18 Best UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Italy

Welcome to Italy! A country known for having some of the world’s greatest works of art, architecture and food! But also, there are the top UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Italy too! 59 in total which places them at the top of the list!

This article includes some of the absolute best UNESCO Sites Italy has to offer. Places like Florence, Naples, Rome, Cinque Terre and the Amalfi Coast. Then there are some under-the-radar gems like Pompei, Matera, and Val d’Orcia.

Curious to find out about these Italy UNESCO Sites?

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18 UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Italy

UNESCO stands for the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization. It’s a group of countries that work together to promote and protect education, science, and culture around the world.

1. Aeolian Islands

mountain with valley designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site Italy
Contributed by Emily from Wander-Lush

Visit the Aeolian Islands to witness UNESCO’s recognized “volcanic island-building and destruction.” Marvel at diverse landscapes, from Salina’s fertile soils for wine grapes to Vulcano’s sulphurous mud baths. Summit Stromboli for a guided trek to its renowned bubbling crater. Alongside divine landscapes, the islands have a unique culture and pace of life that makes them a total contrast to the rest of Italy.

UNESCO World Heritage Site Italy: Aeolian Islands

The Aeolian Islands, part of Italy’s UNESCO World Heritage Sites, consist of seven volcanic islands in the Tyrrhenian Sea near Sicily. Notable for their volcanic origin and featuring the active volcano Stromboli.

2. Alberobello

cone shaped houses in town of Alberobello one of the UNESCO Sites Italy
Contributed by Maria & Katerina of It’s All Trip To Me

A visit to the enchanting town of Alberobello in the Itria Valley is a must on any trip to the region of Puglia in Southern Italy. This region, known as the Trulli zone, features century-old limestone buildings with distinctive conical roofs. While Trulli are found throughout the Itria Valley, Alberobello stands out with the highest concentration and best-preserved examples of these architectural wonders in the area.

UNESCO Sites Italy: Alberobello

Alberobello, despite its small size, boasts over 1500 trulli in two neighbourhoods: Rione Monti and Aia Piccola. Recognizing their cultural importance, UNESCO highlighted the trulli as a unique representation of a millennia-old Mediterranean building technique. The dry-stone construction tradition dates back to prehistoric times.

3. Amalfi Coast

beach with orange and white stripped umbrellas with sea in Italy UNESCO World Heritage Site
Contributed by Jackie Rezk of Jou Jou Travels

The Amalfi Coast is a stunning 55 km stretch in southern Italy with over 100 beaches dating back to the 1st century AD. Explore stunning beaches, take on a boat tour to places like the Fiordo di Furore, and savour delectable food on the Amalfi Coast. Don’t miss the lemon-inspired dishes, a specialty of the region known for lemon production.

Italy UNESCO World Heritage Site: Amalfi Coast

This UNESCO site in Italy includes 12 towns, with popular destinations like Positano, Sorrento, and Amalfi. Don’t miss the charm of lesser-known towns such as Vietri Sul Mare, Praiano, and Ravello, each offering breathtaking cliff views, pastel buildings, and stunning beaches.

4. Archaeological Area of Pompei

archaeological site of rooms, bridge in italy world heritage sites
Contributed by Helen of Helen On Her Holidays

Visiting Pompeii to see how people in a Roman town once lived. You can tour and see how Romans from all walks of life lived, from fast food to fancy homes and even brothels. Herculaneum, a fancy town on the other side of Vesuvius, is better preserved than Pompeii because it was destroyed by superheated gas, not rocks.

In Torre Annunziata, two villas reveal different aspects of Roman life. Villa Poppaea is grand, with beautiful wall paintings, while the other is more practical, with areas for making things and storing stuff.

Italy World Heritage Sites: Pompei

Pompeii, a vast archaeological site near Naples beneath Mount Vesuvius, was a thriving Roman city until the eruption of Vesuvius in AD 79. Buried in volcanic rocks and ash at 160 km/h, the city’s ruins remained hidden for almost 2000 years before their rediscovery.

