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Top 10 UNESCO Sites in Italy to Visit

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Bronze Apollo statue of the Temple of Apollo ruins at Pompeii in Naples, Italy

Temple of Apollo at Pompeii in the Campania region, Italy

From impressions of ancient civilizations that predate the Roman Empire to mesmerizing artwork that reflects western Europe’s distinctive eras, explore Italian heritage at the top 10 UNESCO sites in Italy to visit.

From the dramatic ruins of Pompeii beneath the imposing summit of Mount Vesuvius to the romantic neighborhoods of Verona, charming Amalfi Coast towns, and epic Dolomite slopes, all sorts of adventures await in Italy’s world heritage sites.

The following list notes the best UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Italy, those that connect to remarkable history, fabulous art, and astonishing architecture.

  1. 1. Pompeii and Herculaneum
  2. 2. Botanical Garden of Padua
  3. 3. Santa Maria delle Grazie
  4. 4. The Royal Palace of Caserta
  5. 5. Etruscan Necropolises of Cerveteri and Tarquinia
  6. 6. City of Verona
  7. 7. The Amalfi Coast
  8. 8. Villa d’Este Palace
  9. 9. The Dolomite Mountains
  10. 10. Mount Etna
  11. Explore the Top UNESCO Sites in Italy

1. Pompeii and Herculaneum

Ruins of Herculaneum

Ruins of Herculaneum in the Campania region of Italy

Pompeii deserves acclaim for its role in introducing the world to new understandings of Ancient Rome.

The ruins of Roman commercial centers in the Campania region left after the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79AD are captivating. Their ashy atmosphere draws travelers to the millennia-old streets that retain a vivid impression of a once-forgotten lifestyle.

The lesser-known Herculaneum ruins provide a different, some might say better, experience than the larger ghost town of Pompeii. Inside the Italian world heritage site, notable artworks and bejeweled relics remain preserved for you to discover during your visit.

How to Get There: The ruins of Pompeii are less than 30 minutes from Naples, making it an essential day trip from the culinary hotspot regarded as one of Campania’s best cities for food.

Highlights: The Grand Theater • The Teatro Piccolo • Lupanare • The House of Menander • Casa dell’Albergo • House of Galba • Sacello degli Augustali • Herculaneum Thermae

2. Botanical Garden of Padua

Botanical Garden of Padua

Botanical Garden of Padua near Venice, Italy

The Botanical Garden in Padua was the first of its kind in Italy, established as a center for scientific research in 1545. The colorful flowers and prolific greenery that continue to grow in and around the gardens once played a pivotal role in medicine and chemistry centuries ago.

The gardens also house a library that features more than 50,000 volumes and manuscripts of historical texts vital to the herbarium’s field. You can brush the balustrades, wander past the installations, and enter the garden’s greenhouses to explore the 6,000 species of rare plants arranged according to their ecological environment.

How to Get There: The Botanical Garden of Padua is a short distance from Venice, making it a fantastic place to explore on a day trip from the popular Italian city.

Highlights: Dwarf palm • Goethe palm • Old World sycamore • Egyptian lotus • Golden kiwifruit • Corsican pine • Sundews • Water lettuce

3. Santa Maria delle Grazie

The Last Supper by Leonardo da Vinci at Santa Maria delle Grazie church in Milan.

The Last Supper by Leonardo da Vinci at Santa Maria delle Grazie church in Milan, Italy

The Church and Dominican Convent of Santa Maria delle Grazie in Milan is a work of masterful architecture, but the main draw to the hallowed grounds is the refectory wall on which the visionary artist Leonardo da Vinci composed his renowned piece, The Last Supper.

The artwork’s faded glory continues to provide a breathtaking image when viewed in person, causing visitors and art historians to wonder how immaculate and ethereal it must have originally looked.

Plan your visit well in advance as only a small group of people are given access to the painting every 15 minutes to view it in peace.

