| Naples: Life, Death & Miracles
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UNESCO (1) Campanian sites (2) Intangible Cultural Heritage (3) Underwater Cultural Heritage
(4) Memory of the World Program
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.
—HISTORIC CENTER OF NAPLES. From the UNESCO text:
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
—18th-CENTURY ROYAL PALACE AT CASERTA WITH THE PARK, AQUEDUCT OF VANVITELLI AND SAN LEUCIO COMPLEX. From the UNESCO text:
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 architecture...it is a successful blend of elements from classical antiquity, the Islamic Orient and north European Cistercian Gothic.
photo: Castel del Monte
—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.
—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...
—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.
—also maintains an Intangible Cultural Heritage list—that is, updated August 2015
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;Proposals for inclusions on the Intangible Heritage List for Italy for 2015 and 2016 include the traditional Neapolitan Pizza.
—also maintains an Underwater Cultural Heritage program. See this link.
added January 2016
4. UNESCO Memory of the World Program
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.
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