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TOP 5 MUST-VISIT HISTORICAL SITES IN ITALY

Holiday Ayo - Think of Italy and the country’s rich history is bound to come to mind. Antiquity, renaissance, modernity… century after century, Italy has left its undeniable marks on Western culture. Plus, thanks to some amazing conservation efforts, these historical sites in Italy are still around for us to marvel at today!

A trip to Italy just wouldn’t be complete without a historical excursion or two, but how does one even begin to choose a starting point? Well, we would recommend starting by taking a look at this list of our personal favourite historical sites in Italy. 5 fascinating places to go and learn more about the heart and soul of Italy. 

1. Saint Mark’s Basilica

source: oliverstravel

Saint Mark’s Basilica was founded in the 9th century with the purpose of housing the tomb of St Mark himself. For hundreds of years, it served as the private chapel of the city’s Doge, until it became the official Venice cathedral in 1807. The original basilica was lost in a fire in 932 and the rebuilt version, complete with Byzantine domes and marble exteriors, is what still stands today.

The Basilica is famous for its intricate design, its 8000 square metres worth of mosaics, and its epic domes. The most famous of these domes is the Cupola of the Prophets where a gold altarpiece studded with over 2000 gemstones is housed. This spectacle is best viewed from the church’s main altar, where St Mark’s sarcophagus is kept.

2. Herculaneum

source: oliverstravel

You’ve certainly heard of Pompeii, but you might not have heard of Herculaneum which was the second city to be buried under the ashes of Mount Vesuvius’ eruption in 79 AD. Herculaneum is in fact much better preserved than its more famous counterpart, if not quite as large. It was hit before Pompeii, giving its inhabitants no time to escape and therefore leaving many bodies perfectly preserved here for centuries.

At this UNESCO World Heritage Site, you can still discover the town’s temples, baths, houses and taverns. It gives a very real sense of how spectacular this wealthy city once was. Some of its most luxurious villas overlooking the sea remain with details as small as doors and beds perfectly preserved.

3. Area Sacra di Largo Argentina

source: oliverstravel

While attempting construction on a completely different building between 1926 and 1930, the oldest temple ruins ever to be found in Rome were discovered in what’s called the Area Sacra di Largo Argentina. The four temples were built in the 3rd century B.C., right by the murder site of Julius Caesar next to the theatre and Curia of Pompey.

Nobody knows who these temples were dedicated to, which is why they’ve been pragmatically renamed Temple A, B, C, and D. These days, however, the temple ruins are home to something much friendlier than Roman gods… cats! Hundreds of cats, much beloved by tourists and locals, roam the old temples. They cast some pretty curious shadows when the ruins are lit up with golden lights at night.

4. Paestum

source: oliverstravel

Just south of the marvellous Amalfi Coast, there once stood a town called Poseidonia, named in honour of the Greek sea god Poseidon. It was settled in the 6th century, but eventually fell under Roman control and was renamed, as it is known today, Paestum. What is left of Paestum today is a UNESCO World Heritage site including three of the best preserved ancient Greek temples in the world.

Periodic malaria outbreaks and raids upon the city by the Saracens caused Paestum’s population to abandon their home as the Roman empire was falling. Today, most of what was once a city is buried deep under Italian farmland. Only its ancient walls and the archaeological zone in the middle is open to the public, telling the tale of the long-lost grandeur of Poseidonia.

5. Florence Cathedral

source: oliverstravel

The Florence Cathedral, once known as the Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore in honour of that saint, is the fourth largest cathedral in the world. The building of this great Gothic church began at the end of the 13th century, right atop the site of the old church of Santa Reparata (you can still spot these remains in the crypt). However, the great and iconic dome wasn’t added until two hundred years of construction later and only then was the project deemed complete.

The architects of the Cathedral – Arnolfo di Cambio and Filippo Brunelleschi – are immortalised in two statues outside the cathedral. They stand admiring its decorative pink, white and green marble exteriors. Just beyond their view in the church’s entrance halls sits the epic 1443 clock which tells time according to the ora italica, meaning its 24-hour days always end at sunset.

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