10 UNESCO world heritage sites for your bucket list


Like many other Countries, Italy is also entering a new lockdown. Covid is putting all of us at a serious test, trying our patience and temper and keeping us from doing what we really enjoy. In my case that is travelling. I really can’t wait to board on a plane and fly to a place I wanted to visit since long… However I am upset it will take us more than expected before actually being able to travel again as we were all used to do. Thus, I decided to check what else my own Country (Italy), has to offer, in the event domestic tourism will have to be my choice in 2021 too.

Italy ranks n. 1 in the UNESCO world heritage list with 55 sites all across the Country, most of which are pretty famous worldwide such as Venice, Florence, Rome and the Holy See, Pompeii. Others are less known and cover aspects of my Country that are natural, historical, artistic and even industrial. I checked all of them and made my own list of UNESCO sites, that are less known and deserve, from my point of view, an in depth visit. You may also add them to your bucket list and plan a travel to experience some of them.

Given that every Unesco site is unique, my list is just a list, not a ranking, because all of these places are peculiar in their own way, as described in the Unesco’s committee description of each.

10 – Historic Centre of the City of Pienza

Cathedral of Pienza- Photo from the web

It was in this Tuscan town that Renaissance town-planning concepts were first put into practice after Pope Pius II decided, in 1459, to transform the look of his birthplace. He chose the architect Bernardo Rossellino, who applied the principles of his mentor, Leon Battista Alberti. This new vision of urban space was realized in the superb square known as Piazza Pio II and the buildings around it: the Piccolomini Palace, the Borgia Palace and the cathedral with its pure Renaissance exterior and an interior in the late Gothic style of south German churches.

9 – Botanical Garden, Padua

Botanical Garden – Padua. Photo from the web

The world’s first university botanical garden was created in Padua in 1545, which makes the Botanical Garden of Padua the oldest surviving example of this type of cultural property. Botanical gardens have played a vital role throughout history in the communication and exchange not only of ideas and concepts but also of plants and knowledge. The Botanical Garden of Padua is the original of botanical gardens in Europe, and represents the birth of botanical science, of scientific exchanges, and understanding of the relationship between nature and culture. It preserves its original layout, a circular central plot symbolizing the world surrounded by a ring of water representing the ocean. The plan is a perfect circle with a large inscribed square, which is subdivided into four units by orthogonal paths, oriented according to the main cardinal directions.

8 – Rhaetian Railway in the Albula / Bernina Landscapes

Trenino del Bernina – Photo from the web

Rhaetian Railway in the Albula / Bernina Landscapes, brings together two historic railway lines that cross the Swiss Alps through two passes. Opened in 1904, the Albula line in the north western part of the property is 67 km long. It features an impressive set of structures including 42 tunnels and covered galleries and 144 viaducts and bridges. The 61 km Bernina pass line features 13 tunnels and galleries and 52 viaducts and bridges. The property is exemplary of the use of the railway to overcome the isolation of settlements in the Central Alps early in the 20th century, with a major and lasting socio-economic impact on life in the mountains. It constitutes an outstanding technical, architectural and environmental ensemble and embodies architectural and civil engineering achievements, in harmony with the landscapes through which they pass.

7 – Ivrea, industrial city of the 20th century

Ivrea – Photo from the web

Founded in 1908 by Camillo Olivetti, the Industrial City of Ivrea is an industrial and socio-cultural project of the 20th century. The Olivetti Company manufactured typewriters, mechanical calculators and desktop computers. Ivrea represents a model of the modern industrial city and a response to the challenges posed by rapid industrial change. It is therefore able to exhibit a response and a contribution to 20th century theories of urbanism and industrialisation. Ivrea’s urban form and buildings were designed by some of the best-known Italian architects and town-planners of the period from the 1930s to the 1960s, under the direction of Adriano Olivetti. The city is comprised of buildings for manufacturing, administration, social services and residential uses, reflecting the ideas of the Movimento Comunità (Community Movement) which was founded in Ivrea in 1947 based on Adriano Olivetti’s 1945 book l’Ordine politico delle Comunità (The Political Order of Communities). The industrial city of Ivrea therefore represents a significant example of 20th century theories of urban development and architecture in response to industrial and social transformations, including the transition from mechanical to digital industries.

6 – Villa Romana del Casale

Mosaics, Villa del Casale, Piazza Armerina. Photo from the web

The Committee decided to inscribe this property considering that the Villa del Casale at Piazza Armerina (Sicily) is the supreme example of a luxury Roman villa, which graphically illustrates the predominant social and economic structure of its age. The mosaics that decorate it are exceptional for their artistic quality and invention as well as their extent.

