UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Italy

Piazza San Marco

Piazza San Marco, in English as St Mark's Square, is the principal public square of Venice and central point of interest for visitors. The Square is dominated at its eastern end by the great Basilica of St. Mark. To the left is the long arcade along the north side of the Piazza, the buildings on this side are known as the Procuratie Vecchie, the old procuracies, formerly the homes and offices of the Procurators of St. M ...
Founded: 9th century | Location: Venice, Italy

St Mark's Basilica

The Patriarchal Cathedral Basilica of Saint Mark (Basilica di San Marco is the most famous of the Venice's churches and one of the best known examples of Italo-Byzantine architecture. It lies at the eastern end of the Piazza San Marco, adjacent and connected to the Doge's Palace. Originally it was the chapel of the Doge, and has only been the city's cathedral since 1807, when it became the seat of the Patriarch of Venice ...
Founded: 1063-1093 | Location: Venice, Italy

Doge's Palace

The Venetian Gothic Doge"s Palace (Palazzo Ducale) is one of the main landmarks of the city of Venice. The palace was the residence of the Doge of Venice, the supreme authority of the former Republic of Venice, opening as a museum in 1923. Today, it is a museum. History  In 810, Doge Angelo Partecipazio moved the seat of government from the island of Malamocco to the area of the present-day Rialto. However, no trace ...
Founded: 1340 | Location: Venice, Italy

Colosseum

The Colosseum is an oval amphitheatre in the centre of the city of Rome, Italy. Built of concrete and sand, it is the largest amphitheatre ever built and probably the most well-known landmark of Rome. Construction began under the emperor Vespasian in AD 72, and was completed in AD 80 under his successor and heir Titus. Further modifications were made during the reign of Domitian (81-96). The Colosseum could hold, it is e ...
Founded: 72-80 AD | Location: Rome, Italy

Sistine Chapel

The Sistine Chapel in the Apostolic Palace is the official residence of the Pope. Originally known as the Cappella Magna, the chapel takes its name from Pope Sixtus IV, who restored it between 1477 and 1480. Since that time, the chapel has served as a place of both religious and functionary papal activity. Today it is the site of the Papal conclave, the process by which a new pope is selected. The fame of the Sistine Chap ...
Founded: 1477 | Location: Vatican, Vatican City State

St. Peter's Basilica

Saint Peter's Basilica is the center of Christianity in Vatican city state. Designed principally by Donato Bramante, Michelangelo, Carlo Maderno and Gian Lorenzo Bernini, St. Peter's is the most renowned work of Renaissance architecture and one of the largest churches in the world. While it is neither the mother church of the Catholic Church nor the cathedral of the Diocese of Rome, St. Peter's is regarded as one of the ...
Founded: 1506-1626 | Location: Vatican, Vatican City State

Pantheon

The Pantheon (meaning 'temple of every god') is a former Roman temple, now a church, on the site of an earlier temple commissioned by Marcus Agrippa during the reign of Augustus (27 BC-14 AD). The present building was completed by the emperor Hadrian and probably dedicated about 126 AD. He retained Agrippa's original inscription, which has confused its date of construction as the original Pantheon burnt down so it is not ...
Founded: 126 AD | Location: Rome, Italy

Apostolic Palace

The Apostolic Palace is the official residence of the Pope. The building contains the Papal Apartments, various offices of the Catholic Church and the Holy See, private and public chapels, Vatican Museums, and the Vatican Library, including the Sistine Chapel, Raphael Rooms, and Borgia Apartment. The modern tourist can see these last and other parts of the palace, but other parts, such as the Sala Regia and Cappella Paoli ...
Founded: 1471-1605 | Location: Vatican, Vatican City State

Roman Forum

The Roman Forum (Forum Romanum) is a rectangular forum (plaza) surrounded by the ruins of several important ancient government buildings at the center of the city of Rome. It was for centuries the center of Roman public life: the site of triumphal processions and elections; the venue for public speeches, criminal trials, and gladiatorial matches; and the nucleus of commercial affairs. Here statues and monuments commemorat ...
Founded: 8th century BC | Location: Rome, Italy

Castel Sant'Angelo

Castel Sant'Angelo is a towering cylindrical castle, initially commissioned by the Roman Emperor Hadrian as a mausoleum for himself and his family. The building was later used by the popes as a fortress and castle, and is now a museum. The castle was once the tallest building in Rome. The tomb of the Roman emperor Hadrian was erected on the right bank of the Tiber, between 134 and 139 AD. Originally the mausoleum was a d ...
Founded: 134-139 | Location: Rome, Italy

Vatican Apostolic Library

The Vatican Apostolic Library was formally established in 1475, although it is much older. It is one of the oldest libraries in the world and contains one of the most significant collections of historical texts. It currently has 75,000 codices from throughout history, as well as 1.1 million printed books, which include some 8,500 incunabula. The Vatican Library is a research library for history, law, philosophy, science ...
Founded: 1475 | Location: Vatican, Vatican City State

Verona Amphitheatre

The Verona Arena is a Roman amphitheatre built in 1st century. It is still in use today and is internationally famous for the large-scale opera performances given there. It is one of the best preserved ancient structures of its kind. In ancient times, nearly 30,000 people was the housing capacity of the Arena. The building itself was built in AD 30 on a site which was then beyond the city walls. The round façade o ...
Founded: c. 30 AD | Location: Verona, Italy

