Naples:life,death &
                Miracle contact: Jeff Matthews

entry June 2013,  updates Aug 2015, Dec '17, June '18, Jan '23, May '23

UNESCO   (1) Campanian sites [directly below]  (2)
Intangible Cultural Heritage  (3) Underwater Cultural Heritage           
            (4) Memory of the World Program    (5) Primeval Beech Forests

1. sites in or near Campania

Readers may know that UNESCO, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, maintains a "World Heritage list," that is, a list of cultural and natural sites that the World Heritage Committee considers to have outstanding universal value. (Earlier mention here.) As of June 2013 the list includes 981 properties in 160 nations. Italy is well-represented, and within Italy, the Campania region is well-represented. This is a list of those sites that are either in the Campania region or close enough to be accessible. A couple are farther away, but I include them because I like them and have mentioned them somewhere in these pages. Note that many of the so-called "sites" are not single buildings or even a complex of buildings; they are entire areas. I have provided appropriate links where available. Also, there are a number of worthwhile sites in and around Naples that are not on the UNESCO list—other sites of Magna Grecia such as Cuma, for example and Pithecusa (Ischia), but we take what we can get.


From the Neapolis founded by Greek settlers in 470 B.C. to the city of today, Naples has retained the imprint of the successive cultures that emerged in Europe and the Mediterranean basin. This makes it a unique site, with a wealth of outstanding monuments such as the Church of Santa Chiara and the Castel Nuovo. (Map of the Historic Center.)

photo: Piazza del Gesù Nuovo


The monumental complex at Caserta, created by the Bourbon king Charles III in the mid-18th century to rival Versailles and the Royal Palace in Madrid...brings together a magnificent palace with its park and gardens, as well as natural woodland, hunting lodges and a silk factory. It is an eloquent expression of the Enlightenment in material form, integrated into, rather than imposed on, its natural setting.

photo:looking back at the Caserta palace from within the grounds

CASTEL DEL MONTE. This is not in Campania but rather in Puglia, close enough to get to and definitely worth it. From the UNESCO text:

When the Emperor Frederick II built this castle near Bari in the 13th century, he imbued it with symbolic significance, as reflected in the location, the mathematical and astronomical precision of the layout and the perfectly regular shape. A unique piece of medieval military is a successful blend of elements from classical antiquity, the Islamic Orient and north European Cistercian Gothic.
photo: Castel del Monte         
^ top

ARCHAEOLOGICAL AREAS OF POMPEII, HERCULANEUM & TORRE ANNUNZIATA. This now includes the Mt. Vesuvius National Park. The Torre Annunziata reference is to the Villa Oplontis site in that town. It's one of the "entire area" sites, mentioned above. From the UNESCO text:

When Vesuvius erupted on 24 August AD 79, it engulfed the two flourishing Roman towns of Pompeii and Herculaneum, as well as the many wealthy villas in the area. These have been progressively excavated and made accessible to the public since the mid-18th century. The vast expanse of the commercial town of Pompeii contrasts with the smaller but better-preserved remains of the holiday resort of Herculaneum, while the superb wall paintings of the Villa Oplontis at Torre Annunziata give a vivid impression of the opulent lifestyle enjoyed by the wealthier citizens of the Early Roman Empire.                                                            photo: Herculaneum

THE AMALFI COAST. Again, this covers a vast area. From the UNESCO description:

The Amalfi coast is an area of great physical beauty and natural diversity. It has been intensively settled by human communities since the early Middle Ages. There are a number of towns such as Amalfi and Ravello with architectural and artistic works of great significance. The rural areas show the versatility of the inhabitants in adapting their use of the land to the diverse nature of the terrain, which ranges from terraced vineyards and orchards on the lower slopes to wide upland pastures.
photo: Amalfi

SU NURAXI DI BARUMINI. Not even close to Naples or Campania, but I like it, and it's in keeping with the fact that a section of Naples: Life, Death & Miracles is reserved for Sardinia. Go anyway. It's an impressive example of the island's prehistory Nuraghic culture. From the UNESCO text:

During the late 2nd millennium B.C. in the Bronze Age, a special type of defensive structure...developed on Sardinia...circular defensive towers in the form of truncated cones built of dressed stone, with corbel-vaulted internal chambers. The complex at Barumini...extended and reinforced in the first half of the 1st millennium under Carthaginian pressure, is the finest and most complete example of this remarkable form of prehistoric architecture."                                                     
photo: The Barumini nuraghi complex