5. Cinque Terre to Porto Venere

stone archway to sea as italy unesco sites
Contributed by Chris at Explore Now or Never

Start exploring Porto Venere, where you can visit the Gothic Church of St. Peter on a seaside rock and the clifftop fortress, Castello Doria. Don’t forget to visit Lord Byron’s Grotto, named after the renowned poet.

Next up is Cinque Terre, made up of five villages perched on steep stone terraces overlooking the sea. You can easily travel between the villages by train or on foot. Explore the steep paths in Riomaggiore and enjoy a sunset drink in the beautiful Vernazza, the crown jewel of Cinque Terre.

Italy UNESCO Sites: Porto Venere to Cinque Terre

UNESCO acknowledges Italy’s beautiful Ligurian coast between Porto Venere and Cinque Terre for its exceptional natural beauty. This once hard-to-reach area, only accessible by sea until a few decades ago, gained popularity and tourism thanks to travel writer Rick Steves.

✨For an ideal Cinque Terre experience, I recommend a three-day itinerary, allowing ample time to explore each of the five villages and enjoy a boat tour along the gorgeous Ligurian Coast.

6. Historic City Centre of Florence

rooftops with church dome and mountains in florence, a unesco heritage sites in italy
Contributed by Zoe of Together in Transit

In the Tuscany region of Italy, Florence is perfect for couples and food lovers. It’s a haven for art enthusiasts with beautiful museums and galleries, including the renowned Uffizi Gallery, and offers historical points of interest, all make Florence worth visiting.

UNESCO Heritage Sites in Italy: Florence

Florence is a UNESCO site known for its rich history, Renaissance art, and beautiful architecture. Explore cobblestone streets, visit local squares, and immerse yourself in the culture by exploring churches like the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore. The city’s 14th-century walls add to its historical charm, making it a unique destination.

✨I love exploring Florence with these things to do like, especially wandering through its charming streets and piazzas, and savouring delicious Italian cuisine.

7. Historic City Centre of Naples

city of Naples on the hill facing the sea as italy unesco world heritage sites
Contributed by Noel Morata of Oahu Travel Now

Explore Naples’ historic city center with its impressive architecture, including Castel Nuovo and the church of Santa Chiara. Roam through treasures like the catacombs, Via San Gregorio Armeno (Christmas Alley), and the Bourbon Tunnel. Numerous museums vividly depict the city’s early Greek, Egyptian, and Roman influences.

Naples is a city of contrasts, loved for its vibrant and lively atmosphere, as well as its gritty and noisy charm. Dive into the city’s specialties, like famous Neapolitan pizza, Sfogliatelle, deep-fried pizza, Struffoli, Mozzarella en Carrozza and Pasta alla Genovese.

Italy UNESCO World Heritage Sites: Naples

Naples is a UNESCO site because of its ancient history, dating back to the 9th century B.C., subsequently re-established as Neapolis (or New City) in 470 B.C. It’s recognized for its rich trading past and culture, making it one of the best Italian World Heritage Sites.

8. Historic City Centre of Pienza

Pienza, a charming hilltop town in southern Tuscany’s Val d’Orcia, has delightful cobbled streets like Via dell’Amore and Via del Bacio, capturing the heart of those who explore its enchanting corners as I did.

World Heritage Sites in Italy: Pienza

Pienza, a historic town since 1458, earned its UNESCO status in 1996 for Renaissance architecture and city planning. The heart of Pienza is Piazza Pio II, featuring the cathedral and three palaces, including one for Pope Pio II.

Notable sites include the Gothic-inspired Pienza Cathedral and Palazzo Piccolomini, a masterpiece by Rossellino. Palazzo Borgia and Palazzo Vescovile house the Diocesan museum with local textiles and religious artifacts.

9. Historic City Centre of Rome

site of ruins with former archways in rome as world heritage sites italy
Contributed by Stéphanie of Bey Of Travel

Rome, the capital of Italy, is a city steeped in history and culture, adorned with iconic landmarks such as the Colosseum, Vatican City, and the historic center.

