Travel and Dining
Must-See World Heritage Sites in Italy
Italy has one of the longest histories in Europe, with some parts going back to tens of thousands of years ago. Although the Italian government and local authorities do their utmost to preserve everything that's left of the origin of the country, UNESCO helps a hand with their World Heritage program, in which the most important cultural sites of the world are being protected for erosion, looting and other threats.
Almost 50 of the 936 World Heritage Sites are located in Italy. Many of these culturally important sites in Italy are world famous. What to think of the Leaning Tower of Pisa, the canals of Venice and the Holy See? Numerous other sites may attract fewer tourists, but are equally stunning to see or interesting to visit.
Rock drawings in Valcamonica
This was the first Italian site to make it to UNESCO's list in 1979. With around 200,000 drawings it is the largest collection of prehistoric petroglyphs in the world. The drawings were created in the Camonica valley in Lombardy, in the north of the country, and the oldest drawings are approximately 8,000 years old.
Historic center of Florence
Three years later, the historic center of Tuscan city Florence was added to the World Heritage List. Many of the Tuscany hotels are packed with people wanting to see one or more of the famous Florentine landmarks, such as the Ponte Vecchio, the Uffizi Gallery or the Duomo of Florence, but UNESCO also recognized many other historic elements in the city in their inscription.
The province of Piedmont, in the northwest of the country, may be less popular amongst tourists, but it is a stunning region to visit. Many are missing out on the Residences of the Royal House of Savoy, and that really is a shame. With 14 palazzos, this combined World Heritage Site, located in and near Turin, is a must-see for palace-lovers.
Castel del Monte
Hidden in Italy's boot, in the province of Puglia, stands the 800-year-old and perfectly octagonal Castel del Monte. The location—the castle is completely surrounded by vineyards—the shape, the history and the colors are an amazing combination. Almost everyone will come across Castel del Monte during a visit to Italy, as it is featured on the Italian penny.
Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi
The 790-year-old Basilica Papale di San Francesco d'Assisi is one of the most important places of Christian pilgrimage in Italy. However, people don't only travel to Assisi for religious reasons; it is also a popular landmark for architects, as it is an early example of the Gothic style in Italy.
The historic center of Naples is nothing less than amazing. The numerous ancient alleys, buildings and squares create an atmosphere that has no equal. The nearby World Heritage sites of Pompeii and Amalfi Coast contribute to the uniqueness and the cultural importance of this region.
Su nuraxi di Barumini
The Italian island of Sardinia is mainly known for its Costa Smeralda, where the rich and famous enjoy their holidays in luxury hotels and villas. However, Sardinia also has a very different side, which goes back several thousand years. Nuraghi, ancient buildings that can only be found on Sardinia, are the most important remnants of these times. Su Nuraxi di Barumini is the most well known nuraghe on the island.
The latest addition to UNESCO's list with Italian World Heritage is a group of seven important remains of the Germanic tribe the Lombards, who once ruled the Italian kingdom. In Italy, the Lombards were mainly known as the Longobards, and the basilica of San Salvatore of Spoleto and the Santa Sofia complex in Benevento are amongst the landmarks they left behind.
Paolo Rossi works for Charming Sardinia Luxury Hotels, a travel agency located in the Sardinian capital Cagliari, where he shares his love for the island with tourists. His company also runs Charming Italy, a blog about all of the attractive aspects of Italy.