CILENTO & VALLO DI DIANO NATIONAL PARK with the sites of Paestum and Velia, and the Certosa di Padula. This is a huge area. There is an entire Cilento portal on this website. From the UNESCO text:

...The dramatic groups of sanctuaries and settlements along its three east–west mountain ridges portray the area's historical evolution: it was a major route for trade and cultural and political interaction during the prehistoric and medieval periods. The Cilento was also the boundary between the Greek colonies of Magna Graecia and the indigenous Etruscan and Lucanian peoples...

photo: Paestum


AEOLIAN ISLANDS. These are just north of Sicily and easily accessible from Naples. From the UNESCO text:

The Aeolian Islands provide an outstanding record of volcanic island-building and destruction, and ongoing volcanic phenomena... the islands have provided vulcanology with examples of two types of eruption (Vulcanian and Strombolian) and have featured prominently in the education of geologists for more than 200 years. The site continues to enrich the field of vulcanology.                           photo: Stromboli    [see The Islands of Sicily]

THE SANTA SOFIA CHURCH & COMPLEX. (top photo, right) This is in nearby Benevento, just east of Naples. It is part of a UNESCO conglomerate site called The Longobards in Italy, Places of the Power, 568 - 774 A.D. i.e. fortresses, churches, and monasteries at seven locations in Italy...(from the UNESCO text)...:

...that testify to the high achievement of the Lombards, who migrated from northern Europe and developed their own specific culture in Italy where they ruled over vast territories in the 6th to 8th centuries. The Lombards synthesis of architectural styles marked the transition from Antiquity to the European Middle Ages, drawing on the heritage of Ancient Rome, Christian spirituality, Byzantine influence and Germanic northern Europe. The serial property testifies to the Lombards' major role in the spiritual and cultural development of Medieval European Christianity, notably by bolstering the monastic movement.

See link to Lombards in next item, below.

Also on that list and a bit farther away, on the Gargano "spur" on the Adriatic is the
SANCTUARY OF SAN MICHELE (bottom photo, right) in the town of Monte Sant'Angelo. The town is at 831 meters/2500 feet and is the highest town on the spur. It is also the site of the oldest sanctuary in western Europe dedicated to the Archangel Michael. It was one of the important sites of early Christianity.

[Also see The Lombards, Monte Sant'Angelo & the Sanctuary of St. Michael.]

For good measure, Mt. Etna on Sicily, just made the list!  Still a very active volcano.

added Jan 2022. The Appian Way, the first great road built by the Romans as their gateway to the southern peninsula is on the verge of being added to the Cultural Heritage List. (image, right)


also maintains an Intangible Cultural Heritage list—that is,         updated August 2015

...practices, representations, expressions, knowledge and know-how that communities recognize as part of their cultural heritage. Passed down from generation to generation, it is constantly recreated by communities in response to their environment, their interaction with nature and their history, providing them with a sense of identity and continuity.

Such things include dance, music and theatrical traditions, traditional handicraft, gastronomy and so forth. So far Italy has six items on the list:
(1) the Sardinian pastoral songs known as Canto a tenore;
(2) Sicilian puppet theater;
(3) traditional violin craftsmanship in Cremona;

(4) the Mediterranean diet (a heritage shared with Spain, Greece and Morocco). In Campania there is indeed a place where the Mediterranean diet has been studied quite thoroughly (see this link). I don't know why that surprised me; maybe it's because I've noticed an increase in the number of fast-food places. Yet, who knows...that, too, may be Mediterranean!

(5) the Gigli (spire floats) of Nola. This is a joint listing shared among four cities in Italy that have such processions: Nola, Sassari (Sardinia), Palmi (Calabria) and Viterbo (Lazio). There is at least one other city in Italy with such a procession
—Gubbio and the Festival of the Candles.

(6) from the island of Pantelleria, south of Sicily, the traditional practice of cultivating head-trained bush vines (vite ad alberello). The technique consists of levelling the soil and digging a hollow to plant the vine. The main stem of the vine is then carefully pruned to produce six branches, forming a bush with a radial arrangement. The hollow is constantly reshaped to ensure the plant is growing in the right microclimate. The wine grapes are then harvested by hand during a ritual event starting at the end of July.
Proposals for inclusions on the Intangible Heritage List for Italy for 2015 and 2016 include the traditional Neapolitan Pizza. Update directly below.....drumroll...!

