Monday, May 12, 2014

UNESCO World Heritage Sites

Although most people have heard of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites, some might not really know exactly what this distinction means. Let’s start with UNESCO itself, which is considered the "intellectual" agency of the United Nations. Their premise is that “at a time when the world is looking for new ways to build peace and sustainable development, people must rely on the power of intelligence to innovate, expand their horizons and sustain the hope of a new humanism. UNESCO exists to bring this creative intelligence to life; for it is in the minds of men and women that the defences of peace and the conditions for sustainable development must be built.”

San Gimignano

The World Heritage Sites were created to distinguish and protect those areas or monuments that have an outstanding universal value, which can be either cultural and/or natural. The goal is to foster intercultural understanding, by safeguarding heritage and cultural diversity. According to UNESCO, “Heritage is our legacy from the past, what we live with today, and what we pass on to future generations. Our cultural and natural heritage are both irreplaceable sources of life and inspiration. Places as unique and diverse as the wilds of East Africa’s Serengeti, the Pyramids of Egypt, the Great Barrier Reef in Australia and the Baroque cathedrals of Latin America make up our world’s heritage. What makes the concept of World Heritage exceptional is its universal application. World Heritage sites belong to all the peoples of the world, irrespective of the territory on which they are located.”


Clearly, the honor of being designated a World Heritage Site also includes the right to receive special funding for the preservation of the site. The distinction calls attention to the place and helps to boost tourism and even local interest in the area. There are presently 981 World Heritage Sites, 49 of which can be found in Italy – making it the country with the most sites.

In Tuscany there are 7 World Heritage Sites (more than in any other Italian region). So when you visit, make sure to include at least a few:

  • The Historic Center of Florence
  • Piazza del Duomo of Pisa
  • The Historic Center of San Gimignano
  • The Historic Center of Siena
  • The Historic Center of Pienza
  • The Val d’Orcia
  • Medici Villas and Gardens
Tuscany's Val d'Orcia is an example of a geographic area denominated a World Heritage Site.

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