It is not surprising that Florence and Rome, two of the most important historical centers in Italy, have been designated UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Central Italy. This includes renowned places like the Val d’Orcia in Tuscany. Here are seven more amazing sites in Central Italy that are not often seen.
Urbino, Le Marche
Urbino is a hilltop town that retains much its Renaissance charm. The picturesque view of Urbino’s medieval walls and towers, surrounded by terracotta-colored town is created by the Duomo’s large cupola.
The well-preserved hilltown of Urbino is a reminder of the town’s longstanding tradition, with its winding roads and steep staircases. The court of Federico da Montefeltro (1422-1482) was the heart of this small, but important literary and artistic centre during the Renaissance. This remarkable man, a mercenary general, who ruled from 1444 to 1482 as Duke of Montefeltro and brought the Renaissance to his small village, is always responsible for Urbino’s fame.
Basilica of San Salvatore. Spoleto
One of seven monuments that Longobards lists in Italy. The Basilica of San Salvatore, one of the seven monuments listed in Longobards in Italy as Places of Power (568-774 A.D.), was taken off the beaten track by UNESCO 2011. The Basilica, located outside Spoleto, dates back to 4th century. You will see the reuse of materials from older buildings in both the exterior and interior.
The three windows in the upper section of this facade are decorated with Classical elements. While the Basilica’s presbytery supports the dome, there are Corinthian columns. Although the interior is empty, fascinating frescoes can be found inside. They include the 8th century’s earliest example of a jeweled cross with gemstones hanging from its arms.
Assisii is often mentioned in connection with St. Francis who was born in this area in 1182. Assisii is a popular place in Umbria where pilgrims come to pay homage to St. Francis. It also has a well-preserved historic center.
The Basilica of St. Francis, a prominent landmark in Assisi is visible as you approach. It gives you an impression of the mystic charm and spirituality you will find there. The Basilica, which houses the remains of St. Francis, was constructed in 1228. It consists of two churches that are connected. The lower church is dimly lit while the upper church has the bright light coming through the windows decorated with light. The interior features stunning frescoes from Pietro Lorenzetti, Giotto, and Cimabue. Most notable are the frescoes that depict the key scenes in the life of St. Francis.
Villa d’Este, Tivoli
Villa d’Este is located just outside Rome, in the hilltop town of Tivoli. It was built by Cardinal Ippolito 2 d’Este in 1550 after he lost his bid for the papacy. He was the son of Lucrezia Borgia and felt that the residence he had been given was not adequate. He wanted something more extravagant.
Villa d’Este, thanks to the efforts of Pirro Ligorio the architect, is one of Italy’s most beautiful villas. This place is stunning with its beautiful gardens and amazing collection of fountains. The Avenue of the Hundred Fountains and the Organ and Neptune Fountains are two of the most prominent fountains. As you can see, the latter has 100 fountains at three levels, in different shapes, such as lilies and eagles, and is also featured on the Este family’s coat of arms.
Tarquinia & Cerveteri Negropolises
These two large necropolises, located in the Lazio area north-west Rome, are described by UNESCO “a unique testimony to the ancient Etruscan civilisation, the only pre-Roman Italian urban civilization”.
Over 6000 graves have been found in Tarquinia’s Monterozzi Necropolis. The painted tombs, which provide insight into the customs and daily life of the Etruscans, are even more fascinating. Although there are over 100 painted tombs, only a handful can be visited.
The Banditaccia Necropolis in Cerveteri is designed as a city, which is why it is called “the city for the dead”. There is a main street with several side streets and tombs lined along the avenues. Also, there are impressive tumuli which are round burial mounds that are often made up several rooms. This necropolis is 400 hectares in size (more than 700 football fields). Only a small portion of the site is accessible to the public.
San Gimignano, Tuscany
San Gimignano, a town on a hill in the Elsa Valley, is a striking sight. Its famous towers date back to the 11th or 13th centuries. The town thrived during this time due to its position along Via Francigena (a pilgrimage route between Rome and Canterbury). As a show of their wealth and power these towers were built by the aristocratic family. Although there are only 14 remaining towers, it is amazing how dominant this area looks with more than 70 towers!
It is just 35 miles from Florence . The town is an easy day trip. Winter is the best time to visit.
It is considered the ideal Renaissance city and was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site by 1996. Piazza Pio II is home to some of the most famous attractions in Pienza. These include the stunning cathedral, built by Bernardo Rossellino 1459 and featuring a Renaissance façade with Gothic elements such as rib vaults.
Piccolomini Palace, where Romeo and Juliet was shot by Franco Zefferelli, is another impressive location. The loggia offers breathtaking views of Val d’Orcia, which is also a World Heritage Site.
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