...and...drumroll... now 7! As of December 2017, the craft of the Neapolitan pizza maker (Pizzaiuolo) has been added to the list. In Unesco-ese:

Inscribed in 2017 (on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity

The art of the Neapolitan ‘Pizzaiuolo’ is a culinary practice comprising four different phases relating to the preparation of the dough and its baking in a wood-fired oven, involving a rotatory movement by the baker... etc. See this miscellany link.


also maintains an Underwater Cultural Heritage program. See this link.

added January  2016, updated May 2023
4. UNESCO                                                    Memory of the World Program

- from UNESCO sources:             They have added the Banco di Napoli Archives to the list! My bank!

UNESCO established the Memory of the World Program in 1992. Impetus came originally from a growing awareness of the precarious state of preservation of, and access to, documentary heritage in various parts of the world. War and social upheaval, as well as severe lack of resources, have worsened problems which have existed for centuries. Significant collections worldwide have suffered a variety of fates. Looting and dispersal, illegal trading, destruction, inadequate housing and funding have all played a part. Much is vanished forever; much is endangered.
This is a vast undertaking. The inclusions on the "must save" list are by now many hundreds from around the word. From Italy they include:
  •  the Codex Purpureus Rossanensis, one of the oldest illuminated manuscripts of the New Testament (currently held in the archdiocese of Rossano, near Cosenza in Calabria);
  • - the so-called Longobard Parchments, "...documents of irreplaceable, universal historical value with unique information for the political, economic, religious, and cultural history of Italy and of medieval and modern Europe" (held in the Diocesan Archives in Lucca in Tuscany);
  •   the Newsreels and photographs of Istituto Nazionale L.U.C.E. (the corporation in Fascist Italy that produced newsreels and documentaries. Clever name: Luce means "light" but was an acronym for L'unione cinematografica educativa...  The Collection isan inimitable documentary corpus for understanding the formation process of totalitarian regimes...but also well beyond the areas occupied by Italy during fascism, especially as regards the period of the Second World War) and about mass society in the 1920s and 1930s;
  • The Malatesta Novello Library in Cesena (the world's first public city library);
              added 20 May 2023         
  • Now the historical archives  of the Banco di Napoli have been added to the list. Here's why.
      And so forth. I don't think the Constitution of Melfi is on the list yet, but it should be. Here's why.
Among various publications that accompany the general presentation of the program is a UNESCO document entitled LOST MEMORY - LIBRARIES AND ARCHIVES DESTROYED IN THE TWENTIETH CENTURY. In Italy, Naples was among the victims when retreating German forces set fire to the university library in 1943 and destroyed around 200,000 volumes.
General information about the UNESCO Memory of the World program is here.

5.  added June 25 2018
Ancient and Primeval Beech Forests of the Carpathians and Other Regions of Europe

The graphic shows that this is truly a UNESCO "transnational World Heritage Site." It involves the participation of 12 countries (now including Italy) in Europe. The original Primeval Beech Forests of the Carpathians project was just what it said, a project to protect the beech forests in the Carpathian mountains of northern and central Europe. Then it just spread out.

The plant species under discussion is the Fagus sylvatica, (also the European beech or common beech) is a deciduous tree belonging to the beech family Fagaceae. Fagus sylvatica is a large tree, capable of reaching heights of up to 50 m (160 ft) tall and 3 m (9.8 ft) trunk diameter.

The forests stands provide habitat to a great number of predators such as the European brown bear, the Gray wolf, Lynx, and wildcat, as well as to large herbivorous mammals such as deer and wild boar. Generally, these "primeval beech forests," given their wide distribution and ecological importance, are globally significant and [from the UNESCO description]:
...are undisturbed, complex temperate forests, exhibiting the most complete and comprehensive ecological patterns and processes of pure and mixed stands of European Beech across a variety of environmental conditions, such as climatic and geological conditions ...[and]...represent an outstanding example of the re-colonization and development of terrestrial ecosystems and communities after the last ice age... The dominance by Beech across extensive areas of Europe is testament to the tree’s genetic adaptability.
The Italian forests now added to the UNESCO list include three major ones in southern Italy:

- The National Park of Abruzzo, Lazio and Molise. Headquarters are in Pescasseroli in the Province of L'Aquila. (The park boasts of the tree in this image (right). They claim it is at least 500 years old and one of the oldest beeches in Europe.)

- Pollino National Park. The park straddles the regions of Basilicata and Calabria. It is Italy's largest national park.

- The Gargano National Park, in the province of Foggia. Aside from the Mount Gargano promontory from which it takes its name, the park also includes the Tremiti Islands archipelago and the Foresta Umbra, a large protected area.


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