Course  |  Italy’s UNESCO World Heritage Sites  |  Italy Online Training

Lesson 4:

Archaeological sites

Countless locations in Italy still have buildings and urban structures dating back to the Roman Empire, but there are areas where you can admire them and immerse yourself in this culture of 2000 years ago. The Romans though were not the only people living there: Greeks and Etruscans, for example, had their cities and monuments across the peninsula. The main archaeological sites are:

  • Agrigento: The Valley of the Temples
    In Sicily, the archaeological area of Agrigento was included in 1997 in the UNESCO World Heritage List. The impressive Doric temples constitute one of the most important testaments to Greek culture and art. They tell us about the thousand-year-old history which began in the sixth century B.C. with the founding of the ancient colony of Akragas.
  • Pompeii, Herculaneum and Torre Annunziata
    The archaeological areas of Pompeii, Herculaneum and Torre Annunziata (just a stone’s throw from Naples) make up one of Italy’s 55 UNESCO World Heritage Sites. The eruption of Vesuvius buried the ruins of the ancient Roman cities of Pompeii and Herculaneum in A.D. 79, but they still offer an unparalleled window into the quotidian life of classical antiquity. 
  • Villa Adriana, Tivoli
    Hadrian’s Villa at Tivoli is one of the Italian UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Built by the request of the Emperor Hadrian, the Villa is a monumental living complex that even today continues to display the lavishness and enormous power of Ancient Rome.  In Tivoli, Hadrian’s Villa (Villa Adriana) was designed to be a home for the Roman Emperor Hadrian in 117 A.D. Construction began on top of the foundation of a pre-existing villa that belonged to his wife, Vibia Sabina. The Villa, located 28 km (17.4 mi) from the Capital on the Monti Tiburtini, could be reached via the ancient Roman roads Tiburtina and Prenestina or by the River Aniene. 
  • Villa Romana del Casale
    This splendid art city woven into the heart of Sicily boasts a slew of monuments that tell of its glorious past. Meanwhile, the apple of the citizens’ eyes is the Villa Romana del Casale; originally the property of a powerful Roman family, it dates back to the 4th Century A.D.
  • Archaeological Area and Basilica of Aquileia 
    With its immense archaeological site and its Patriarchal Basilica, is an artistic and historical treasure trove. Located in Friuli-Venezia-Giulia (Udine Province), it was added to Italy’s register of UNESCO World Heritage Sites in 1998. It was also one of the largest and richest Mediterranean cities within the Roman Empire and eventually was made seat of the Ecumenical Patriarchate that lasted until 1751.
  • Cilento and the Archeological Sites of Paestum and Velia
    It is here that the magnificent Cilento and Vallo di Diano National Park stands out with its archaeological sites of Paestum and Velia, and the Certosa of Padula; together, they have made up a UNESCO World Heritage List since 1998.
  • Etruscan Necropolises of Cerveteri and Tarquinia 
    The Necropolises of Cerveteri and Tarquinia, inserted onto the UNESCO World Heritage List in 2004, constitute a unique and exceptional testimony of the ancient Etruscan Civilization, the only urban civilization of the pre-Roman Age. The frescoes inside the tombs – true-to-life reproductions of Etruscan homes – are faithful depictions of this disappeared culture’s daily life.
  • Syracuse and the Rocky Necropolis of Pantalica
    Syracuse was defined by Cicero as “the most beautiful city in Magna Graecia.”  He was right, of course. Still today the echoes of its ancient grandeur reverberate from the streets, churches and monuments, corroborating its religious and cultural importance: Syracuse is a destination no traveller should pass up and, with Sicily’s Mediterranean climate, can be visited in any season of the year. Made a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2005, the city conserves ancient vestiges in every niche and corner, from Classical testimonies to Baroque splendours, all within a landscape of enchanting beauty. 

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