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Top 10 Offbeat World Heritage Sites in Italy
Like stepping back in time, World Heritage Sites are a portal into the real lives of ancient peoples. While traveling, go beyond tourist hot spots and discover the cultural riches of an area through its art, architecture and its ancient sites. Not surprisingly, Italy is home to the greatest number of World Heritage Sites in the world, with over 45 UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Of course, everyone knows Venice, Rome, Florence, Naples and Siena. Here are our top 10 offbeat World Heritage Sites that you shouldn’t miss on your next Italian Vacation:
Founded by a mythical Trojan, immortalized by Shakespeare and home to the “Saint of Miracles,” Padua is considered the oldest city in Northern Italy. Set amongst the shadows of Venice, Padua boasts a picturesque network of arcaded streets, numerous bridges and has the world's first botanical garden.
Considered one of the greatest cities of the ancient Mediterranean world, Agrigento in Sicily is well preserved and remains in an exceptionally intact condition. The Doric temples that dominate the ancient town are one of the most outstanding monuments in Greek culture and art, shedding light on the life, culture and burial practices of its early Christian inhabitants.
Buried under 13-20 feet of ash and pumice for nearly 1700 years, today visitors will find Pompeii unbelievably well preserved. Pompeii, near modern Naples, was partially destroyed and completely buried during a volcanic eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 AD. A trip to Pompeii provides extraordinary detailed insight in the life of a city at the height of the Roman Empire.
4. Castel Del Monte, Bari, Apulia, Italy
Take a drive through the unspoilt Italian countryside in Apulia. There amidst the pine woods and ever-stretching fields you can catch a glimpse of the imposing and peculiar Castel del Monte. Built as a hunting lodge by Emperor Frederick II in the 13th century, Castel del Monte was never meant as defensive fortress. Once a symbol of opulence with marble walls and columns; the castle has been stripped by vandals but is still worth a visit.
5. The Amalfi Coast
With miles of mountainous coastline stretching onto the Sorrento peninsula, the Amalfi Coast is considered one of the most beautiful coastlines in the world. Just south of Naples, in the region of Campania, travelers will find charming old fishing villages precariously perched on very steep, rocky hillsides plunging dramatically into the Mediterranean Sea. Around every turn of this “road of a thousand bends”, one catches a new view of the seaside more spectacular than the last.
6. Cinque Terre
Imagine Italy’s rugged Cinque Terre – remote seaside villages of coral, sage and egg-plant colored buildings, cliffs mirrored on the Tyrrhenian Sea, vineyards planted on perilously steep slopes and breaking waves scattering a fine mist over. The Cinque Terre reflects the harmonious interaction between man and nature to produce a landscape of exceptional quality that moves the heart like few places in the world.
7. Trulli of Alberobello
Picture the quaint town of Alberobello: rolling hills, gentle uplands, groves of olive trees and streets lined with fairy-tale like conical roofed dwellings, trulli. Small dwellings built with the local limestone, thick dry-stone walls and a characteristic conical roof, many trulli roofs are adorned with ancient symbols of their pagan inhabitants. When traveling through Southern Italy, Alberobello makes an interesting day trip destination or a pleasant base for travel throughout the Puglia region.
8. San Gimignano
A short drive through the Tuscan countryside from Siena, San Gimignano rises from the Elsa Valley with 14 long-standing towers, medieval architecture and some of the best wine in Italy. A small walled town that has maintained the feudal atmosphere of the Middle Ages, San Gimignano is well worth a visit!
9. Royal Palace of Caserta
Royal Palace of Caserta, built for the 18th century King Charles of Bourbon and modeled after the Palace of Versailles in France. An extravagant and elegant example of Baroque style, it was chosen as a UNESCO World Heritage Site because of the way it was incorporated into the natural landscape. Stroll through the extensive grounds and gardens to admire the fountains and waterworks, with sculptures by Brunelli.
The mystical town on Saint Francis has been closely associated with the work of the Franciscan Order. Built on a hill, still surrounded by its ancient walls, you will revel in Assisi’s medieval art masterpieces. Visit the Basilica of Saint Francis for fresco paintings by Cimabue, Pientro Lorenzetti, Simone Martini and Giotto.