Northern Italy's UNESCO World Heritage Sites and Cities

World Heritage Sites in Venice and the Veneto, Mountains, and Northern Cities

Italy has 51 UNESCO world heritage sites (as of 2015) with 19 in northern Italy and one that includes monuments throughout Italy, Longobards in Italy - Places of the Power. Northern Italy's world heritage sites include city centers, archaeological sites, and natural sites. Sites are listed in the order in which they were inscribed by UNESCO, starting with  Italy's first world heritage site in 1979, the rock drawings of Valcamonica.

There are, of course, more Italian UNESCO sites in central Italy,   southern ItalySicily, and Sardinia.

  • 01 of 19
    rock art in valcamonica
    ••• Valcamonica Rock Art Park. Hiroshi Higuchi/Stockbyte/Getty Images

    The prehistoric petroglyphs of the Valcamonica were Italy's first UNESCO World Heritage site, designated in 1979. La Valle Delle Incisioni, the Valley of Engravings, is the largest collection of prehistoric rock carvings in Europe with more than 140,000 petroglyphs done over a period of 8,000 years. In addition to prehistoric sites, the beautiful Valcamonica is dotted with picturesque medieval villages and has many hiking trails.

  • 02 of 19
    santa maria delle grazie church photo
    ••• Santa Maria delle Grazie, Milan. Giovanni Dall'Orto/Wikimedia Commons

    The Convent of Santa Maria della Grazie with Leonardo da Vinci's famous Last Supper painting is a top sight in Milan. If you're going be sure to book tickets ahead (see link above for visiting information). Both the convent and the painting are from the 15th century.

  • 03 of 19
    venice photo
    ••• Venice. courtesy of Barbara Molini

    Venice is one of Italy's most popular and romantic cities. Built on 118 islands, the city of Venice was chosen as an architectural masterpiece with many important works of art. The Doge's Palace is the most impressive building in Venice and Basilica San Marco is not to be missed but you'll find interesting architecture in all parts of Venice.

  • 04 of 19
    palladian villa picture, brenta villa picture
    ••• Villa Foscari La Malcontenta, Palladian Villa. © by Martha Bakerjian, licensed to About.com

    Vicenza, east of Venice, is the heart of the Veneto region and was an important city from the 15th through 18th centuries. Renaissance architect Andrea Palladio designed many of Vicenza's buildings in the 16th-century classical Roman architecture. The Basilica Palladiana is considered by many to be Palladio's masterpiece. The Palladian Villas in the countryside, also designed by Palladio, were built as summer homes for well-to-do Venetians and some of them are now open to the public. See the map of the Veneto for its location.

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  • 05 of 19
    ••• xiquinhosilva/Flickr/CC BY 2.0

    Crespi d'Adda in Capriate San Gervasio in the Lombardy region was chosen as "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". Built in 1875, the town, and factory it was built around, prospered until the Depression of 1929 when the factory was sold to a larger company for financial reasons. Today the factory is closed but the town still functions.

  • 06 of 19
    ••• Castello Estense de Ferrara © James Martin

    Ferrara, on the Po Delta in Emilia-Romagna, is a walled Renaissance city with lots of great examples of Romanesque and Gothic architecture. A medieval castle dominates the old town and its 12th-century cathedral is a good example of Romanesque and Gothic architecture. During the Renaissance, Ferrara was an intellectual and artistic center, designed according to the late fifteenth century principles of the "ideal city". Ferrara holds it Palio contest May and one weekend is devoted to flag throwing Stay near the castle at Hotel Annunziata.

  • 07 of 19
    ••• Ravenna Mosaics © James Martin

    Ravenna, also known as the city of mosaics, offers the visitor a unique look at religious mosaic arts from the 5th and 6th centuries. Eight of Ravenna's monuments and churches from the 5th-6th centuries are designated UNESCO World Heritage Sites, most because of their spectacular early Christian mosaics. During this period, Ravenna was the western capital of the Roman Empire and of the Byzantine Empire in Europe.

  • 08 of 19

    Padua - Botanical Garden

    ••• Botanical Garden © James Martin

    The botanical garden, Orto Botanico, of Padua was the world's first botanical garden, created in 1545. There are several interesting plant collections including aquatic plants, medicinal plants, and insect-eating plants. The gardens, located near the famous Basilica di Sant'Antonio, are open to the public.

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  • 09 of 19
    modena duomo picture, belltower
    ••• Modena Picture: Duomo and belltower. Modena Cathedral © Martha Bakerjian

    Modena's 12th century Duomo or Cathedral and Gothic bell tower, Torre della Ghirlandina, are in the historic center in Piazza Grande. These three monuments make up Modena's world heritage site. The cathedral is one of the best Romanesque churches in Europe. Modena is also the home of Luciano Pavorotti, balsamic vinegar, and exotic car makers like Maserati and Ferrari, who just opened the Enzo Ferrari House Museum in Modena.

