With 59 UNESCO world heritage sites, Italy is the first country in the world: here is the list

Did you know that Italy is the country in the world that has the most UNESCO-sponsored world heritage sites on its territory? Well yes: the list of UNESCO sites present in Italy includes 59 locations recognized as a world heritage site e 18 intangible assets. Of the sites recognized as world heritage by UNESCO, 52 fall entirely in Italy and 7 are transnational, i.e. shared with other countries (including Vatican City). 53 Italian sites belong to cultural category and include monuments, historic centers, works of art, archaeological areas, landscapes. Others 6 sites fall into the category of natural heritages. In second place in the global ranking of UNESCO sites is the China, which hosts 57.
In the world, the recognized heritages are a total of 1,199of which 933 cultural, 227 natural and 39 mixed.

The first recognition of an Italian site was that of rock carvings of Valcamonicawhich occurred in 1979, the last one being that of Karst and caves in the evaporites of the northern Apennineswhich entered the list in 2023. It is to be expected that the number will increase further, because UNESCO updates the list every year and several Italian sites are candidates for World Heritage status.

UNESCO grants World Heritage status (World Heritage Site) to sites of exceptional importance from a cultural or naturalistic point of view. In a separate list, it also recognizes the intangible assets, made up of popular arts and traditions handed down through the centuries. Let's delve deeper into the issue and see the list of Italian sites.

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The list of 59 UNESCO sites in Italy

Let's start with the list of 6 natural heritages. The name is followed by the year of recognition:

  • Aeolian Islands, 2000
  • Dolomites, 2009
  • Monte San Giorgio (transnational), 2010
  • Etna volcano, 2013
  • Ancient primeval beech forests of the Carpathians and other regions of Europe (transnational), 2017
  • Karst and caves in the evaporites of the northern Apennines, 2023

The Aeolian Islands (credits Mariom990)

Here is now the list of 53 cultural sites Italians:

  • Rock art of Valle Camonica, 1979
  • Historic center of Rome, the extraterritorial properties of the Holy See in the city and San Paolo Outside the Walls (transnational), 1980
  • The Church and Dominican convent of Santa Maria delle Grazie and the 'Last Supper' by Leonardo da Vinci, 1980
  • Historic center of Florence, 1982
  • Venice and its lagoon, 1987
  • Piazza del Duomo in Pisa, 1987
  • Historic center of San Gimignano, 1990
  • The Sassi and the park of the rock churches of Matera, 1993
  • The city of Vicenza and Palladio's villas in Veneto, 1994
  • Ferrara, city of the Renaissance, and the Po Delta, 1995
  • Crespi d'Adda, 1995
  • Historic center of Naples, 1995
  • Historic center of Siena, 1995
  • Castel del Monte, 1996
  • Trulli of Alberobello, 1996
  • Early Christian monuments of Ravenna, 1996
  • Historic center of Pienza, 1996
  • Archaeological areas of Pompeii, Herculaneum and Torre Annunziata, 1997
  • The 18th-century Royal Palace of Caserta with the park, the Vanvitellian aqueduct and the San Leucio complex, 1997
  • Amalfi Coast, 1997
  • Modena: cathedral, civic tower and Piazza Grande, 1997
  • Portovenere, Cinque Terre and Islands (Palmaria, Tino and Tinetto), 1997
  • Savoy Residences, 1997
  • On Nuraxi by Barumini, 1997
  • Archaeological area of ​​Agrigento, 1997
  • Piazza Armerina, Roman villa del Casale, 1997
  • The botanical garden of Padua, 1997
  • Archaeological area and Patriarchal Basilica of Aquileia, 1998
  • Historic center of Urbino, 1998
  • Cilento and Vallo di Diano National Park, with the archaeological sites of Paestum, Velia and the Certosa di Padula, 1997
  • Hadrian's Villa (Tivoli), 1999
  • City of Verona, 2000
  • Assisi, the Basilica of San Francesco and other Franciscan sites, 2000
  • Villa d'Este (Tivoli), 2001
  • The late baroque cities of the Val di Noto (south-eastern Sicily), 2001
  • Sacri Monti of Piedmont and Lombardy, 2003
  • Etruscan necropolises of Cerveteri and Tarquinia, 2004
  • Val d'Orcia, 2004
  • Syracuse and the rock necropolises of Pantalica, 2005
  • Genoa, the Strade Nuove and the Palazzi dei Rolli system, 2006
  • Mantua and Sabbioneta, 2008
  • The Rhaetian Railway in the Albula and Bernina landscape (transnational), 2008
  • The Lombards in Italy. Places of Power, 2011
  • Prehistoric pile-dwelling sites in the Alps (transnational), 2011
  • Medici villas and gardens in Tuscany, 2013
  • Vitivinicultural landscapes of Piedmont: Langhe-Roero and Monferrato, 2014
  • Arab-Norman Palermo and the cathedrals of Cefalù and Monreale, 2015
  • Venetian defense works from the 16th and 17th centuries. Land State-Western Sea State (transnational), 2015
  • Ivrea, industrial city of the 20th century, 2018
  • Prosecco hills of Conegliano and Valdobbiadene, 2019
  • The frescoed cycles of the fourteenth century in Padua, 2021
  • The Great Spa Towns of Europe (transnational), 2021
  • The arcades of Bologna, 2021
Deer hunting scenes in the engravings of Valcamonica (Credits Luca Giarelli)

The 8 Italian UNESCO cultural landscapes

Eight of the Italian cultural sites also belong to a separate category, that of Cultural landscapes, introduced in 1992, i.e. “joint creations of man and nature” (however, they should not be confused with mixed cultural and natural heritages, which Italy does not have). The eight Italian cultural landscapes are the following:

  • The Amalfi Coast,
  • The Cinque Terre
  • The Cilento National Park and the Vallo di Diano,
  • The Sacred Mountains of Piedmont and Lombardy,
  • The Val d'Orcia,
  • The Medici Villas and Gardens of Tuscany,
  • The wine-growing landscapes of Piedmont
  • The Prosecco Hills of Conegliano and Valdobbiadene.

The distribution of UNESCO sites on Italian territory

The UNESCO world heritage sites are distributed across the entire national territory. Only two regions, Valle d'Aosta and Molise, do not have it. The region in which the greatest number of sites is found is Lombardy, which hosts ten, of which four fall entirely within Lombardy and six are shared with other regions.

Distribution by region (credits Avis28)

Intangible heritage

Eighteen intangible heritage sites are added to the cultural and natural sites, which however are counted in a separate ranking. These are:

  • The theater of Sicilian marionettes and puppet operas, 2008
  • Il canto a tenore sardo, 2008
  • The violin making know-how of Cremona, 2012
  • The celebrations of the large backpack machines, 2013
  • The Mediterranean diet (transnational), 2013
  • The traditional agricultural practice of growing the sapling vine of Pantelleria, 2014
  • Falconry, a living human heritage (transnational), 2015
  • The traditional art of Neapolitan pizza makers, 2017
  • The art of dry stone walls (transnational), 2018
  • Transhumance (transnational), 2019
  • Feast of Celestinian Forgiveness, 2019
  • Mountaineering (transnational), 2019
  • The musical art of hunting horn players, 2020
  • The art of glass beads, 2020
  • Truffle hunting and extraction in Italy: traditional knowledge and practices, 2021
  • The tradition of Lipizzan horse breeding (transnational), 2022
  • Traditional irrigation: knowledge, technique and organization (transnational), 2023
  • The art of Italian opera singing, 2023