UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Italy

Archbasilica of St. John Lateran

the basilica of Saint John Lateran was built under pope Melchiade (311-314). It is the oldest surviving church in the world. Due to the fact that the pope is also the bishop of Rome, Saint John in Lateran is also Rome's Cathedral. The present structure of the Basilica resembles the Saint Peter's basilica. The original plan had already five aisles. The ancient church was residence of the popes until the coming back from t ...
Founded: 311-314 AD | Location: Rome, Italy

Palermo Cathedral

Palermo Cathedral was erected in 1185 by Walter Ophamil (or Walter of the Mill), the Anglo-Norman archbishop of Palermo and King William II"s minister, on the area of an earlier Byzantine basilica. By all accounts this earlier church was founded by Pope Gregory I and was later turned into a mosque by the Saracens after their conquest of the city in the 9th century. Ophamil is buried in a sarcophagus in the ch ...
Founded: 1185 | Location: Palermo, Italy

Villa d'Este

The Villa d'Este is a 16th-century villa in Tivoli, near Rome, famous for its terraced hillside Italian Renaissance garden and especially for its profusion of fountains: the extraordinary system contains fifty-one fountains and nymphaeums, 398 spouts, 364 water jets, 64 waterfalls, and 220 basins, fed by 875 meters of canals, channels and cascades, and all working entirely by the force of gravity, without pumps. It is now ...
Founded: Italian Renaissance (1550) | Location: Tivoli, Italy

Castelvecchio

Castelvecchio ('Old Castle') is the most important military construction of the Scaliger dynasty that ruled the city in the Middle Ages. The castle stands on the probable location of a Roman fortress outside the Roman city. Lord Cangrande II della Scala had it built along with its bridge across the Adige River as a deterrent to his powerful neighbors such as Venice, the Gonzaga and the Sforza families. Construction was ca ...
Founded: 1354 | Location: Verona, Italy

Monterosso al Mare

Monterosso al Mare is one of the five villages in Cinque Terre (meaning 'Five Lands'), a coastal area within Liguria. The coastline, the villages, and the surrounding hillsides are all part of the Cinque Terre National Park a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Cinque Terre is mentioned in documents dating to the 11th century. Monterosso and Vernazza were settled first and the other villages grew later, whilst within t ...
Founded: 11th century | Location: Monterosso al Mare, Italy

Quirinal Palace

The Quirinal Palace is one of the three current official residences of the President of the Italian Republic. It is located on the Quirinal Hill, the highest of the seven hills of Rome. It has housed thirty Popes, four Kings of Italy and twelve presidents of the Italian Republic. The palace extends for an area of 110,500 square metres and is the ninth-largest palace in the world.  The current site of the palace has been ...
Founded: 1583 | Location: Rome, Italy

Cefalù Cathedral

The Cathedral of Cefalù is one of nine structures included in the UNESCO World Heritage Site known as Arab-Norman Palermo and the Cathedral Churches of Cefalù and Monreale. The cathedral was erected between 1131 and 1240 in the Norman architectural style, the island of Sicily having been conquered by the Normans in 1091. According to tradition, the building was erected after a vow made to the Holy Saviour by ...
Founded: 1131-1240 | Location: Cefalù, Italy

Circus Maximus

The Circus Maximus was a chariot racetrack in Rome first constructed in the 6th century BCE. The Circus was also used for other public events such as the Roman Games and gladiator fights and was last used for chariot races in the 6th century CE. It was partially excavated in the 20th century and then remodelled but it continues today as one of the modern city's most important public spaces, hosting huge crowds at music co ...
Founded: 6th century BC | Location: Rome, Italy

Villa Romana del Casale

The Villa Romana del Casale is a large and elaborate Roman villa or palace located about 3 km from Piazza Armerina. Excavations have revealed one of the richest, largest, and varied collections of Roman mosaics in the world, for which the site has been designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The mosaic and opus sectile floors cover some 3,500 sq metres and are almost unique in their excellent state of preservation ...
Founded: 4th century AD | Location: Piazza Armerina, Italy