  • 10 of 19
    Portovenere picture, harbor, castle
    ••• Portovenere Picture: View of Portovenere from the Harbor, with Castle Above. Portovenere © James Martin

    Portovenere and the Cinque Terre are picturesque villages on the coast near La Spezia. Portovenere, on the Gulf of Poets, has a harbor lined with brightly colored houses and narrow medieval streets leading up the hill from the ancient city gate to a castle. Cinque Terre, five lands, are five car-free villages connected by hiking trails, trains, and ferries.

  • 11 of 19

    Residences of the Royal House of Savoy

    La Venaria Reale Picture, Royal Palace picture, piedmont royal palace
    ••• La Venaria Reale Picture: Royal Palace Grand Hall. Progetto La Venaria Reale

    La Venaria Reale, outside Torino, is a huge complex that houses the Baroque Savoy Palace and Gardens. The palace and gardens were opened to the public in 2007 following a massive restoration project, one of the largest in Europe. La Reggia di Venaria Reale is an extravagant baroque Royal Palace used as a Savoy residence in the 17th to 18th centuries. It's one of the most significant examples of baroque art and architecture in existence.

  • 12 of 19

    Aquileia - Archaeological Area and Basilica

    Aquileia
    ••• Aquileia. John W. Schulze/Flickr/CC BY 2.0

    Aquileia was one of the largest and most important cities in the early Roman empire. Although most of the area is unexcavated, the Basilica with its impressive mosaic pavement can be seen. Aquileia is in the Friuli-Venezia Giulia region, the very northeast part of Italy.

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  • 13 of 19
    piazza in verona
    ••• Verona Piazza delle Erbe, Verona. Martha Bakerjian

    Verona is known as the town of Romeo and Juliet in the Shakespeare play and for its Roman arena used for summer opera performances. Verona has a good historic center with several Roman monuments. Piazza delle Erbe was once the Roman forum but is now a market square surrounded by frescoed buildings. Verona was inscribed by UNESCO for the large number of monuments from antiquity and the medieval and Renaissance periods.

  • 14 of 19
    Sacri Monti
    ••• Sacri Monti. sharon mckellar/Flickr/CC BY-ND 2.0

    The nine sacred mountains in northern Italy's Piedmont and Lombardy region have churches and Christian monuments created in the 16th and 17th centuries. They house important wall paintings and statuary. According to a reader, "their relevance resides in the fact that they were conceived as locations where people who could not move much could take part in pilgrimages, similar to those that since the Middle Age led people to Rome, Jerusalem or to Santiago de Compostela."

  • 15 of 19
    genoa palazzo photo
    ••• Palazzo on Via Garibaldi, Genoa. by Martha Bakerjian

    The Renaissance and Baroque Rolli Palaces, in Genoa's center, were added to the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites in 2006. About 80 Rolli palaces were built in the 16th and early 17th​ centuries when Genoa was one of Italy's four great maritime republics. These Renaissance and Baroque palaces lined the strade nuove or new streets. Many of them were restored in 2004.

  • 16 of 19
    mantova photo
    ••• Mantova. by James Martin

    Mantua, or Mantova, is a beautiful, historic city in northern Italy surrounded on three sides by lakes. The town's center is three spacious and lively squares that join together. Mantua was one of the greatest Renaissance Courts in Europe and was chosen as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2008 based on its Renaissance planning and architecture. Sabbioneta, nearby, is a small walled town. Both towns are part of the UNESCO Quadrilateral District that includes several other historic cities.

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  • 17 of 19
    Rhaetian Railway
    ••• Rhaetian Railway. Miroslav Volek/Flickr/CC BY 2.0

    This world heritage site is shared with Switzerland. These are two historic and scenic railway lines, constructed in the early 19th century, that through the central Alps.

  • 18 of 19

    Dolomites

    hikers in the dolomite mountains
    ••• Hiking in the Dolomites. by Tom Weber, The Palladian Traveler

    The Dolomite Mountain range, with 18 peaks rising above 3000 meters, is in the Italian Alps running across the northern border of the Veneto and Trentino Alto Adige regions. The Dolomite range is popular for skiing almost all year and hiking in summer. The UNESCO inscription says, "It features some of the most beautiful mountain landscapes anywhere, with vertical walls, sheer cliffs and a high density of narrow, deep and long valleys."

  • 19 of 19
    barolo photo
    ••• Barolo, Langhe Wine Region. Martha Bakerjian

    Italy's 50th UNESCO site is the rolling vineyard landscapes of the Langhe, Roero, and Monferrato wine regions in the southern part of the Piemonte region. This is the first time a site has been chosen on the basis of its landscape, which is cited as being a prime example of farmers and agriculture conserving the landscape.

Italy's UNESCO World Heritage Sites

Find the world heritage sites in Central and Southern Italy and on the islands of Sardinia and Sicily.