When I first started to visit Italy the last thing on my mind was UNESCO. I was more interested in the vineyards of Tuscany, the fashions of Milano and the food of Emilia Romagna. Over the last 20 years my trips to Italy have been an on going journey to discover the Italy of my family and friends and along the way I realized that I had visited 19 UNESCO World Heritage sites in Italy (as of 2017, there are 54 UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Italy) plus another 8 on the UNESCO World Heritage tentative list. Something I now know to be very special.
UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) was established in 1972 to encourage the identification and preservation of the cultural and natural heritage sites around the world considered to be of significant value to humanity. Places with outstanding natural or cultural merit that deserve the protection of our world community. The World Heritage list includes more than 1000 sites in 185 countries from Afghanistan to Zimbabwe. The US is home to 22 sites (including the Statue of Liberty, the Pueblos of Taos, Grand Canyon National Park, Smoky Mountain National Park, Yellowstone National Park, the Frank Lloyd Wright Buildings and Independence Hall ).
There were 20 newly inscribed properties in 2018 including the the industrial city of Ivrea located in the Piedmont region.
Unfortunately World Heritage status is no guarantee of protection. Tourist related activities and time all take a toll on the preservation of World Heritage sites. The Galapagos Islands, in fact, was placed on UNESCO’s lesser known list – the List of World Heritage in danger. I now make it a priority to visit or re-visit at least one or two of the UNESCO sites every time I travel to Italy. I appreciated them in the past for their historical significance and remarkable beauty. I now appreciate them as our legacy and a source of inspiration for future generations.
Here are the sites we have visited, some multiple times. All are highly recommended.
Assisi - the Basilica of San Francesco and other Franciscan Sites
Padua - Orto Botanico (Botanical Garden)
Milan - Convent of Santa Maria delle Grazie with "The Last Supper" by Leonardo da Vinci
City of Verona
Vicenza and the Palladian Villas of the Veneto
Crespi 'Ada in Lombardia
Ravenna - early Christian Monuments and Byzantine mosaics
Ferrara and the Po Delta
Florence - historic center
Rome - historic center, Vatican and properties of the Holy See
San Gimignano - historic center
Siena - historic center
Pienza - historic center
Mantua and Sabbioneta
Medici Villas and gardens in Tuscany
Pisa - Piazza dl Duomo
Venice and it's Lagoon
As well as these sites on UNESCO's tentative list
Parma - historic center
Orvieto - historic center
Pavia - historic center with Certosa
Padua - Scrovegni Chapel
Bologna - porticos
Volterra - historic center and landscape