The purpose of the article is to analyse the role of the superintendencies for archaeology, fine arts and landscape within the State’s administrative apparatus overseeing cultural heritage. The historical evolution of this administrative body shows that, while several models and formulas concerning especially its organization at the peripherical level have been adopted and, sometimes, repeated over the years, the attribution of the function of protecting cultural heritage to the superintendencies has never been called into doubt. More precisely, the superintendencies’ competences include a wide range of inspection, oversight and decision-making powers and, essentially, consist in implementing the restriction-based regime established by the Code of cultural heritage and landscape. Such powers are authoritative in nature and are mainly exercised through technical assessments. Therefore, the superintendencies should not be evaluated with efficiency as the only or even the primary criterion – except for special superintendencies, which adopt a business-like approach. The superintendencies for archaeology, fine arts and landscape exercise their own powers towards both administrations, especially local ones, and private individuals. As far as the internal relationships are concerned, strictly speaking, superintendencies should not be considered hierarchically subordinate to Directorates, into which the central administration is divided, because of the highly professional qualifications that the superintendencies’ personnel must hold. Accordingly, a certain degree of autonomy should also be granted to the officials working at the several offices composing the Superintendencies. Overall, the superintendencies for archaeology, fine arts and landscape are complex offices, that are indispensable to exercise the function of protecting cultural heritage.