World Heritage Sites Italy: Rome

Rome’s Historic Centre, a UNESCO site since 1990, is known for its stunning Renaissance buildings, squares, and monuments. From Piazza del Popolo to Piazza Venezia and east of the Tiber up to Piazza di Spagna, it includes iconic places like the Forums, the Pantheon, and the religious and public buildings of papal Rome.

✨I highly recommend splitting your time between exploring the ancient marvels of the Colosseum and Vatican City, and strolling through the charming streets of Trastevere for a taste of authentic Roman life.

10. Historic City Centre of Siena

grass, trees with view of stone town in distance is siena, a unesco sites in italy
Contributed by Becks of It’s Just Becks

In the heart of Siena lies Piazza del Campo, where the renowned Palio di Siena horse race happens twice a year. A brief, uphill stroll from this vibrant square leads to city highlights like Siena Duomo and Piazza Salimbeni.

UNESCO Sites in Italy: Siena

Siena’s historical center, a UNESCO site since 1995, is packed with culture, history, and beautiful architecture. The ancient city, founded by the sons of Remus, features the world’s oldest bank, one of the oldest universities, and charming buildings along its cobblestone streets.

✨I recommend spending your day in Siena getting lost in its charming medieval streets.

11. Historic City Centre of Urbino

stone village perched on hill is Urbino, a unesco world heritage sites in italy
Contributed by Milijana Gabrić of World Travel Connector

Many dream of a Tuscany road trip, yet few know that the stunning hilltop town of Urbino, located in the central region of Marche, is a hidden architectural masterpiece.

UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Italy: Urbino

Urbino, a UNESCO site, is a pinnacle of Italian Renaissance art and architecture. As a cultural hub during the Renaissance, it drew renowned figures like Raphael, Paolo Uccello, and Piero della Francesca, making it a picturesque hometown for the grand Raphael.

12. Mantua and Sabbioneta

painting of historic scene in italy is italian unesco world heritage sites
Contributed by Jim Vail of Reflections Enroute

Mantua and Sabbioneta are located in the central region of Lombardy, Italy. A must-visit in Mantua is the Ducale Palace, adorned with stunning frescoes by famous Renaissance artists like Andrea Mantegna and Pisanello. In summer, lucky visitors might enjoy a small orchestra performance in one of the ballrooms.

Italian UNESCO World Heritage Sites: Mantua and Sabbioneta

Mantua and Sabbioneta are UNESCO sites, recognized for their Renaissance city planning. With origins in Roman times, these towns underwent significant renovations in the 15th and 16th centuries, preserving their Renaissance-era charm.

13. Matera

density of city with stone buildings is considered a unesco world heritage sites italy
Contributed by Audrey of That Backpacker

Matera, in Basilicata’s southern region, is a captivating “City of Caves” literally carved from rock, offering a journey through time as the third-oldest continually inhabited settlement globally.

In Matera, the best thing to do is to ditch the map and get lost in its maze of zigzagging staircases, steep lanes, and tiny courtyards where adventure awaits at every corner.

UNESCO World Heritage Sites Italy: Matera

Matera is a UNESCO site for its ancient cave dwellings, among the earliest human settlements in Italy. As things to do in Matera, don’t miss exploring rupestrian churches with frescoes, touring Casa Grotta di Vico Solitario for a glimpse into Sassi life until the 1950s, and hiking to the caves in Murgia National Park.

14. Modena

stone building with archway, clock tower considered unesco heritage sites italy
Contributed by Lori of Travlinmad

Modena, in Italy’s Emilia Romagna region, is known for being the hub of premier sports car manufacturers like Ferrari and Lamborghini, and it boasts a vibrant Modena food scene with several Michelin restaurants.

UNESCO Heritage Sites Italy: Modena

Modena’s Piazza Grande, Modena Cathedral, and the Ghirlandina Tower received UNESCO status for being outstanding examples of Romanesque architecture, taking over two centuries to build (1099-1319).

