UNESCO World Heritage Sites in 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

Val Camonica Rock Drawings

The stone carvings of Val Camonica (Camonica Valley) constitute the largest collections of prehistoric petroglyphs in the world. The collection was recognized by Unesco in 1979 and was Italy"s first recognized World Heritage Site. Unesco has formally recognized more than 140,000 figures and symbols, but new discoveries have increased the number of catalogued incisions to between 200,000 and 300,000. The petrog ...
Founded: 7000 BCE | Location: Capo di Ponte, Italy

Capitolium of Brixia

The Capitolium of Brixia was the main temple in the center of the Roman town of Brixia (Brescia). It is represented at present by fragmentary ruins, but is part of an archeological site, including a Roman amphitheatre and museum in central Brescia. The temple was built in 73 AD during the rule of emperor Vespasian. The prominent elevated location and the three identifiable cellae, each with their own polychrome marbl ...
Founded: 73 AD | Location: Brescia, Italy

San Salvatore Monastery

San Salvatore (or Santa Giulia) is a former monastery in Brescia, now turned into a museum. The monastic complex is famous for the diversity of its architecture which include Roman remains and significant pre-Romanesque, Romanesque and Renaissance buildings. In 2011, it became a UNESCO World Heritage Site as part of a group of seven inscribed as Longobards in Italy, Places of Power (568-774 A.D.). The monastery i ...
Founded: 753 AD | Location: Brescia, Italy

Crespi d'Adda

Crespi d'Adda is a historic settlement and an outstanding example of the 19th and early 20th-century 'company towns' built in Europe and North America by enlightened industrialists to meet the workers' needs. The site is still intact and is partly used for industrial purposes, although changing economic and social conditions now threaten its survival. Since 1995 it has been on UNESCO's list of World Heritage Sites. ...
Founded: 1869 | Location: Capriate San Gervasio, 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

Sabbioneta

Sabbioneta is a town and comune in the province of Mantua. Sabbioneta was founded by Vespasiano I Gonzaga in the late 16th century along the ancient Roman Via Vitelliana, on a sandy bank of the Po; he was its first duke, using it as a personal fortress and residence. In 2008, Sabbioneta was inscribed in the UNESCO World Heritage List as a recognition of its perfect example of practical application of Renaissance  ...
Founded: 16th century | Location: Sabbioneta, Italy

Castelseprio

Castelseprio or Castel Seprio was the site of a Roman fort in antiquity, and a significant Lombard town in the early Middle Ages, before being destroyed and abandoned in 1287. It is today preserved as an archaeological park. Castelseprio originated as a Roman fort that commanded an important crossroad. During the early Middle Ages, the Lombards occupied the Roman fort, turning it into a fortified citadel or smal ...
Founded: 4th century AD | Location: Castelseprio, Italy

Torba Abbey

Torba Abbey is a former Benedictine nunnery in the Castelseprio Archaeological Park. This in turn forms part of the serial site 'Longobards in Italy, Places of Power (568–774 A.D.)', comprising seven sites of especial importance for Lombard arts in architecture, pictures and sculpture, entered on the UNESCO List of World Heritage Sites in 2011. History The first nucleus of the Castelseprio complex, of ...
Founded: 8th century AD | Location: Castelseprio, Italy

Sacro Monte di Varese

The Sacro Monte di Varese (literally ‘Sacred Mount of Varese’) is one of the nine sacri monti in the Italian regions of Lombardy and Piedmont which were inscribed on the UNESCO list of World Heritage Sites. It has an altitude of 807 metres above sea-level. The Sacro Monte of Varese is located a few kilometers from the city and nestled in the regional park Campo dei Fiori. It consists of the Holy Road an ...
Founded: 1604 | Location: Varese, 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

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

Villa Poppaea

The Villa Poppaea is an ancient Roman seaside villa situated in the ancient Roman town of Oplontis (the modern Torre Annunziata). Evidence suggests that it was owned by the Emperor Nero, and it is believed to have been used by his second wife, Poppaea Sabina, as her main residence when she was not in Rome. Like many of the other houses in the area, the villa shows signs of remodeling, probably to repair damage fro ...
Founded: 100-0 BCE | Location: Torre Annunziata, Italy

Villa dei Misteri

The Villa of the Mysteries (Villa dei Misteri) is a well-preserved suburban Roman villa on the outskirts of Pompeii, southern Italy, famous for the series of frescos in one room, which are usually thought to show the initiation of a young woman into a Greco-Roman mystery cult. These are now probably the best known of the relatively rare survivals of Ancient Roman painting. Like the rest of the Roman city of Pomp ...
Founded: 0-100 AD | Location: Pompei, Italy

Featured Historic Landmarks, Sites & Buildings

Historic Site of the week

Monastery of São Vicente de Fora

Monastery of São Vicente de Fora (Monastery of St. Vincent Outside the Walls) is a 17th-century church and monastery in the city of Lisbon. It is one of the most important monasteries and mannerist buildings in the country. The monastery also contains the royal pantheon of the Braganza monarchs of Portugal.

The original Monastery of São Vicente de Fora was founded around 1147 by the first Portuguese King, Afonso Henriques, for the Augustinian Order. The Monastery, built in Romanesque style outside the city walls, was one of the most important monastic foundations in mediaeval Portugal. It is dedicated to Saint Vincent of Saragossa, patron saint of Lisbon, whose relics were brought from the Algarve to Lisbon in the 12th century.

The present buildings are the result of a reconstruction ordered by King Philip II of Spain, who had become King of Portugal (as Philip I) after a succession crisis in 1580. The church of the monastery was built between 1582 and 1629, while other monastery buildings were finished only in the 18th century. The author of the design of the church is thought to be the Italian Jesuit Filippo Terzi and/or the Spaniard Juan de Herrera. The plans were followed and modified by Leonardo Turriano, Baltazar Álvares, Pedro Nunes Tinoco and João Nunes Tinoco.

The church of the Monastery has a majestic, austere façade that follows the later Renaissance style known as Mannerism. The façade, attributed to Baltazar Álvares, has several niches with statues of saints and is flanked by two towers (a model that would become widespread in Portugal). The lower part of the façade has three arches that lead to the galilee (entrance hall). The floorplan of the church reveals a Latin cross building with a one-aisled nave with lateral chapels. The church is covered by barrel vaulting and has a huge dome over the crossing. The general design of the church interior follows that of the prototypic church of Il Gesù, in Rome.

The beautiful main altarpiece is a Baroque work of the 18th century by one of the best Portuguese sculptors, Joaquim Machado de Castro. The altarpiece has the shape of a baldachin and is decorated with a large number of statues. The church also boasts several fine altarpieces in the lateral chapels.

The Monastery buildings are reached through a magnificent baroque portal, located beside the church façade. Inside, the entrance is decorated with blue-white 18th century tiles that tell the history of the Monastery, including scenes of the Siege of Lisbon in 1147. The ceiling of the room has an illusionistic painting executed in 1710 by the Italian Vincenzo Baccarelli. The sacristy of the Monastery is exuberantly decorated with polychromed marble and painting. The cloisters are also notable for the 18th century tiles that recount fables of La Fontaine, among other themes.

In 1834, after the religious orders were dissolved in Portugal, the monastery was transformed into a palace for the archbishops of Lisbon. Some decades later, King Ferdinand II transformed the monks' old refectory into a pantheon for the kings of the House of Braganza. Their tombs were transferred from the main chapel to this room.