From our stay in Ferrara (Italy) we moved on to Ravenna, about 87 km (54 miles) southeast, near the Adriatic Sea and not too far south of Venice. Ravenna has been on my bucket list for a long time. It has a glorious history as the capital of the western of Roman Empire between the fall of Rome (5th century CE) and the rise of Byzantine Empire in Constantinople (Istanbul). The main tourist sights are the beautiful early Christian mosaics found in the churches and baptistries from the 5th – 6th centuries, amazingly still intact. They are incredible!
Shown below are most of most main sights to see in Ravenna.
Basilica di San Vitale
This church is probably the most stunning of all the locations. The mosaics date from 526 – 547 CE, and look like they were finished yesterday.
Mausoleo di Galla Placidia
Right next to San Vitale is the Mausoleo di Galla Placidia. Despite its name, this structure became a private chapel rather than a tomb. The Mausoleo was begun in 430 CE.
Battistero Neoniano (Neonian Baptistry)
This is Ravenna’s oldest monument, from the early part of the 5th century CE. It is located next to Ravenna’s Duomo (cathedral) and the very cool 10th century leaning bell tower.
Sant’ Apollinare Nuovo
This is a 6th century CE church, named for the first bishop of Ravenna, and it has a bit different feel to it than the other monuments above (rectangular, lighter and more open). It was constructed by Theodoric the Great, as his palace chapel. It is also included as part of the combination ticket. There are mosaics of scenes from Christ’s birth, his miracles and resurrection as well as representations of numerous saints and martyrs in this church.
To visit the main sights above, go to the tourist office in the old town, and purchase a ticket (€11.50 at the time of our visit) and a map of the sights included.
The streets are also pretty well marked, with arrows pointing and providing directions towards the main churches.
Keep in mind that you will be walking quite a bit, although the points of interest are not too far apart and can be easily visited in 2/3 of a day. During our visit in May, the sights were not crowded, there were no lines to enter any of the churches. However, later in the summer, it will likely be quite a bit busier, we saw ropes to handle long lines at least at a couple of the more popular locations.
In addition to the sights above, there are some other places you should see in Ravenna.
Battistero degli Ariani
I’m not sure why this little late-5th century CE baptistry is not part of the ticket above, but it’s worth taking a look. I think it cost €1 to visit. It is located a few blocks from Sant’ Apollinare Nuovo.
Basilica di San Francesco and Dante’s Tomb
The Italian poet Dante died in Ravenna in 1321, and his tomb is just to the side of the Basilica di San Francesco, which is also worth a visit for its flooded crypt.
San Giovanni Evangelista
This church, close to Sant’ Apollinare Nuovo was rebuilt over the centuries, and has some very interesting fragments of old mosaics along its aisles.
Everywhere you turn in Ravenna, there is something interesting to see…
The old town has a pleasant main square, with restaurants surrounding it.
We stayed in a lovely B&B just south of the old town, perhaps a 1/3 mile walk to the center of the old town.