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Creating a shared framework in the serial World Heritage property of Mantua and Sabbioneta (Italy)

In order to improve the coordination between the two component cities of this serial property, the Municipalities of Mantua and Sabbioneta have created a central management office. This office is in charge of protecting and enhancing the site’s Outstanding Universal Value through the implementation of the Management Plan and joint policies and initiatives. 

About the cities of Mantua and Sabbioneta

Mantua and Sabbioneta are two historical cities located in the Po valley, in the north of Italy. Mantua, a provincial capital, has a population of just under 50,000, while the town of Sabbioneta has just over 4,000 residents. The cities, located approximately 30 km apart, are components  of the World Heritage serial property “Mantua and Sabbioneta”, inscribed on the World Heritage list in 2008 under criteria (ii) and (iii).

Piazza Sordello, Mantua © Mantova Municipality
Galleria degli Antichi o Corridor Grande, Sabbioneta © Mantova Municipality

Mantua and Sabbioneta represent two aspects of Renaissance town planning: Mantua shows the renewal and extension of an existing city, Sabbioneta represents the implementation of the period’s theories about planning the ideal city. Mantua’s layout is irregular with areas of the city showing different stages of its growth since the Roman period and includes many historical buildings, among them an 11th century rotunda and a Baroque theatre. Sabbioneta, created in the second half of the 16th century under the rule of Vespasiano Gonzaga Colonna, can be described as a single-period city and has a right-angle grid layout. Both cities offer exceptional testimonies to the urban, architectural and artistic realizations of the Renaissance, linked through the visions and actions of the ruling Gonzaga family. The two towns are important for the value of their architecture and for their prominent role in the dissemination of Renaissance culture. The ideals of the Renaissance, fostered by the Gonzaga family, are present in the towns’ morphology and architecture.

Mantua and Sabbioneta: Message from the Town Councillor of Mantua and the Mayor of Sabbioneta © Mantova Municipality, 2021

Creating a shared framework in the serial World Heritage site

As a serial property including two different cities located 30 km away, the World Heritage site of Mantua and Sabbioneta faces increased challenges for its coordinated management. There are three authorities in charge of the property: the Municipality of Mantua, the Municipality of Sabbioneta, and the Italian Ministry of Culture.

In 2008, the two Municipalities signed a memorandum of understanding to enhance the joint management of the serial property. In 2008, a central World Heritage management office was created, which allowed for the permanent coordination between the two components. The management office aims to enhance the single identity of the serial property, preserving, promoting, and raising awareness about its Outstanding Universal Value (OUV) through the implementation of the Management Plan, coordinated policies and initiatives.

The Management Plan was updated in 2020 following the Historic Urban Landscape approach, taking into consideration the different layers of the city, including the wider social and cultural values which are linked to the urban areas. Overall, the driving mission of the Management Plan is to make sure that heritage continues to play a central role in the life of the local communities, contributing to sustainable development and individual and collective identities, while protecting the site’s OUV. The management plan was developed using a participatory and integrated approach, by involving communities and stakeholders in the management of the site, carrying out awareness-raising actions and identifying the strategies and actions.

Loggia di Davide at Palazzo Te, Mantua © Mantova Municipality

The new Management Plan has four key areas of action:

  • Knowledge and documentation: including GIS mapping, photographic documentation of the state of conservation, establishment a central knowledge centre for the site, and the development of historical studies and heritage inventories
  • Protection and conservation: including the adaptation of local and regional planning instruments, developing an environmental risk reduction plan, and a guidanc for physical conservation actions in the historical fabric.
  • Enhancement: a number of initiatives aim to improve the liveability of the cities and promote the development of sustainable tourism through landscape interventions, rehabilitation of public spaces, touristic routes, transportation and mobility plans, and tourism initiatives.
  • Education and communication: including the creation of a heritage interpretation centre, cultural festivals and events, awareness-raising initiatives and educational projects with schools.
Aerial view of Mantua © Mantova Municipality
Sala degli specchi at Palazzo Giardino, Sabbioneta © Mantova Municipality

By setting up a central management office and management plan, Mantua and Sabbioneta aim to enhance their joint identity as a serial property, enabling the cities to develop their tourism potential and harness the capacity of cultural heritage to contribute to local development and livelihoods.

Source: Ms Monica Bedini, Mantua and Sabbioneta World Heritage Office, 2021.

Contribution towards the implementation of the 2011 Recommendation on the Historic Urban Landscape

The project aims to contribute to the implementation of the Historic Urban Landscape approach by:

  • Mapping and preserving the different layers of the city, their values and attributes;
  • Promoting community consultations and engagement, and finding a balance between heritage conservation and urban development needs.

Historic Urban Landscape Tools

Civic engagement tools Knowledge and Planning tools Regulatory systems Financial tools

Contribution towards Sustainable Development

If fully implemented in accordance with the described plans, the initiative could contribute towards Sustainable Development and the Sustainable Development Goals.

Goal 8. Promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all.

  • Target 8.9: the initiative aims to implement policies to promote sustainable tourism that creates jobs and promotes local culture and products.

Goal 11. Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable

  • Target 11.3: the initiative aims to enhance inclusive and sustainable urban development and capacity for participatory, integrated and sustainable urban planning and management.
  • Target 11.4: the initiative aims to protect and safeguard the world’s cultural heritage.
To learn more

Mantua and Sabbioneta World Heritage Office

© UNESCO, 2021. Project team: Jyoti Hosagrahar, Alba Zamarbide, Carlota Marijuán Rodríguez, Federico Rudari.
Cover image: Piazza Concordia © Mantova Municipality.

Note: The cases shared in this platform address heritage protection practices in World Heritage sites and beyond. Items being showcased in this website do not entail any type of recognition or inclusion in the World Heritage list or any of its thematic programmes. The practices shared are not assessed in any way by the World Heritage Centre or presented here as model practices nor do they represent complete solutions to heritage management problems. The views expressed by experts and site managers are their own and do not necessarily reflect the views of the World Heritage Centre. The practices and views shared here are included as a way to provide insights and expand the dialogue on heritage conservation with a view to further urban heritage management practice in general.