UNESCO World Heritage Sites In Lazio (And The Vatican)

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Of Italy’s 55 UNESCO World Heritage Sites, five are located wholly or partly within the region of Lazio. Of course, the most famous is the Historic Centre of Rome, taking in the whole of the Vatican City. But how many of the others have you visited? Here is a complete list of the World Heritage Sites in Lazio and the Vatican, as well as one example of World Intangible Heritage.

1. Historic Centre of Rome And The Properties of the Holy See

The full name of this World Heritage Site is the Historic Centre of Rome, the Properties of the Holy See in that City Enjoying Extraterritorial Rights and San Paolo Fuori le Mura. It covers the area once bounded by the 17th century town walls, taking in the historic city and its many archaeological sites. It also includes the Vatican City – not technically part of Italy – and the Basilica of St Paul Outside the Walls, where St Paul is supposed to be buried.

Dome of St Peter's Church in the Vatican City
The World Heritage Site includes the Vatican City

The reasons for the UNESCO listing are numerous. The influence of the Roman Empire and of the Catholic Church are obvious factors. However, the impact on later generations of the art and architecture are also noted, as is the continuing importance of Rome as a pilgrimage centre.

Read more about Rome and the Vatican:

2 & 3. Villa D’Este And Villa Adriana, Tivoli

The Villa d’Este and Villa Adriana, historic villas in the spa town of Tivoli, are actually two separate World Heritage Sites. The hillside garden of the 16th century Villa d’Este, with its terraces, sculptures and fountains, is described by UNESCO as “one of the most remarkable and comprehensive illustrations of Renaissance culture”. It is said to have influenced garden design throughout Europe.

Long row of fountains and trees beside a path
Fountains in the garden of the Villa d’Este

The Villa Adriana (the 2nd century home of the Emperor Hadrian) is a complex of buildings and gardens a short distance from Tivoli. According to UNESCO it combines “the best elements of the architectural heritage of Egypt, Greece and Rome in the form of an ‘ideal city’”.

Read more about The Historic Villas Of Tivoli.

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4. Etruscan Necropolises Of Cerveteri And Tarquinia

The Etruscan civilisation pre-dates Rome, but is much less well-known and less of it has survived to the present day. One place where you can see good evidence of their culture is at the Necropolises Of Cerveteri And Tarquinia. These two cemeteries, dating back to the 9th century BCE, give an insight into Etruscan art, architecture and town planning, as well as their funerary customs over many centuries.

Large brick tomb surrounded by trees
The Necropolis at Cerveteri (Image by travelspot from Pixabay)

At Cerveteri, 50 km from Rome, thousands of tombs are laid out in the style of a city, with a mixture of grand and more humble structures. Tarquinia (80 km from Rome) has a smaller number of burial chambers, but it is remarkable for its painted walls. These images show scenes of everyday Etruscan life, of wild animals, and of the journey to the afterlife.

You can visit both sites by car or bus. Alternatively, take an escorted tour from Rome.

5. Ancient Beech Forests

The Ancient and Primeval Beech Forests of the Carpathians and Other Regions of Europe is a multi-country, multi-region site. Covering 12 countries across Europe, it celebrates the evolution of the beech tree and its adaptation to different climates and physical environments.

Within Lazio the World Heritage Site is represented by the ancient beech forests of the Faggeta del Monte Cimino. Situated near to Soriano, 80 km north of Rome, this is an extensive area surrounding an old volcano. Visitors can enjoy a landscape of trees and mountains, with well-marked hiking trails.

Autumn colours in a beech forest
Ancient beech woodland (image copyright Wildlife Wanderer via Flickr)

Macchina Di Santa Rosa Of Viterbo (Intangible Heritage)

The former papal city of Viterbo features on the UNESCO List of Intangible Cultural Heritage. It is part of the Celebrations of Big Shoulder-borne Processional Structures, religious processions in which massive symbolic structures are carried through the streets.

In Viterbo the Macchina di Santa Rosa, a 30 m tower topped by a statue of St Rose (the city’s patron saint) is paraded through the town centre each year on 3 September, carried by 100 men. The custom goes back to 1258, when the saint’s body was moved to the church of Santa Maria delle Rose (now a pilgrimage chapel).

UNESCO Tentative List

Lazio also has a number of sites on the UNESCO Tentative List. In Tivoli this includes the Aniene Valley and the Villa Gregoriana; elsewhere are the Villas of the Papal Nobility, a number of country houses built for prominent members of the religious community. Three multi-region sites on the Tentative List cover parts of Lazio: the Via Appia, the Via Francigena and the Cultural landscape of the Benedictine settlements in medieval Italy.

Pinnable image of World Heritage Sites in Lazio - columns and Roman remains
Pinnable image of the Forum in Rome

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I have been writing and travelling for many years (almost 70 countries at the last count), but Italy remains one of my favourite destinations. This website is my attempt to inform and inspire other travellers, and to share some of the things I’ve discovered along the way. Read more…

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