There are now more than 50 World Heritage Sites (WHS) in Italy (as of July 2015), that’s close to five percent of the present total number of sites on UNESCO’s World Heritage list. Italy’s cultural heritage is indeed exceptional and one of many reasons for its popularity as a travel destination. As many as seven of Italy’s WHSs are located in the region of Tuscany.
It is interesting to note that four of the seven sites are ‘historic centres’. Anyone who has visited Florence would know that it is simply impossible to select a single building or monument as a representative of the city as a whole. San Gimignano for example, is a singular town, a unity not only of medieval towers but also of squares and streets, houses and palaces, wells and fountains. Siena and its historic centre is built around Piazza del Campo.
In Pisa, on the other hand, Piazza del Duomo is a clearly defined unit consisting of four distinct buildings, the most known being the iconic Leaning Tower. Then there’s the “man-made” landscape in Val d’Orcia, created to be both agriculturally efficient as well as aesthetically pleasing to the eye. In this enchanting [Tuscan] landscape we find the newest addition to the list, twelve Medici villas and gardens; innovative systems of construction built in harmony with nature and dedicated to leisure, the arts and knowledge – according to UNESCO.
Here’s a brief intro to the seven World Heritage treasures in the region of Tuscany:
- Florence – Historic Centre (World Heritage since 1982)
- Pisa – Piazza del Duomo (Piazza dei Miracoli) (1987)
- San Gimignano – Historic Centre (1990)
- Siena – Historic Centre (1995)
- Pienza – Historic Centre (1996)
- Val d’Orcia (2004)
- Medici Villas and Gardens in Tuscany (2013)
- See overview of Italian World Heritage on Heredajo
Florence – Historic Centre
Florence needs no introduction, but it needs your time. If you have the chance to visit Florence sometime during the winter months, do it! This is highly recommended, especially if you want to see all the fantastic art at the Uffizi Gallery, the Pitti Palace, or the view from Brunelleschi’s cupola on top of Santa Maria del Fiore, without having to spend most of the day waiting outside to get inside. During the slow winter months, the locals will smile and chat with you, the rest of the year it’s all business as usual. And, the Boboli Gardens look great in January too!
Pisa – Piazza del Duomo (Piazza dei Miracoli)
Pisa is known worldwide thanks to its landmark, the Leaning Tower of Pisa. A minor miracle on its own, the famous leaning tower is one of four buildings in this exquisitely elegant and stylistically consistent complex.
Piazza del Duomo is the official UNESCO WHS name, but it is also called Piazza dei Miracoli – The Square of Miracles. In addition to the Leaning Tower there are the prominent Baptistry with the pointed cupola, the Cathedral and the oblong Camposanto cemetery in the background. Each building compliment the other. Here the whole is indeed greater than the sum of the parts. The leaning tower only underscores this in its own extraordinary way.
Check out the following links to read more about the Square of Miracles and the Leaning Tower of Pisa.
San Gimignano – Historic Centre
The medieval town of San Gimignano is situated on a ridge of a hill in the gentle Tuscan landscape, about an hour’s drive from Siena or Florence. It is first and foremost known for its many towers but the whole historic centre is an exceptionally well-preserved town from the middle ages. San Gimignano once had around 70 tower houses. Only 14 have survived and they have aged beautifully.
Click here for more photos of San Gimignano.
Siena – Historic Centre (1995)
Pienza – Historic Centre
Photo of Pienza courtesy of Serena Puosi
Photo of Val d’Orcia courtesy of Serena Puosi
Medici Villas and Gardens in Tuscany
For an overview of all posts about World Heritage in Italy, click here.
SOURCES & CREDITS
All photos © Asgeir Pedersen, Heredajo except as indicated.
Many thanks to Serena Puosi for kind permission to use her photos of Pienza and Val d’Orcia.
This article was first published Jan.11 2015.