While the beaches, pastel towns and glittery sea of the Amalfi Coast are well-publicized, it's less known that the entire zone is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization is the branch that seeks to protect important cultural and natural locations, promote interesting historical places, and collaborate with the local populations to participate in and preserve their heritage. The important cultural qualities of a locale can quickly disappear with the older generations, and the UN seeks to keep these traditions and cultural sites alive.

The Amalfi Coast is on the World Heritage List for its unique landscape, its natural beauty and its balance of human settlement with the dramatic topography of the coastline. The scene changes from seaside towns to cliffs, to terraced hillsides cultivated with grapevines and orchards, to pastoral lands and finally mountains - all in just a few kilometers! The long history of human settlements also helped put the Costiera Amalfitana on the list. Amalfi was once a distinguished maritime republic and trading power whose influence was felt in the Orient as well as the West. It had a vast network of trading allies, and the architecture and art sometimes reflects an Arab influence, with mazes of allies, stairs, and galleries built into the civic plans.

The current designation is comprised of 15 towns along the coast and inland, and corresponds almost exactly to the ancient Republic of Amalfi. The value of the UNESCO designation serves to highlight that the Amalfi Coast is not only a tourist playground, but a place of great natural beauty, delicate balance, and important cultural history.

Most visitors hit only the "big" towns along the coast, those best know (Amalfi, Positano, Ravello, Maiori), so seek out those other less-known towns -on the water and uphill, too, to fully understand and appreciate the cultural contribution that the Amalfi Coast continues to make on the Italian and world stage.

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Haven't visited yet? Have questions about The Amalfi Coast as a UNESCO Site? Ask them here!