Located between Bologna and San Marino on the eastern shores of Italy, Ravenna is a province whose capital city is also called Ravenna. The city was one of the most important in the region of Emilia-Romagna, and has had a long history and served various empires down the line and was at one point the seat of the Western Roman Empire as well as the seat of the Kingdom of the Ostrogoths. Because of this elaborate rich history, Ravenna is home to an array of incredible ancient structures and a plethora of UNESCO world heritage sites. But beside amazing architectural sites, there are lots of things to do in Ravenna.
What to do in Ravenna ?
Check out the Basilica di San Vitale
This stunning basilica is one of the most recognizable structures in Ravenna. It features a distinctive octagonal plan with a striking blend of Byzantine and Roman elements. It has a rather plain exterior, but it is its interior design that is worth your trip.
The interior of this church boasts some incredible Mosaics and amazing decorations and is believed to be one of the best examples of Byzantine artwork in the country. It has such a sheer amount of detail, elaborate decoration, and color in each wall, surface, and arches. The acoustic is exceptional too, with the church hosting concerts regularly. If your trip in June, you even might be able to attend some of the concerts during the Ravenna Festival.
Basilica di San Vitale was constructed around 525 AD
Visit another church called Neonian Baptistery
Another great place to check out is this early 5th– century brick baptistery located in the heart of Ravenna and is considered to be one of the finest examples of ancient Christian baptistery still standing today. Its entire dome of the church is covered in intricate mosaic lines, culminating in a huge mosaic decoration of Baptism of Jesus Christ by John the Baptist at the top.
Neonian Baptistery is one of the oldest landmarks in the city having been built in the fifth century by Bishop Neon, thus the name Neoniano. The interior of the church dazzled the renowned psychiatrist Carl Gustav Jung, but he is not alone as visitors are still mesmerized by the baptistery even today.
As a UNESCO world heritage site, this church is truly remarkable and worth a visit if you are in Ravenna.
Visit Basilica of Sant Apollinare Nuovo
The Basilica of San Apollinare – then under the invocation of Christ the Savior – was founded by King Theodoric the Great of Ostrog for the Arian community at the beginning of the 6th century. When Ravenna fell back into the hands of the Byzantines, the basilica was re-consecrated as a Catholic temple, the mosaics were censored.
The basilica is located five kilometers from Ravenna. From Ravenna, it is very easy to reach by bus or just on foot. I took a walk along a path leading among vast fields covered with sunflower crops, along the road connecting Ravenna and Classe.
Mausoleum of Galla Placidia
The Mausoleum of Galla Placidia is also a UNESCO world heritage site in the city of Ravenna. It is situated in the same compound as the Basilica di San Vitale, and just like most buildings in this town, it also features some impressive artwork, which is considered one of the well-kept and artistically fine examples that still standing today.
The mausoleum was dedicated to Gala Placidia, the daughter of Theodosius I, an Emperor during the Roman era, and sister of Emperor Honorius.
Its domes and low arches are adorned with some beautiful 5th-century mosaics made from small tesserae.
Take a dip in the ocean
You are always close to the water in Ravenna. The town has a total of nine seaside resorts along its shore, and just like many Italian resorts, they are stunning.
The beaches around Ravenna usually come alive at night with most of the resorts boasting vibrant beach clubs and dining options right on the sand. This means you can have dinner and drinks on the beach.
Popular resorts include Saretina, Marina di Ravenna, Lido di Classe, and Lido di Dante.
Do you want to learn more about Italy – Read Interesting facts about Italy
Try gorgeous Ravenna food
Ravenna has so many delicious foods you can try, so consider not eating too much on the road. One of the local delicacies is the Piadina, which is a tasty flatbread loved by both locals and visitors. It is usually stuffed with cheese, salami, and Rocket. Piadina can be a perfect lunchtime bite on the go.
You can also sample local eels if you feel a little bit braver in your gastro-adventure. Eel is one staple delicacy in Ravenna and you can buy pickled eels in tins in restaurants or a factory in Comacchio.
The factory, Manifattura dei Marinati, is also a great place for you to learn about how the locals fish for eel how they are roasted over a stilted fire and then marinated in vinegar.
Along with the coastal towns in the province, you will find numerous seafood dishes such as mackerels, mussels, and fresh fish.
The go-to menu in Ravenna usually includes seafood risotto, spaghetti with clam, and octopus as well as pasta dishes.
Explore Ravenna on Bike
Ravenna province boasts some of the most stunning landscapes suitable for biking. You can book a bike tour that goes through a serene pine forest with a blissful scent. The tour can be booked in the small town of Cervia, where it also starts before heading to the cool pine forests.
The biking trails are well-kept and feature a number of picturesque spots along the way including dunes, ponds, fisherman’s hut, and reeds.
Bikes are not only limited to tours, you can also hire one to travel around Ravenna exploring its towns and villages. There are plenty of cycling routes that start from the Ravenna city center and end in the sea or countryside.
Visit Dante’s Tomb
For literature lovers, a trip to Ravenna is not complete without a beeline to the tomb of one of the most famous writers in the world. The creator of The Divine Comedy, Dante, has his final resting place in a mausoleum in Ravenna.
Dante Alighieri finished his “Paradiso” poem in Ravenna after he was chased from his home in Florence in 1318. He was exiled after losing a battle with the White and Black Guelphs. Dante was accused of financial wrongdoings and corruption and after losing; he was exiled for two years and order to pay a huge fine. He didn’t pay the fine partly because he believed he didn’t do anything wrong and partly because all his assets had been seized in Florence by the Black Guelphs.
He died of malaria in 1321 in Ravenna but there was still an ongoing battle for his bones with Florence. In 1519, his remains were transferred to a hidden tomb after Pope Leo X directed that the remains be taken to Florence.
Dante’s remains were transferred again in 1865 when his bones were accidentally unearthed during a construction job.
Currently, his bones are resting in a mausoleum near the Basilica di San Francesco.
Visit small Venice
The small town of Comacchio is usually referred to as mini Venice, and it is not hard to see why – it is just as dreamy as the real Venice and also has hundreds of canals and ancient buildings. But there are many other similarities.
The town is located on the eastern shore of Emilia Romagna and north of Ravenna. Its rustic look and numerous bridges and canals make it a photographer’s dream.
Besides the canals, Comacchio also has numerous important architectural structures including the Loggia del Grano, Cathedral of San Cassiano, and the Ponte dei Trepponti.
Learn the history of the region at the Museo Nazionale Ravenna
Located in the Benedictine Monastery, the National Museum of Ravenna is home to an incredible collection of artifacts, local and international arts, and relics from different periods in history.
The pieces in the museum date back to the 18th century, some of which were appropriated from various UNESCO sites in the region including the Basilica de San Francesco.
Collection at the Museo Nazionale Ravenna includes oriental marble capitals, decorated tombs, textiles, and carved ivories among others.
Where to stay in Ravenna
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