I have a fascination with World Heritage Sites.  I can’t really explain why, but my logic says that if it is unique and worth preserving for posterity, then it must be worth seeing. With that in mind, I decided to put together what I believe to be 10 of the best world heritage sites in Italy.

When I was thinking about writing this, I was amazed when I started totalling up the number of sites I have visited around the world. For the most part, they have been impressive and I have rarely been disappointed.

The World Heritage Committee was established in 1976 and the first sites on the World Heritage List were added to the list in 1978. Each year more sites are added. There are currently 1073 sites on the list located in 162 countries. They are broken down as follows: 832 cultural sites, 206 natural sites and 35 mixed sites.

This is a walk down memory lane for me and I hope that you will enjoy the trip as well. These are some of my favourite sites.

 

The Best World Heritage Sites in Italy

 

The historic centre of Florence

Florence was built on an Etruscan settlement. During the Renaissance and the reign of the Medicis in the 15th and 16th centuries it developed a strong economy and became a cultural centre. The centre covers 505 ha and it still has the 14th-century city walls as a boundary.The city is filled with magnificent examples of art, architecture and sculptures.

 

The Duomo Florence Italy

The Duomo Florence

Venice and its Lagoon

Venice was founded in the 5th century and became a major seagoing power by the 10th century. It is spread across 118 islands and covers 50 000 km². It was one of the greatest capitals in the medieval world. There still is a wealth of art and architectural masterpieces throughout the city to explore. Here’s the link to my 3 day city guide to help you plan your trip and discover some of its treasures.

 

The Grand Canal Venice Italy
The Grand Canal Venice

 

Naples

Naples was established by the Greeks in 470 B.C.  Visiting Naples is like travelling in a time machine with glimpses of the past all around you. From the piazzas, churches, monuments, cobbled streets and castles it is a treasure trove of artistic and historical sights. It is vibrant and colourful and exudes life. People either love it or hate it, there seems to be no middle ground. I love it! If you are pressed for time my post will help you make the most of your visit to the city.

 

Street in Naples
Street in Naples

 

Herculaneum

Herculaneum is the sister site to Pompei but is easier to explore and not as well known. It is a fascinating site to visit as it is so well preserved. It is also really close to Naples and easy to get to.  More detailed information can be found in my guide to visiting Herculaneum.

 

Herculaneum
Herculaneum

 

Pisa

Pisa in Tuscany is a historic town near the mouth of the Arno river. The main attractions are grouped together in the Campo dei Miracoli or the Field of Miracles.The Unesco accreditation is for the Piazza del Duomo where you will find a group of world-famous monuments. There are 4 significant medieval buildings – the cathedral, the campanile        (leaning tower), the baptistery and the cemetery all of which are magnificent so it makes it a really easy city to go sightseeing in.

 

Leaning Tower of Pisa
Leaning Tower of Pisa

 

Santa Maria delle Grazie and The Last Supper

The refractory of the convent, in Milan, was begun in 1463 and remodelled at the end of the 15th century.  On the north wall is Leonardo da Vinci’s The Last Supper which was painted between 1495 and 1497. He painted it directly on drywall which means it’s technically not a fresco (which is normally painted on wet plaster) even though it might look like it is. Due to the technique used the painting started decaying within years of completion. If you would like to visit this magnificent work of art all the information you need is my ultimate guide to Milan.

 

Leonardo da Vinci The Last Supper Milan
The Last Supper

Historic Centre of San Gimignano

San Gimignano is not far from Florence. It was an important town for pilgrims following the Via Francigena route to Rome. There were 72 tower houses built, but only 14 remain today. It is a beautiful little town and also has some interesting pieces of art dating from the 14th and 15th centuries.  Try and add it to your Italian itinerary and you won’t be disappointed.

 

San Gimignano Tuscany
San Gimignano

 

The Amalfi Coast

This coastline is breathtakingly beautiful. When you see it you can’t help but be in awe of the natural diversity and the physical beauty. The terrain is rugged with vineyards, orchards and houses dotting the slopes. Towns like Amalfi and Ravello have some amazing buildings and works of art to explore. It has so much to offer it is easy to get lost there for a week or more.

 

Positano Amalfi Coast
Positano

 

Early Christian Monuments of Ravenna

Ravenna featured prominently in Italian history from the 5th century. It was the seat of the Roman Empire and then Byzantine Italy until the 8th century. There are 8 buildings that were built during the 5th and 6th centuries. They are filled with a mixture of both Christian and Eastern styled mosaics which are beautifully preserved and well worth seeing.

 

Empress Theodora - San Vitale Mosaic in Ravenna
Empress Theodora – San Vitale Mosaic in Ravenna

 

Historic Centre of Rome

Interestingly enough the classification also includes some of the properties owned by the Vatican that are outside the boundaries of the state.

Legend has it that Rome was founded by Romulus and Remus in 753 BC. It was the centre of the Roman Empire and then became the capital of the Christian world in the 4th century. The heritage status applies to the walls of the city and some of the main monuments including the Forum, the Mausoleum of Augustus, the Mausoleum of Hadrian, the Pantheon, Trajan’s Column and the Column of Marcus Aurelius. It also includes some of the religious and public buildings of papal Rome.

If you are going to Rome and are planning to see the main attractions here’s the link.

The Roman Forum
The Roman Forum

 

You don’t have to be a culture vulture or a history buff to enjoy the world heritage sites. Find the time to explore what is available locally. Unesco has a fabulously detailed site, but to be honest most of it is quite boring. It does, however, have a good list that you can use to explore further.

