Padua fresco cycles nominated for UNESCO Heritage status. Image: Comune di Padova, Gabinetto Fotografico dei Musei Civici di Padova Copyright: © Comune di Padova Settore Cultura, Turismo, Musei e Biblioteche

UNESCO considers Italy’s nominated Heritage Sites and the future of Venice lagoon

By Region Culture News North-east Italy

UNESCO is holding the 44th session of the World Heritage Committee from 16 to 31 July in China. Up for consideration are two Italy nominations to join the World Heritage List. Also under consideration is whether Venice and its lagoon should join the endangered list.

Italy has two individual city nominations for UNESCO cultural sites – Bologna and Padua. It is also part of an international nomination for ‘The Great Spas of Europe’. A natural site, Ancient and Primeval Beech Forests of the Carpathians and Other Regions of Europe, includes Italy.

As reported here, UNESCO warned Italy it would be considering placing Vencie and its lagoon on the endangered list. On the UNESCO website, it states that, “The Committee will examine five sites already inscribed on the World Heritage List, for inscription on the List of World Heritage in Danger. Sites are inscribed on the Danger List when their Outstanding Universal Value, characteristics for which they were inscribed on the World Heritage List, are under threat”.

The Italian government then took action, banning cruise liners from the lagoon and Venice centre from August.

The Padua nomination

Padua frescos. Author: Comune di Padova, Gabinetto Fotografico dei Musei Civici di Padova Copyright: © Comune di Padova Settore Cultura, Turismo, Musei e Biblioteche
Padua’s 14th century frescos
Copyright: © Comune di Padova Settore Cultura, Turismo, Musei e Biblioteche

Padua nominated the 14th century frescos in the city painted by Giotto, Pietro and Giuliano da Rimini, and Guariento di Arpo, among others. They are in eight building complexes in the old city.

The committee’s draft decision is to include the fresco cycles on the Heritage List. That decision will be ratified during the session. The committee’s decision describes the importance of the fresco cycles (in part) as follows.

“The Padua fresco cycles illustrate the important interchange of ideas which existed between leading figures in the worlds of science, literature and the visual arts in the pre-humanist climate of Padua in the early 14th century.

The fresco cycles housed in eight complexes of buildings within the old city centre of Padua illustrate how, over the course of the 14th century, different artists, starting with Giotto, introduced important stylistic developments in the history of art. The eight building complexes are in four component parts: Scrovegni and Eremitani (part 1); Palazzo della Ragione, Carraresi Palace, Baptistery and associated Piazzas (part 2); Complex of Buildings associated with the Basilica of St. Anthony (part 3); and San Michele (part 4).”

The Bologna nomination

Bologna's porticoes. Author: Giorgio Bianchi Copyright: © Giorgio Bianchi - Comune di Bologna
Porticoes in Bologna
Copyright: © Giorgio Bianchi – Comune di Bologna

Bologna put forward 12 of its famous porticoes for inclusion in the Heritage List. Bologna currently does not have a single UNESCO Heritage Site. Italy as a whole, meanwhile, has 55 in total to date.

A portico is a covered walkway with a roof often supported by columns. The porticoes in Bologna porticoes were first built in the 11th century. By 1288, it was law for every building to have a portico. The purpose of the portico was to provide public passage, even though it was a private property. Learn more about the porticoes, here.

However, unless something drastic happens at the session, it is likely Bologna will have to wait a little longer.

The draft decision defers Bologna’s inclusion giving 6 points of action before resubmitting the nomination. Among those actions is the city should:

‘Further research, document and explain the role that the Municipal Statutes of 1288 had on the relationship between public and private spaces in the medieval city, marking one of the decisive moments in the history of the capacity of the public authorities to assert their power and political control over the administration of a city’.

What about Venice’s fate?

Venice Grand Canal
Grand Canal, Venice

The Italian government took the step only last week to categorically state ships over 25,000 tonnes will no longer be allowed in the lagoon. However, is this enough to prevent Venice being added to the endangered list?

The UNESCO report on Venice highlights many issues. These vary from over-tourism, de-population, climate change and inadequate planning as well as the port/docking issues for large ships.

As it stands the committee’s draft decision states as follows. “The resolution to these long-standing problems is hindered by a lack of overall vision and low efficiency of the integrated coordinated management on all stakeholder levels. These factors warrant the inscription of the property on the List of World Heritage in Danger.

What will the committee do?

The Committee will examine proposals to add 39 sites on UNESCO’s World Heritage List, six of them natural and 33 cultural. Sites must demonstrate they have Outstanding Universal Value (OUV) which must be preserved for future generations.

As the World Heritage Committee session was not held in 2020, the sites proposed for both 2020 and 2021 will be reviewed during this session.

The Committee also reviews any issues surrounding existing Heritage List sites, recommending action.

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