How to Get There: Located in the bustling fashion capital of Italy, you can discover the religious history of the church and Dominican convent during Milan vacations and tours.

Highlights: Duomo • Navigli District • Teatro alla Scala • San Siro Stadium • QC Termemilano • Sforzesco Castle • Isola • Milan Cathedral

4. The Royal Palace of Caserta

Gardens at the Royal Palace of Caserta

Gardens at the Royal Palace of Caserta near Naples, Italy

No grand edifice in Italy is more breathtaking than 18th-century Baroque masterpiece Caserta Palace, located less than 20 miles from Naples.

Take the time to tour the palace for a taste of Italian affluence, splendor, and the lifestyle of Baroque royalty. Admire its glamorous façade, frescoes, art, tapestries, and period furniture while you wander from decorated rooms, through ornate halls, and out the doors to manicured lawns.

As you stroll along pathways winding through the exotic flora and around the trickling pools, you will hear the sounds of rushing water from the Aqueduct Caroline.

How to Get There: Around the corner from Naples, the Royal Palace of Caserta is another fantastic UNESCO site in Italy to visit on southern Italy tours and vacations that include a stay in Campania’s coastal jewel.

Highlights: Giardini Reali • Fountain of Diana and Actaeon • Amphitheatre of Capua • Aqueduct of Caroline • Fountain of Aeolus • English Garden • Oasi Bosco di San Silvestro • Complesso Monumentale Belvedere San Leucio

5. Etruscan Necropolises of Cerveteri and Tarquinia

The Etruscan Necropolises of Cerveteri

The Etruscan Necropolises of Cerveteri near Rome, Italy

The Etruscan Necropolises of Cerveteri is one of the most imposing and magnificent burial sites of the ancient Mediterranean.

Historians refer to the complex as the “City of the Dead” due to the nearly 1,000 acres of land encompassing 1,000 tombs. From a distance, the mounds housing the crypts resemble hills rolling across the Lazio countryside.

The necropolis of Monterozzi in Tarquinia continues to provide insight into the pre-Roman Etruscan civilization that settled around northern and central Italy through the display of burial techniques influenced by the Greeks and Phoenicians.

How to Get There: Located approximately halfway between Rome and Florence, you can visit the Italian world heritage site as a day trip on Rome tours or Tuscany vacations.

Highlights: Tomb of the Shields and Chairs • Tumulo Mengarelli • Rilievi’s Tomb • Tomb of Regolini-Galassi • Tomb of the Greek Vases • Tomb of the Cornice • Tomb of the Reliefs • National Museum of Cerveteri

6. City of Verona

Verona, Italy

Verona, Italy

You may be familiar with the city of Verona as the home of William Shakespeare’s star-crossed lovers Romeo and Juliet. However, Veronese history dates back to the 1st century BC and the urban city retains some 2,000 years of culture reflected in its art, cuisine, and architecture.

Glamorous neighborhoods referencing the shadow of the Venetian empire and a profound artistic atmosphere born from operatic scenes and literary finds punctuate the historic city’s church-dotted streets and Roman-influenced districts.

How to Get There: Verona is less than two hours from Venice in the Veneto region, making it an excellent addition as a day tour or for multiple nights on Venice tours and vacations.

Highlights: Casa di Giulietta • Basilica of San Zeno Maggiore • Arche Scaligere • Adige River • Piazza delle Erbe • Castelvecchio • Porta Leoni • Piazza Brà

7. The Amalfi Coast

The town of Amalfi on the Amalfi Coast

Amalfi Coast of Italy

The Amalfi Coast, a recognized UNESCO site in Italy, has become one of the world’s most famous road trips. It spans a 25-mile stretch of coastline along Italy’s southern region of Campania, outside Naples.

The sensational scenery embodies the physical beauty and natural diversity of the landscape and charming towns adorning the coastal cliffs, with a heritage dating back to the Middle Ages.

