Lonely Planet Writer

Italy declines to make submission to Unesco World Heritage shortlist this year

For the first time this century, Italy has decided not to submit any sites for inclusion in the Unesco World Heritage shortlist. The reason? It has too many and wants other nations to catch up.

Cathedral of Florence in Florence, Italy.
Cathedral of Florence in Florence, Italy. Image by Angelo Ferraris/500px

The decision was reported in La Repubblica by Francesco Bernabè, the new President of Italy’s Unesco Commission. While he is keen to stress that Italy’s dominance in the lists is not a competition, he also reassures that the country will remain at the top.

Although 40 Italian sites vied for inclusion this year, the decision was made to postpone a nomination until 2017, when the Commission plans to nominate the medieval town of Ivrea in the Piedmont region as “the industrial city of the 20th century”

Grand Canal with gondolas in Venice.
Venice is one of Italy’s most famous Unesco World Heritage Sites. Image by Caterina Belova

Italy has long been the leader in the Unesco lists, with a whopping 51 World Heritage sites – three more than its nearest rival, China. China has nominated 2 sites this year and, if successful, will bring them close to overtaking Italy.

The process is far from simple, with many municipalities vying for the honour of inclusion every year. Mr Bernabè warned that sites would only be considered for inclusion if they were already well-maintained and looked after. Some sites have been trying for World Heritage status for 10 years.

Italy’s rich cultural heritage also comes with a downside; the expense of maintaining the sites. Recent government have successively cut budgets for cultural heritage sites since the economic downturn, a move that has only been reversed last month with the announcement that €1 billion would be put aside to restore some of the country’s most famous monuments.