Roman Theatre

The Roman theatre of Verona should not to be confused with the Roman amphitheatre known as the Verona Arena. The theatre was built in the late 1st century BC. Before its construction, two walls were built alongside the Adige River, between the Ponte di Pietra and the Ponte Postumio, to protect it against floods. Today only remains of the edifice are visible, recovered starting from around 1830. They include the cavea and ...
Founded: 0-100 AD | Location: Verona, Italy

Santa Maria delle Grazie

Santa Maria delle grazie ('Holy Mary of Grace') is a church and Dominican convent in Milan, included in the UNESCO World Heritage sites list. The church contains the mural of The Last Supper by Leonardo da Vinci, which is in the refectory of the convent. The refectory of the Convent of Santa Maria delle Grazie in Milan forms an integral part of this architectural complex, begun in 1463 and reworke ...
Founded: 1463 | Location: Milan, Italy

Ponte Pietra

The Ponte Pietra (Italian for 'Stone Bridge'), is a Roman arch bridge crossing the Adige River in Verona. The bridge was completed in 100 BC, and the Via Postumia from Genoa to Aquileia passed over it. It is the oldest bridge in Verona. It originally flanked another Roman bridge, the Pons Postumius; both structures provided the city (on the right bank) with access to the Roman theatre on the east bank. The arch nearest t ...
Founded: 100 BC | Location: Verona, Italy

Greek Theatre of Syracuse

The Greek theatre of Syracuse lies on the south slopes of the Temenite hill, overlooking the modern city of Syracuse. It was first built in the 5th century BC, rebuilt in the 3rd century BC and renovated again in the Roman period. Today, it is a part of the Unesco World Heritage Site of 'Syracuse and the Rocky Necropolis of Pantalica'. It seems that the theatre was renovated in the third century, transforming it into the ...
Founded: 5th century BC | Location: Syracuse, Italy

Palazzo del Capitaniato

The palazzo del Capitaniato was designed by Andrea Palladio in 1565 and built between 1571 and 1572. The palazzo is currently used by the town council. It was decorated by Lorenzo Rubini and, in the interior, with frescoes by Giovanni Antonio Fasolo. Since 1994 the palace has been part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site of the 'City of Vicenza and the Palladian Villas of the Veneto'. The Palladian loggia replace ...
Founded: 1571-1572 | Location: Vicenza, Italy

Basilica Palladiana

The Basilica Palladiana is a Renaissance building in the central Piazza dei Signori in Vicenza. The most notable feature of the edifice is the loggia, which shows one of the first examples of what have come to be known as the Palladian window, designed by a young Andrea Palladio, whose work in architecture was to have a significant effect on the field during the Renaissance and later periods. The building was originally ...
Founded: 15th century | Location: Vicenza, Italy

Historic Centre of Mantua

Mantua is a city and comune in Lombardy. Mantua"s historic power and influence under the Gonzaga family, made it one of the main artistic, cultural and notably musical hubs of Northern Italy and the country as a whole. Mantua is noted for its significant role in the history of opera and the city is known for its several architectural treasures and artifacts, elegant palaces or palazzi, and its medieval and Renaiss ...
Founded: 15th century | Location: Mantua, Italy

Hadrian's Villa

The Villa Adriana (Hadrian"s Villa) is an exceptional complex of classical buildings created in the 2nd century A.D. by the Roman emperor Hadrian. It combines the best elements of the architectural heritage of Egypt, Greece and Rome in the form of an "ideal city". The villa was constructed at Tibur (modern-day Tivoli) as a retreat from Rome for Roman Emperor Hadrian during the second and third decades of th ...
Founded: c. 128 AD | Location: Tivoli, Italy