Your travels will take you past bucolic pastures, across olive-green orchards, along rugged cliffs, down to cascading vineyards and pristine beaches, before you arrive at villages where 16th-century culture comes to life.

How to Get There: The Amalfi Coast’s heritage towns span Italy’s Sorrentine Peninsula below Naples and you can visit the sites on dedicated Amalfi Coast tours and vacations.

Highlights: Positano • Praiano • Furore • Ravello • Amalfi • Minori • Vietri sul Mare • Conca dei Marini

8. Villa d’Este Palace

Villa d’Este Palace in Tivoli

Villa d’Este Palace in Tivoli near Rome, Italy

The famous palatial grounds of Villa d’Este exemplify the captivating architecture and gardens of refined Renaissance culture. The innovative design and spectacular oases decorated with fountains, ornamental basins, and preserved flowers and trees represent the uniqueness of a 16th-century Italian garden.

Freely explore its extravagant interior, which contains elaborate, colorful frescoes decorating the halls, foyers, and bedrooms, including the cardinal’s bedroom constructed in 1576, before visiting other popular attractions inside the Villa d’Este Palace.

How to Get There: Located around the corner from Rome, Tivoli’s heritage site is a stunning day trip addition to Italy tours starting from Rome.

Highlights: Fontana dell’Ovato • Fontana del Nettuno • Fontana di Rometta • Gran Loggia • Viale delle Cento Fontane • Hall of the Fountain • Hall of Glory • Hall of Moses

9. The Dolomite Mountains

Lago di braies in the Dolomites Mountains

Lago di braies in the Dolomite Mountains of Northern, Italy

The Dolomite Mountains encompass 18 majestic alpine peaks that boast 350,650 acres of sheer cliffs and vertical walls, narrow valleys and hidden pastures.

Its heritage status protects its marvelous scenery and you will be thrilled to experience the grandeur of a mountain range shaped by ancient glacial landforms, limestone formations, and extensive gentle foothills on which farmers allow cows, sheep, and goats to graze.

The natural landscapes support the windfall of small towns, cultural history, and exciting activities year-round, ranging from mountaineering to skiing, hiking to luxurious spa treatments.

How to Get There: As one of the best places to visit in northern Italy, accessible from Verona and Venice, you can plan for multiple nights in the Italian heritage region on northern Italy itineraries.

Highlights: Lago di braies • Rifugio • Ranui church • Val di Funes • Val Gardena valley • Bolzano (Bozen) • Gran Cir • Tre Cime di Lavaredo

10. Mount Etna

Craters Silvestri of Mount Etna

Craters Silvestri of Mount Etna in Sicily, Italy

Mount Etna’s active volcano has influenced the shape, size, and landscape of Sicily, as well as provided fascinating information to the diverse field of earth sciences.

While the volcanic landscape looks barren, the geology supports a unique ecosystem of endemic flora and fauna across a diverse range of summit craters, cinder cones, and lava flows.

Mount Etna is one of the most outstanding geological features in the world, with a variety of forest tracks, seismic territory, distinct fumaroles, hot springs, and historic towns for you to discover during your travels through Italy.

How to Get There: Mount Etna is a relatively comfortable drive from Catania in Sicily, making it a fantastic day trip adventure during Sicily tours and vacations.

Highlights: Hot springs • Mountain climbing • Volcano tours • Trekking expeditions • Wine tasting • Bike riding • Historic town tours • All-terrain cruises

Explore the Top UNESCO Sites in Italy

Stairway in the Royal Palace of Caserta

Stairway in the Royal Palace of Caserta near Naples, Italy

From the emblematic frescoes decorating the walls of the Caserta Palace to the cinematic alpine slopes of the Dolomite Mountains, the top UNESCO sites in Italy provide travelers with distinct opportunities to immerse themselves in the country’s culture, heritage, and highlights.

To discover these wonders from or in popular Italian cities, towns, and regions, explore our Italy tours and vacations or learn more with our Italy travel guide.

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