Vernazza

Vernazza is one of the five towns that make up the Cinque Terre region. Vernazza is the fourth town heading north, has no car traffic, and remains one of the truest 'fishing villages' on the Italian Riviera. It is the only natural port of Cinque Terre and is famous for its elegant houses. The first records recognizing Vernazza as a fortified town date to 1080. Referred to as an active maritime base of the Ober ...
Founded: 11th century | Location: Vernazza, Italy

Herculaneum

Located in the shadow of Mount Vesuvius, Herculaneum was an ancient Roman town destroyed by volcanic pyroclastic flows in 79 AD. Its ruins are located in the comune of Ercolano near Naples. As a UNESCO World Heritage Site, it is famous as one of the few ancient cities that can now be seen in much of its original splendour, as well as for having been lost, along with Pompeii, Stabiae, Oplontis and Boscoreale, i ...
Founded: 7th century BCE | Location: Ercolano, Italy

Scaliger Tombs

The Scaliger Tombs is a group of five Gothic funerary monuments in Verona, celebrating the Scaliger family, who ruled in Verona from the 13th to the late 14th century. The tombs are located in a court of the church of Santa Maria Antica, separated from the street by a wall with iron grilles. Built in Gothic style, they are a series of tombs, most of which are in the shape of a small temple and covered by a baldachin. Acc ...
Founded: c. 1329 | Location: Verona, Italy

Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore

The Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore is a Papal major basilica and the largest Catholic Marian church in Rome. It is one of the only four churches that hold the title of 'major basilica' (all in Rome). It is agreed that the present church was built under Pope Sixtus III (432-440). The dedicatory inscription on the triumphal arch, Sixtus Episcopus plebi Dei, ('Sixtus the bishop to the people of God') is an indication of ...
Founded: 432 AD | Location: Rome, Italy

Pompeii

Pompeii was an ancient Roman city near modern Naples. Pompeii, along with Herculaneum and many villas in the surrounding area, was buried under 4 to 6 m of volcanic ash and pumice in the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in AD 79. Many of the inhabitants were also buried before they could escape. At the time of the eruption, the town may have had some 11,000 inhabitants, and was located in an area where Romans ha ...
Founded: 7th century BCE | Location: Pompei, Italy

Cathedral of Monreale

The Cathedral of Monreale is one of the greatest existent examples of Norman architecture. The construction of Monreale, started in 1172, was approved by Pope Alexander III with a bull on 30 December 1174. Works, including an annexed abbey, were completed only in 1267 and the church consecrated at the presence of Pope Clement IV. In 1178 Pope Lucius III established the archdiocese of Monreale and the abbey church was elev ...
Founded: 1172-1267 | Location: Monreale, Italy

Santa Maria dell'Ammiraglio Church

The Church of St. Mary of the Admiral (Santa Maria dell"Ammiraglio) is a Co-cathedral to the Eparchy of Piana degli Albanesi of the Italo-Albanian Catholic Church, a diocese which includes the Italo-Albanian (Arbëreshë) communities in Sicily who officiate the liturgy according to the Byzantine Rite in the ancient Greek language and Albanian language. The name Ammiraglio ('admiral') derives from the foun ...
Founded: 1143 | Location: Palermo, Italy

Cathedral of Syracuse

The Cathedral of Syracuse (Duomo di Siracusa) origins on this site date to prehistory. The great Greek Temple of Athena was built in the 5th century BC. The temple was a Doric edifice with six columns on the short sides and 14 on the long sides. Plato and Athenaeus mention the temple, and the looting of its ornament is mentioned by Cicero, in 70 BC, as one of the crimes of the governor Verres. The present cathedral was ...
Founded: 7th century AD | Location: Syracuse, Italy

Featured Historic Landmarks, Sites & Buildings

Historic Site of the week

Abbey of Saint-Étienne

The Abbey of Saint-Etienne, also known as Abbaye aux Hommes ('Men"s Abbey'), is a former monastery dedicated to Saint Stephen (Saint Étienne). It is considered, along with the neighbouring Abbaye aux Dames ('Ladies" Abbey'), to be one of the most notable Romanesque buildings in Normandy. Like all the major abbeys in Normandy, it was Benedictine.

Lanfranc, before being an Archbishop of Canterbury, was abbot of Saint-Etienne. Built in Caen stone during the 11th century, the two semi-completed churches stood for many decades in competition. An important feature added to both churches in about 1120 was the ribbed vault, used for the first time in France. The two abbey churches are considered forerunners of the Gothic architecture. The original Romanesque apse was replaced in 1166 by an early Gothic chevet, complete with rosette windows and flying buttresses. Nine towers and spires were added in the 13th century. The interior vaulting shows a similar progression, beginning with early sexpartite vaulting (using circular ribs) in the nave and progressing to quadipartite vaults (using pointed ribs) in the sanctuary.

The two monasteries were finally donated by William the Conqueror and his wife, Matilda of Flanders, as penalty for their marriage against the Pope"s ruling. William was buried here; Matilda was buried in the Abbaye aux Dames. Unfortunately William"s original tombstone of black marble, the same kind as Matilda"s in the Abbaye aux Dames, was destroyed by the Calvinist iconoclasts in the 16th century and his bones scattered.

As a consequence of the Wars of Religion, the high lantern tower in the middle of the church collapsed and was never rebuilt. The Benedictine abbey was suppressed during the French Revolution and the abbey church became a parish church. From 1804 to 1961, the abbey buildings accommodated a prestigious high school, the Lycée Malherbe. During the Normandy Landings in 1944, inhabitants of Caen found refuge in the church; on the rooftop there was a red cross, made with blood on a sheet, to show that it was a hospital (to avoid bombings).