5 – Vineyard Landscape of Piedmont: Langhe-Roero and Monferrato

Vineyard landscape of Piedmont. Photo by Matteo Gazzarata

The vineyard landscapes of Langhe-Roero and Monferrato in Piedmont consist of a selection of five distinct winegrowing areas and a castle, whose names evoke profound and ancient expertise in the relationship between man and his environment. They reflect a slowly developed association between a diverse range of soils, grape varieties that are often native, and suitable winemaking processes. They offer panoramas of carefully cultivated hillsides, following ancient land divisions punctuated with buildings that lend structure to the visual space: hilltop villages, castles, Romanesque churches, farms, ciabots, cellars and storehouses for cellaring and for the commercial distribution of the wine in the small towns and larger towns on the margins of the vineyards. The serial property is outstanding for its harmony, and the balance between the aesthetic qualities of its landscapes, the architectural and historical diversity of the built elements associated with the wine production activities and an authentic and ancient art of winemaking. 

4 – Early Christian Monuments of Ravenna

Sant’Apollinare, Ravenna. Photo from the web

The serial property Early Christian Monuments of Ravenna in north-east Italy consists of eight monuments, namely the Mausoleum of Galla Placidia, the Neonian Baptistery, the Basilica of Sant’Apollinare Nuovo, the Arian Baptistery, the Archiepiscopal Chapel, the Mausoleum of Theodoric, the Church of San Vitale and the Basilica of Sant’Apollinare in Classe, built between the 5th and 6th centuries AD. These religious monuments, decorated with precious marble, stuccos and mosaics, reflect the major historical, political and religious events that took place in Ravenna, which became the capital of the Western Roman Empire in 402 AD, and remained prominent first Ostrogothic and then Byzantine capital in Italy through the fifth and sixth centuries.

3 – Genoa: Le Strade Nuove and the system of the Palazzi dei Rolli

Palazzi dei Rolli – Genova. Photo from the web

The Strade Nuove and the system of the Palazzi dei Rolli in Genoa’s historic centre date from the late 16th and early 17th centuries when the Republic of Genoa was at the height of its financial and seafaring power. The site represents the first example in Europe of an urban development project parcelled out by a public authority within a unitary framework and associated to a particular system of ‘public lodging’ in private residences, as decreed by the Senate in 1576. The site includes an ensemble of Renaissance and Baroque palaces along the so-called ‘new streets’ (Strade Nuove). The Palazzi dei Rolli offer an extraordinary variety of different solutions, achieving universal value in adapting to the particular characteristics of the site and to the requirements of a specific social and economic organization. They also offer an original example of a public network of private residences designated to host state visits.

2 – Historic Centre of Urbino

Urbino. Photo from the web

The small hill town of Urbino, in the Marche Region, experienced a great cultural flowering in the 15th century, attracting artists and scholars from all over Italy and beyond, and influencing cultural developments elsewhere in Europe. Owing to its economic and cultural stagnation from the 16th century onwards, it has preserved its Renaissance appearance to a remarkable extent.

1 – Residences of the Royal House of Savoy

Hunting Lodge of Stupinigi (Torino). Photo by Matteo Gazzarata

The plan for the Royal Residences was initially conceived by the Duke of Savoy, Emmanuel-Philibert, when he transferred the capital of his Duchy to Turin. His successor, Charles-Emmanuel I, and his wife developed and implemented the plan to completely reorganise the area during the 17th and 18th centuries giving the city and surrounding area a Baroque character. The plan celebrates the absolute power of the Royal House of Savoy. The capital was organized and developed along the axes defined by the ‘Command Area’ as the central node including the Palazzo Reale, Palazzo Chiablese and Palazzo della Prefettura and managing political, administrative and cultural aspects of life which was surrounded by a system of maisons de plaisance. These villas including Castello di Rivoli, Castello di Moncalieri and Castello di Venaria created a Corona di Delizie, or ‘Crown of Delights’ around the capital and with the outlying residences of Racconigi, Govone, Agliè and Pollenzo gave form to the countryside. The construction plan foresaw a change in function for existing residences, the construction of new buildings, the definition of hunting routes and the creation of a network of roads connecting outlying residences to the state capital.

What do you think of my list? Would you include any of these places in your next travel plan to Italy?

4 thoughts on “10 UNESCO world heritage sites for your bucket list

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