Puglia’s UNESCO World Heritage Sites

Many travelers may be unaware that Italy’s Region of Puglia is the home of not one, but three UNESCO World Heritage Sites ‒ Castel del Monte, Alberobello and the Sanctuary of Monte San Michele. All three are worth visiting, even if you’re on your first visit to Puglia. Just be aware that all three sites are hugely popular with domestic and international travelers, so it may be best, if your schedule permits, to visit them in the off-season. The sites may be visited independently or with the help of professional tour guides or tour operators.

These UNESCO World Heritage sites are important to Puglia’s tourism industry in that they raise awareness of endangered sites among sophisticated travelers and they receive assistance in establishing policies and procedures that protect these sites for future generations. UNESCO’s World Heritage Committee says that it “seeks to encourage the identification, protection and preservation of cultural and natural heritage around the world considered to be of outstanding value to humanity. This is embodied in an international treaty called the Convention concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage, adopted by UNESCO in 1972.”

Here’s an overview of Puglia’s three UNESCO sites, as provided by the official regional tourism organization Viaggiare in Puglia:

CASTEL DEL MONTE ‒ You cannot miss a visit to this castle, built and commissioned by Frederick II and presumably completed around 1240. Due to its shape and function, Castel del Monte, in Andria, is significantly distinguished from the other castles open to the public in Puglia. The octagonal shape on which the entire building is structured on one side represents a rigorous architectural design, while on the other recalls rather symbolic aspects (probably) that make a visit to the castle even more interesting. It is also worth remembering that in the construction of this castle, whose planning was directly observed by the emperor, Frederick II was inspired by other buildings he visited during the sixth Crusade.

ALBEROBELLO ‒ Alberobello is in the southern part of the Province of Bari, near Castellana Grotte, Locorotondo and Putignano. The town was founded in the 15th century by Acquaviva-D’Aragona, two counts of Conversano, on land that was originally an oak forest. A typical feature of Alberobello are the trulli, white dry-stone houses with conical roofs made of lapidary stones. Inside, the trulli have a square central room communicating with the other rooms of the house via arches. Many trulli in Alberobello can be visited and the tallest trullo in the area, Trullo Sovrano, is on two floors and houses a museum. The roofs of the trulli are embellished with decorations and pinnacles of various shapes, often symbolizing religious signs or signs of the zodiac.

SANCTUARY OF MONTE SAN MICHELE ‒ The Sanctuary of Monte San Michele in Monte Sant’Angelo, on the Gargano Promontory, is an important point of reference for the whole Christian world; in fact, it has always been a destination for millions of pilgrims who named it the “door to the sky.” The basilica is unique in its genre, since it is almost completely built inside the natural cave where St. Michael the Archangel appeared several times to the bishop, who then decided to found a church there. Next to the sanctuary is the pilgrim’s house, a lodge open to individual visitors and groups in spring and summer.

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