UNESCO World Heritage sites in Emilia-Romagna

A journey through the historical, artistic, cultural and natural sites of the region

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The cities in Emilia-Romagna that have obtained UNESCO World Heritage site status are Ferrara, Modena and Ravenna, custodians of magnificent works of art with extraordinary historical, cultural, artistic and natural value. Less well known is the fact that there are a number of sites defined as UNESCO Messengers of Peace, Memories of the World and Creative Cities in the region – 7 in total, and these include treasures that are scattered throughout the entire region. 

The UNESCO sites of Ferrara, Modena and Ravenna

Located a short distance from the Adriatic Sea, Ravenna is the homeland of mosaics. Its glorious past has left behind an exceptional mosaic legacy; it is no wonder then that its eight early-Christian monuments (fifth-sixth centuries AD), became UNESCO heritages sites in 1996. This impressive list includes the Basilica of San Vitale, Mausoleum of Galla Placidia, Mausoleum of Theodoric, Basilica of Sant’Apollinare Nuovo and Sant’Apollinare in class, the Aryan Baptistery, Neonian Baptistery and Chapel of Sant’Andrea.

Moving up the coast to the north, we encounter Ferrara. The city was included on the list of UNESCO heritage sites in 1995 as the City of the Renaissance, a title celebrating the flourishing intellectual life in Ferrara in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. At that time, Ferrara underwent significant urban redevelopment, such as the Herculean Addition, and was filled with creative activity from artists such as Piero della Francesca and Andrea Mantegna.

In the area around Ferrara, there are two other UNESCO sites: The Delizie Estensi, the monumental residences of the Este dukes, and the nearby wetland area of the Po Delta.

Finally, Modena, a city on the Via Emilia that obtained UNESCO recognition for its Piazza Grande, Cathedral and the Ghirlandina Tower in 1997, a legacy left behind by the powerful Canossa dynasty. The twelfth-century cathedral, in particular, has been called a “masterpiece of the creative human genius” and exemplifies early Romanesque architecture.

Other sites with UNESCO recognition in the region

Among the other sites recognised by UNESCO we find Bologna, which became a Creative City of Music in 2006 because of its ancient musical tradition; the International Ceramics Museum (MIC) in Faenza, called a “testament to a Culture of Peace”; and then there is the Malatestiana Library, dating from the fifteenth century AD, in Cesena, added to the UNESCO “Memory of the World” register; and also Parma, given the title Creative City of Gastronomy.

Bologna also boasts two locations designated by UNESCO as testaments to a Culture of Peace: the Casalecchio di Reno Sluice, the oldest hydraulic construction still in operation in Europe, and the Abbey of Santa Cecilia della Croara in San Lazzaro di Savena.

The region of Emilia-Romagna has finally received recognition from UNESCO for two sites of important natural heritage: the Tuscan-Emilian Apennine National Park and UNESCO MaB Reserve, a biosphere midway between Emilia-Romagna and Tuscany that includes 70% of the fauna species in Italy, and the Ancient Beechwoods of the Casentinesi Forest National Park and the Sasso Fratino Nature Reserve (LINK) for their ecological and biological uniqueness, a recognition that the region shares with the ancient beech forests of the Carpathians and 11 other countries in Europe.