World Heritage is a Terrible Thing To Waste

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


Val d'Orcia

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

Lake Maggiore

Padua - Scrovegni Chapel

Bologna - porticos

Volterra - historic center and landscape

Prosecco Hills


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