of Piedmont: Langhe-Roero and Moferrato (2014)
This site encompasses five wine-growing areas in the region of Piedmont, Italy. This region is considered to be one of the most important sources of wine in the country. It is considered a cultural site in the UNESCO listing for its outstanding ability to combine human and man’s effort to shape the wine culture of the country.
Venetian Works of Defence between 16th and 17th centuries: Stato da Terra – western Stato da Mar (2017)
This transnational property is the newest addition to the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Croatia, Italy and Montenegro. This property encompasses the 6 fortifications that were built along the Adriatic Sea from the 16th to the 17th centuries. These forts represent the evolution of military solutions by the Venetian army. At the same time, they are recognized for their innovative use of architectural techniques. These fortifications served as the defensive line that protected the Venetian commercial network.
Ivrea, Industrial City of the 20th Century (2018)
The industrial city of Ivrea is located in the Piedmont region and developed as the testing ground for Olivetti, manufacturer of typewriters, mechanical calculators and office computers. It comprises a large factory and buildings designed to serve the administration and social services, as well as residential units. Designed by leading Italian urban planners and architects, mostly between the 1930s and the 1960s, this architectural ensemble reflects the ideas of the Community Movement (Movimento Comunità). A model social project, Ivrea expresses a modern vision of the relationship between industrial production and architecture.
Le Colline del Prosecco di Conegliano e Valdobbiadene (2019)
Located in north-eastern Italy, the site includes part of the vine growing landscape of the Prosecco wine production area. The landscape is characterized by ‘hogback’ hills, ciglioni – small plots of vines on narrow grassy terraces – forests, small villages, and farmland. For centuries, this rugged terrain has been shaped and adapted by man. Since the 17th century, the use of ciglioni has created a particular chequerboard landscape consisting of rows of vines parallel and vertical to the slopes. In the 19th century, the bellussera technique of training the vines contributed to the aesthetic characteristics of the landscape.
View the list of all of the UNESCO World Heritage sites I have visited on my travels.