Compiling this list of the best world heritage sites in Italy brought back many happy memories of my visits to Italy. With everything that is happening in the world today who knows how much longer these amazing treasure will be around. Make the most of them while you can!

 

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10 Of the best UNESCO sites
10 Of the best UNESCO sites

 

The best World Heritage Sites in Italy

The best Unesco World Heritage Sites

Italian World heritage sites
10 of the best World Heritage sites in Italy

 

 

 

 

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27 COMMENTS

  1. Gosh I don’t think I’d want to put a limit on the number heritage sites in Italy. This isn’t a bad place to start though – I’ve seen many of them but there are a few still on my wishlist and a few I hadn’t heard of like Herculaneum.

    • This was meant to whet your appetite :-). There are so many great sites to see you are completely right in saying that it is difficult to limit them. I am so glad that you discovered a new one to visit. Herculaneum is a fantastic site!

  2. I love visiting Italy and I love exploring places like these. I think I got to do three more on your list but my favorite so far is Florence. The centre of the city has a magical feelings, one where I could live and hope to live like a local for days on end.

    • There are so many sites to see in Italy, but I did leave some of the more obscure ones off my list. Florence is also one of my favourite spots. I rented an apartment near the Dúffizi Gallery on my last visit and it was fabulous. It was the perfect way to enjoy the city.

  3. Hey Janine,

    First of all smashing photos!

    I too always look up World Heritage Sites before I travel as I am rarely disappointed. I have been to many of these, and wow, they are stunning. Especially Firenze and the Amalfi.

    The only one I can’t agree on is Naples, but that is on me. I went there when I was a very green traveller about 10 years ago, and it was one of the first cities I visited in Europe. I thought it was gross and dirty, and I did it all wrong. If I were to go bak now I am sure that I would see its charm.

    I still have the olive chopping board I purchased in San Gimignano.

    • Thanks so much! Naples is always a controversial city. It is a bit grungy around the edges but I think since you visited it has cleaned up its act quite a bit. Isn’t it great how we have cool items we use daily from our travels? I always buy practical things to use as well.

  4. As someone who chases UNESCO World Heritage Sites – this is a perfect post. Italy has so many of them that you need some help to decide which ones to choose if you do not have time to do all of them. Glad that you included both the popular ones like in Rome and the not so popular one like Ravenna and Herculaneum. So want to visit Italy sometime soon.

    • I am delighted that you enjoyed the post. Italy is loaded with UNESCO sites and it is really difficult to decide what to see. When you do get to Italy you will love it!

  5. I also have a fascinating with World Heritage Sites – they’re the most interesting examples of our world history which I’m very fascinated by. I’ve been throughout quite a lot of Italy ,and obviously as home to one of the worlds greatest Empires, there’s so much here. Florence, Venice and Rome were among my favorite stops in Italy, though one place I haven’t yet been is Pisa. Would love to get to Bologna too at some stage which I believe has quite a lot of heritage 🙂

    • Bologna is also on my list.It is a great destination for foodies as well. Italy is steeped in so much history it is a fascinating country.The cities that are your favourites are mine as well, but I have to add Milan to the list. I never thought that I would enjoy my visit there, but it was a stunning city with beautiful architecture that surprised me.

  6. I”m a sucker for World Heritage sites too – they rarely disappoint (me, anyway!). This is a great list of Italian sites; I’ve been to several but there’s some I haven’t heard of, like Ravenna.
    Your photos are gorgeous too – love the one of the streets of Naples!
    Herculaneum is next on my list – I think my next trip to Italy will have to be there.

  7. I spent 10 days in Italy and explored more than half the places you’ve mentioned here but I always tell my friends, I am so unsatisfied with what I’ve done and seen because I know there’s so much more I wanted to see but couldn’t. For example, in your list itself, Herculaneum and San Gimignano look like the kind of places I’d love to explore! Then there are other places, near the Italian Alps. Or Sicily for that matter. Even Milano. There’s so much more, I need to make a trip soon!

  8. I have a thing for world heritage sites as well! Luckily I’ve visited lots of them in Europe. I’m dying to visit Florence as I’ve never been there 🙁 Naples was a city to love or hate as you mentioned and I am one of the lovers as I absolutely adored its energy and vibe!

  9. Oh! I would like to do all the places mentioned here. I have been to Italy just once and visited Rome and Venice. We had planned on Pisa but due to some issues with our booking that had to be cancelled. 2017 summer we were not far from Trieste while we were in Slovenia but we could not plan it in… So hoping this year I will be lucky enough.
    When possible I love to visit Heritage sites too.

  10. I’ve been to Italy a few times and also visited some of the sites listed here but need to go back and explore more of the other UNESCO sites, there are some places never heard off.

  11. Great to see your collection of the top 10 sites in Italy! My husband and I are currently travelling through Italy as part of our journey to visit every UNESCO World Heritage Site in the world. We hope to visit most of the rest of the ones in Italy we haven’t yet gotten to, except for the one on Sardinia, the Dolomites and the Rock Drawings at Valcamonica. We managed to visit the Last Supper this afternoon, site #245 for me, I think. (We knew on this visit we had to book the tickets way in advance!) I love that you’ve included Ravenna, which I visited last week. The mosaics are so beautiful and the buildings so old, and I would never have heard of them if not for them being UNESCO listed.

    • You sound like you are on an epic journey and I am envious! Isn’t the Last Supper incredible? I found it a totally surreal experience. Like you I have also uncovered some amazing sites thanks to UNESCO. There are loads of interesting sites in India as well. Have you visited any of those yet?

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