Sant Anastasia Church

Sant"Anastasia church building started in 1280 and completed in 1400, designed by the Dominican friars. It took its name from a pre-existing temple built by King Theoderic the Great upon which was built the actual church. Since 1307, it is in fact co-entitled to St. Peter of Verona, martyr and co-patron of the city. Consecrated only in 1471, until 1808 the church was held by the Dominicans. The 72 mt tall belltower ...
Founded: 1280 | Location: Verona, Italy

Verona Cathedral

Verona Cathedral was erected after two Palaeo-Christian churches on the same site had been destroyed by an earthquake in 1117. Built in Romanesque style, the cathedral was consecrated on September 13, 1187. The structure was later modified by several renovation interventions, although the plan has remained unchanged. The façade is divided into three parts, with a pediment and a two storied projecting porch or prot ...
Founded: 1187 | Location: Verona, Italy

San Pietro Castle

Verona was founded to the site of current Castel San Pietro. This green hill, crowned by cypresses, is home to the remains of the first settlements dating back to the 7th century B.C. From this magnificent vantage-point you can enjoy the view of the whole city spreading out, with its network of Roman Roads, its walls, tall towers and steeples and, if your eyesight is good, you can even make out part of the Arena and the P ...
Founded: 1393 | Location: Verona, Italy

Featured Historic Landmarks, Sites & Buildings

Historic Site of the week

Mosque–Cathedral of Córdoba

The Mosque–Cathedral of Córdoba, also known as the Great Mosque of Córdoba and the Mezquita is regarded as one of the most accomplished monuments of Moorish architecture.

According to a traditional account, a small Visigoth church, the Catholic Basilica of Saint Vincent of Lérins, originally stood on the site. In 784 Abd al-Rahman I ordered construction of the Great Mosque, which was considerably expanded by later Muslim rulers. The mosque underwent numerous subsequent changes: Abd al-Rahman II ordered a new minaret, while in 961 Al-Hakam II enlarged the building and enriched the Mihrab. The last of such reforms was carried out by Almanzor in 987. It was connected to the Caliph"s palace by a raised walkway, mosques within the palaces being the tradition for previous Islamic rulers – as well as Christian Kings who built their palaces adjacent to churches. The Mezquita reached its current dimensions in 987 with the completion of the outer naves and courtyard.

In 1236, Córdoba was conquered by King Ferdinand III of Castile, and the centre of the mosque was converted into a Catholic cathedral. Alfonso X oversaw the construction of the Villaviciosa Chapel and the Royal Chapel within the mosque. The kings who followed added further Christian features, such as King Henry II rebuilding the chapel in the 14th century. The minaret of the mosque was also converted to the bell tower of the cathedral. It was adorned with Santiago de Compostela"s captured cathedral bells. Following a windstorm in 1589, the former minaret was further reinforced by encasing it within a new structure.

The most significant alteration was the building of a Renaissance cathedral nave in the middle of the expansive structure. The insertion was constructed by permission of Charles V, king of Castile and Aragon. Artisans and architects continued to add to the existing structure until the late 18th century.

Architecture

The building"s floor plan is seen to be parallel to some of the earliest mosques built from the very beginning of Islam. It had a rectangular prayer hall with aisles arranged perpendicular to the qibla, the direction towards which Muslims pray. The prayer hall was large and flat, with timber ceilings held up by arches of horseshoe-like appearance.

In planning the mosque, the architects incorporated a number of Roman columns with choice capitals. Some of the columns were already in the Gothic structure; others were sent from various regions of Iberia as presents from the governors of provinces. Ivory, jasper, porphyry, gold, silver, copper, and brass were used in the decorations. Marvellous mosaics and azulejos were designed. Later, the immense temple embodied all the styles of Morisco architecture into one composition.

The building is most notable for its arcaded hypostyle hall, with 856 columns of jasper, onyx, marble, granite and porphyry. These were made from pieces of the Roman temple that had occupied the site previously, as well as other Roman buildings, such as the Mérida amphitheatre. The double arches were an innovation, permitting higher ceilings than would otherwise be possible with relatively low columns. The double arches consist of a lower horseshoe arch and an upper semi-circular arch.