Out of a total of 46 new World Heritage sites sites, ten archaeological, monumental, architectural, artistic and environmental areas proposed by Italy have passed the “Unesco test.” Half of the Italian entries were for non-urban areas this time: Pompeii, Herculaneum, Oplontis, the palace of Caserta and the Amalfi coastal area. The en-bloc recognition of the Savoy palaces is the result of the Region of Piedmont’s new emphasis on culture and tourism.
Recognition of an area as a world heritage site is not simply an accolade. Unesco will check that general principles of conservation are being observed. Failure to respect Unesco’s principles could result in the designation being revoked without the right of appeal.
The regional and provincial Italian Ministero per i Beni Culturali is required to check and to co-operate with national and international checks to ensure that the sites benefit from cultural, scientific and technological development.
The new Italian World Heritage sites are: The Residenze Sabaude (Palazzo Reale, Palazzo Chiablese, the royal armouries and library, Palazzo della Prefettura, formerly the Secretariat, the State Archives, formerly the Royal Archives, the former Military Academy, the riding stables and manège, the former Mint, the façade of the Teatro Reale, Palazzo Madama, Palazzo Carignano, Castello del Valentino, Villa della Regina, Castello di Rivoli, Castello di Moncalieri, Castello di Venaria, Castello della Mandria, Palazzina di Stupinigi, Castello di Agliè, Castello di Racconigi); when the Duke of Savoy, Emanuele Filiberto, decided to move the capital of his Duchy to Turin in 1562, he instigated an ambitious building programme; his original plans were enlarged and enriched by his successors. This collection of high quality buildings extends right, from the Palazzo Reale in the “command zone” of Turin out into the surrounding country residences and hunting lodges.
Portovenere, the Cinque Terre and the islands of Palmaria, Tino, Tinetto. This coastal areas stretches from the Cinque Terre to Portovenere and is an area of great scenic beauty and cultural wealth.
The Botanical Gardens, Padua. The oldest botanical gardens in the world, created in 1545. The original layout of the gardens has been preserved. Various architectural elements have been added over the years (monumental gateways, balustrades) as well as functional elements (pump houses, green houses). The garden fulfils its function as a resource for scientists and botanists.
The eighteenth-century royal palace in Caserta and its park, the Acquedotto Vanvitelliano and the San Leucio complex. The monumental group of buildings in Caserta was created by Charles III Bourbon in the mid-eighteenth century to compete with Versailles and Madrid and was designed to blend with a natural wooded area nearby, with its hunting lodges, and with a group of industrial buildings constructed for the production of silk. The whole provides an evocation of the Age of Enlightenment.
The archaeological area of Pompeii, Herculaneum and Torre Annunziata. The eruption of Vesuvius on 24 August AD79 buried the cities of Pompeii and Herculaneum and a large number of “rich” houses in the area. Since the mid-eighteenth century the remains have gradually been brought to light and made accessible to the public. The busy market town of Pompeii contrasts with the smaller (but better preserved) residential resort of Herculaneum. The superb frescoes in Villa Oplontis at Torre Annunziata bear vivid witness to the opulent lifestyle of the richest citizens in the early days of the Roman Empire.
The Amalfi Coast. The coastline near Amalfi is of great physical beauty and enormous natural diversity. It has been inhabited continuously since the early Middle Ages and includes a number of cities like Amalfi and Ravello which contain artistic and architectural monuments of great importance.
The Roman villa in Piazza Armerina in Casale. The villa in Casale is typical of the architecture of the fourth century AD and is one of the most luxurious surviving examples of its kind. It is known for the richness and quality of the mosaics that decorate nearly every room—almost the best surviving mosaics to be found anywhere in the Roman world.
The archaeological area of Agrigento. The magnificent Doric temples which dominated the ancient city have remained largely intact among the fields and vegetable gardens of today and testify to the former supremacy of the city. A variety of excavated areas give the visitor a clear understanding of the Hellenistic and Roman city and the burial customs of their Palaeo-christian inhabitants.
The Nuraghi of Barumini. During the second millennium BC, the Bronze Age, a unique type of defensive building known as “Nuraghi”, conical stone towers with vaulted inner chambers, was developed in Sardinia. The group of “nuraghi” at Barumini is the best and most complete example of the unusual form of prehistoric architecture.
The Cathedral, Torre Civica and Piazza Grande in Modena. The magnificent twelfth-century cathedral of Modena is an illustration of the beginnings of Gothic art and was the work of two great artists, Lanfranco and Wiligelmo. The Piazza and the free-standing tower beside the cathedral bear witness to the power of the Canossa family who commissioned and paid for the buildings.
The seventeen preceding Italian World Heritage sites: The rock art of Valcamonica; the historic centre of Rome; the Dominican church and monastery of Santa Maria delle Grazie in Milan where Leonardo da Vinci’s “Last Supper” is housed; the historic centre of Florence; Venice and the Lagoon; Piazza del Duomo, Pisa; the historic centre of San Gimignano; Sassi de Matera; the historic centre of Siena; the historic centre of Naples; the historic centre of Ferrara; Industrial installations in Crespi d’Adda; Alberobello, the city of “trulli”; Ravenna, city of mosaics; the historic centre of Pienza; Castel del Monte.
• Originally appeared in The Art Newspaper with the headline "Piedmont gets the lion’s share"