Additionally, the Cathedral marks the first documented reuse of ancient remains, and the sites showcase a unique collaboration between the architect (Lanfranco) and sculptor (Wiligelmo), recognizing the creator’s role in the construction process.

15. Mount Etna

active volcano in sicily is an unesco world heritage site italy
Contributed by Tjasa Pele of The Travel Memento

Etna, standing at 3300 meters, is Europe’s largest active volcano, nestled in Sicily and overlooking Catania. A must-see landmark when travelling to Sicily, you can hike or take a cable car to the summit to witness Etna’s unique features up close.

UNESCO World Heritage Site Italy: Mt Etna

The Sicilian east coastline earned UNESCO recognition due to its 500,000-year history of volcanic activity, shaping the landscape with features like active and inactive craters, lava flows, ashes, and unique flora and fauna, providing significant cultural and educational value.

16. Val di Noto, Sicily

stone arches with faces in Sicily as a unesco sites italy
Contributed by Soumya from Stories by Soumya

A must-see on your Sicily itinerary, the Late Baroque Towns of Val di Noto, including Ragusa, Noto, Modica, Scicli, Catania, Palazzolo, Caltagirone, and Militello Val di Catania, were beautifully reconstructed after the 1693 earthquake, forming one of Italy’s stunning Heritage sites.

UNESCO Sites Italy: Sicily

Sicilian architects applied the Italian Baroque style to reconstruct, resulting in a unique blend called Sicilian Baroque. In Val di Noto’s towns, admire the richly sculpted Baroque features on churches, town halls, and homes, adorned with intricate stucco, masks, cherubs, and colourful mosaics, making it a UNESCO site.

17. Val d’Orcia

valley with tall trees and road in tuscany considered a italy unesco world heritage site
Contributed by Martina & Jürgen of Places of Juma

Val d’Orcia, located in the heart of Tuscany, is the place where you will find endless rolling fields, dreamlike viewpoints, picturesque cypress avenues, beautiful panoramic roads and charming villages in marvellous Renaissance style.

Italy UNESCO World Heritage Site: Val d’Orcia

In the heart of Tuscany, this UNESCO site is a 60,000-hectare area known for its endless rolling fields, picturesque cypress avenues, and charming Renaissance-style villages, symbolizing the beauty of a well-managed Renaissance agricultural landscape.

✨I recommend visiting as many hilltop Tuscan towns as you can.

18. Venice and its Lagoon

colourful buildings, canal and boats in venice, italy world heritage sites
Contributed by Lavina of Continent Hop

The wonderfully romantic destination of Venice. Venice, a city like no other, is wonderfully romantic with its network of canals, historic architecture, and enchanting atmosphere.

Italy World Heritage Sites: Venice

Venice, a UNESCO site since 1987, is historically significant, founded in the 5th century A.D. to escape the Barbarian invasion, showcasing remarkable harmony between natural elements and human determination across its 118 islands, with gondolas navigating canals and structures standing on sturdy platforms over the lagoon.

✨Get to know Venice more as I debate which city is better: Venice vs Florence.

UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Europe

I frequently explore and write about various UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Europe, using these designations to shape and guide my travel plans.

FAQ About Italy UNESCO Sites

Why does Italy have the most UNESCO World Heritage Sites?

Italy has the most UNESCO World Heritage Sites due to its rich history and cultural heritage spanning over 3,000 years of civilization influencing art, architecture, and culture.

How much of Italy is UNESCO World Heritage?

5% of Italy is designated as UNESCO World Heritage reflective of the incredible richness and diversity of its cultural, natural and historic sites.

Which 2 countries have the largest number of UNESCO World Heritage Sites?

Italy, followed by China has the largest number of UNESCO World Heritage Sites, with Italy boasting 59 sites and China close behind with 56 sites.

As a Holidaymaker

I find UNESCO sites, particularly in Italy, invaluable for planning my itineraries. Use my trip planning resources to assist you in organizing your own travels. If you enjoyed this article, consider joining my mailing list for exclusive travel news and experiences.