The most visited archaeological sites in Italy

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Joel Fulleda

It is no secret that our country is in possession of an immense and priceless cultural heritage envied by all the world and left as a legacy by ancient peoples and by centuries and centuries of history starting from the prehistoric age. Roman villas, ancient theaters, Greek temples and entire cities enclosed by walls are just some of the magnificent places that can be admired along the peninsula, distributed mainly in the southern regions corresponding to what was once the Magna Graecia. You are curious to know what they are the most visited archaeological sites in Italy? Here is the ranking!

NB: The following ranking is based on data collected by the Ministry for Cultural Heritage and Tourism (MiBact) with the most recent update (February 2019). These were integrated with the data relating to the archaeological areas in Sicily from the portal of the Region (Department of Cultural Heritage) which are not included in the data of the MiBact due to the autonomy in the management of the Sicily Region.

15 - "Su Nuraxi" Archaeological Area, Barumini

This historic site has 83.185 visitors a year. The archaeological area is located in Barumini, in central Sardinia. It is a Nuragic complex dating back to prehistoric times, or one of the first human settlements in the region, therefore among the oldest, and at the same time the best preserved of all, so much so that since 1997 declared a World Heritage Site.

14 - Archaeological area of ​​Villa Adriana, TiFlights

This archaeological area is in this ranking with 230.000 visitors a year. We are located in TiFlights, near Rome, in a former imperial residence, the largest of all. It was built at the behest of the emperor Hadrian during the first half of the second century and is therefore an extremely ancient site that is perfectly preserved despite the years. Is composed by huge gardens and a series of buildings, including spas and theaters, and has been on the UNESCO lists since 1999.

13 - Baths of Caracalla, Rome

Also in Lazio, but this time right in the capital, here is another important historical site with a large number of visitors. Those of Caracalla are one of the largest, most evocative and important thermal complexes of ancient Rome, dating back to the year 212, very visited above all for their excellent state of conservation, so much so that today they are the best preserved thermal establishment among the ancient ones. They once hosted between 6.000 and 8.000 people a day, but today they count as many as 233.000 visitors a year.

12 - Grottoes of Catullus, Sirmione

They are located in the splendid setting of Lake Garda, precisely in Sirmione, surrounded by olive groves and lake waters framed by the mountains. These caves have 268.000 annual visitors and are a large archaeological area dating back to the end of the st century BC whose main attraction is the Villa Romana with its remains. Inside there is also the Archaeological Museum with historical artifacts found during the excavations made over the years.

11 - Selinunte Archaeological Park, Castelvetrano Selinunte

We move to Sicily, in the province of Trapani, in the Archaeological Park of Selinunte, one of the largest and most important archaeological areas in the world. Selinunte was an ancient Greek city of which today there are beautiful temples and secondary buildings, between narrow streets and a splendid natural atmosphere. There are 273.000 visitors every year.

10 - Ostia Antica, Rome

Let's go back to the capital where there is another site that has thousands of visitors every year, 302.000 to be precise. We refer to the first Roman colony and important port for the city of Rome, founded in the seventh century BC by King Anco Marzio which today is one of the largest archaeological sites on the planet. The ruins are immense and include homes, public monuments and manufacturing facilities, albeit currently only 40% of the city has been unearthed, so everything else is still buried!

9 - Archaeological Area of ​​Segesta, Calatafimi-Segesta

Yet another Sicilian site, also in the province of Trapani like that of Selinunte. This time we are in Calatafimi in the Archaeological Area of ​​Segesta which has 335.000 visitors a year. It is a'ancient city of the Elymian people, built on Monte Barbaro, which inside it houses a Doric temple perfectly preserved, a theater of the Hellenistic period partly carved into the rock, a Hellenistic-Roman town it's a medieval village.

8 - Villa Romana del Casale, Piazza Armerina

We still remain in Sicily, where this is located in Piazza Armerina, in the province of Enna late antique style residential building.
It is improperly defined as a villa since in reality it does not have the characteristics of a Roman villa but rather those of a imperial urban palace. In any case, its remains and the frescoes inside them are truly fascinating and very visited (344.000 visitors every year), not for nothing since 1997 this site is part of the World Heritage Site.

7 - Archaeological Park of Paestum, Paestum

Among the most visited sites in Italy could not miss the extraordinary archaeological park of Paestum, practically an entire village enclosed in walls among which 427.000 visitors are welcomed every year. The area was a 'ancient city of Magna Graecia and includes temples, churches, houses and an inevitable museum where all the historical objects found during the excavations carried out over the years are kept.

6 - Archaeological Area of ​​Herculaneum, Herculaneum

Another archaeological site among the most visited is always in Campania, this time near Naples.
This archaeological area is a former Roman town than with his perfect state of conservation gives a very clear idea of ​​how a city was structured and how life organized inside it. Found by chance in 1709 and not yet fully unearthed, this area counts as many as 534.000 annual visitors.

5 - Neapolis and Ear of Dionysus, Syracuse

Let's go back to Sicily once again, this time to Syracuse, in the Neapolis Archaeological Park which counts 700.000 visitors every year, a number also due to its main attraction, the Ear of Dionysus.
The park is a natural area full of archaeological finds belonging to various eras of Syracusan history, but mainly of Greek imprint. Here is hosted the Largest Greek Theater in Sicily and, as anticipated, inside there is also theEar of Dionysus, a limestone cave excavated in the ancient quarry of stone just below the theater, with an S-shaped pattern that makes it a place for acoustic amplification of sounds as well as reminding the typical shape of an ear. Neapolis is also among the largest and most important areas in the Mediterranean!

4 - Ancient Theater, Taormina

Always remaining in Sicily, in Taormina the second largest Greco-Roman theater in the region, immediately after that of Syracuse just mentioned. It was built by the Greeks in the third century BC as a place to entertain themselves with plays and concerts and later used by the Romans again for entertainment but this time with gladiator fights. Annual visitors are 890.000.

3 - Valley of the Temples, Agrigento

As the name already indicates, it is a valley, a wide green expanse full of temples, each built in the name of a Greek god, since it is indeed another city of Ancient Greece. It was called Akragas and was founded in 580 BC, and today it is among the most fascinating sites in the world and with a very rich cultural heritage. It is not for nothing that 935.000 visitors arrive every year! Of this great city you can admire the Temple of Zeus, Hera, Hercules, Hephaestus, Demeter and Athena, just to name a few, and since 1997 it has become a World Heritage Site.

2 - Archaeological Area of ​​Pompeii, Pompeii

Let's go back to Campania again, not far from the Archaeological Area of ​​Herculaneum and from Naples. Here rises Pompeii, one of the most famous and renowned historical sites in the world so as to reach a very high number of annual visitors (3.646.000) thus placing itself in second place among the most visited sites in Italy. The Archaeological Area of ​​Pompeii preserves the remains of an ancient Roman city and among its streets you can admire the theater, houses, public buildings, various temples, villas and necropolis. This site has also become a World Heritage Site since 1997.

1 - Colosseum and Imperial Forums, Rome

The undisputed king of the most visited sites in Italy is the Colosseum, symbol of the capital and the whole country which, together with the Imperial Forums, deserves first place in this ranking with 7.650.000 visitors a year.

Its real name is the Flavian Amphitheater and since 1980 it has become a World Heritage Site. It was born as theater for gladiator fights with a capacity of over 70.000 seats, while today it remains the absolute symbol of the Roman Empire. A few minutes from it are the Imperial Forums, 5 monumental squares built at the behest of the emperors Julius Caesar, Augustus, Vespasiano, Nerva and Traiano.

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