City of ancient mosaics – Ravenna, Italy

Ravenna

Ravenna (Italy) – the most detailed information about the city with photos. The main sights of Ravenna with descriptions, guides and maps.

City of Ravenna

Ravenna is a city in northeastern Italy in the Emilia-Romagna region. It is located on a lowland plain near the confluence of the rivers Ronco and Monte, a dozen kilometers from the Adriatic Sea, which is connected by a canal. Ravenna is a city with an interesting and rich history, a treasure trove of art, history and culture. Eight sites of Late Antiquity are included in the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

Ravenna is one of the largest cities in the Emilia-Romagna region. It is conveniently located between Bologna and San Marino and close to Florence and the Adriatic resorts, making it a very popular tourist destination. But what makes Ravenna unique are the sights of the ancient Byzantine period, which are among the best preserved in Italy. Also the city is famous as the place of death of the legendary Dante Alighieri, one of the most mysterious poets of the Middle Ages, the founder of the modern Italian language.

Things to do (Ravenna):

Ravenna Stars.

€163 per tour.

Ravenna Stars

Learn about the city and the ancient mosaics.

Ravenna - a journey into the world of ancient mosaics

€150 per excursion

Ravenna – A Journey into the World of Ancient Mosaics

Visit the main churches and museums of the city and decipher the magnificent mosaics on their walls and domes

Geography and climate

Ravenna is in the East of the Emilia-Romagna Region, 10 km from the Adriatic Coast. It is connected to the sea by the Cagnano canal. The province is located on the Padana Plain in its low-lying part.

The climate of Ravenna is typical of the southeastern Po valley with maritime influence. Summers are quite hot with an average temperature of 23-25 degrees. Winter is mild with an average temperature of 3-5 degrees. Although cold easterly winds can bring frosts and snowfalls.

The Streets of Ravenna

Streets of Ravenna

For tourists

  1. The population is 171 thousand people.
  2. Area – 653.82 square kilometers.
  3. Language: Italian.
  4. Currency – Euro.
  5. Time – Central European UTC +1, in summer +2.
  6. The city has a Schengen visa.
  7. In the historic center there are a lot of small stylish stores. Although here you will not find large stores and shopping malls as in Milan or Rome.
  8. Ravenna is a city friendly to thrifty travelers. There are many small pizzerias and trattorias that offer delicious and inexpensive Italian food.

History

Ravenna is an ancient city with a rich and complex history. After the collapse of the Roman Empire from the beginning of the 5th century the city was the capital of the Western Roman Empire, later the state of the Ostgoths and the kingdom of the Lombards.

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Originally the province was inhabited by the Etruscan and Umbrian tribes. Ravenna became part of the Roman Empire in the 2nd century BC. Under Octavian Augustus, a port was built here, which later grew into a city. In 402, after the Visigoths’ siege of Mediolanus (Milan), Ravenna became the capital of the Western Roman Empire. In 476 the empire ceased to exist. This date is also considered the end of the period of Antiquity.

The Streets of Ravenna

Streets of Ravenna

At the end of the 5th century Ravenna was conquered by Theodoric, King of the Ostgoths, who made the city the capital of his state. But the state of the Ostgoths did not last long. Already in 540 Ravenna became a province of Byzantium. In the middle of 8 century the city was conquered by the Lombards. Although this kingdom also existed for a short time. In the mid 9th century Ravenna came under the control of the pope.

From the 9th to the 13th century the city was ruled by archbishops. In the 13th century, Ravenna became the fiefdom of Traversari, and later Da Polenta. In the 15th century Ravenna became part of the Venetian Republic. At the beginning of the 16th century, the city again fell under the authority of the pope, and was looted and burned by French troops. For the next three centuries, Ravenna was part of the Papal Region until it became part of a united Italy in the 19th century.

How to get there

In the town of Forlì, 20 km from Ravenna, there is a small airport which serves several local destinations. Major airports are located in Bologna, Venice and Florence. It is also easy to reach the city by car on the A14 freeway. There is also a railway station, the main directions of which are Bologna and Rimini.

Attractions

Ravenna is a magnificent landmarks of Late Antiquity, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, ancient churches and basilicas, old streets and wide squares. But it is not just monuments of history and culture that this city is famous for. Nearby are the Adriatic resort towns, which can offer a great holiday.

Neon Baptistery

Neon Baptistery

The Neon Baptistery (also often called the Orthodox Baptistery) is the oldest building standing in Ravenna and is an extremely important religious site. The baptistery was built in the 5th century on the site of a complex of Roman thermae. The structure has an octagonal design and a rather simple appearance.

Mosaics in the Baptistery

Mosaics of the baptistery

But the main treasure lurks inside, where a stunning series of ancient Byzantine colored mosaics depicting religious scenes such as the baptism of Christ and the procession of the twelve apostles are located.

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San Vitale Basilica

San Vitale Basilica

The Basilica of San Vitale is another ancient structure located near the Baptistery of Neon. Construction of the church dates back to the first half of the 6th century. The basilica has a similar exterior and architecture, with a large octagonal central dome standing out. The interior of San Vitale has some amazing mosaics and decorations that are considered one of the best examples of Byzantine art in Italy.

Mausoleum of Galla Placidia

Mausoleum of Galla Placidia

The Mausoleum of Galla Placidia is another UNESCO World Heritage Site in Ravenna, built in the 1940s of the 5th century. This structure, simple on the outside, offers magnificent interior works that are considered one of the best preserved and artistically perfect examples of mosaics in Italy. The mausoleum was created for the sister of the Western Roman Emperor Honorius, but she was eventually buried in Rome.

Sant'Apollinare Nuovo

Sant’Apollinare Nuovo

The Basilica of Sant’Apollinare Nuovo was built by King Theodoric of the Ostrogoths. The church is located in the eastern part of the old city, which is easily reached on foot. A large bell tower stands to the right of the building and the front entrance is decorated with stone arches. Inside, the basilica boasts a magnificent mosaic decoration documenting the stylistic, iconographic and ideological evolution of Byzantine wall mosaics from the time of Theodoric to Justinian. The mosaics depict scenes from the New Testament.

Basilica di San Francesco

Basilica di San Francesco

The Basilica di San Francesco is located between the Baptistery of Neon and the Basilica of San Apollinare. The church was built in the 9th century and the bell tower in the 10th century. Although the interior of the basilica is quite simple, it attracts visitors with its mysterious crypt and the tomb of the bishop.

Mausoleum of Theodoric

Mausoleum of Theodoric

Theodoric’s mausoleum is the burial place of the King of the Ostgoths, who chose Ravenna as the stronghold of his kingdom. It is a 1500 years old building, situated in a park with the same name. The roof of this structure is made of Istrian stone. The interior of the tomb is quite simple.

Tomb of Dante

Dante’s Tomb

The Tomb of Dante is a simple marble structure that houses the remains of one of Italy’s most legendary poets. The mausoleum was built much later than Alighieri’s death.

Arian Baptistery

Arian Baptistery

The Arian baptistery was built at the turn of the 5th and 6th centuries by Theodoric. It is an inconspicuous structure located in the immediate vicinity of Piazza del Popolo, next to the Church of Chiesa Dullo Duto Santo. Inside, the baptistery is beautifully decorated with mosaics. Especially impressive is the very detailed ceiling mosaic depicting the baptism of Jesus Christ.

Archbishop's Chapel

Archdiocesan Chapel

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The Archbishop’s Chapel is a chapel of the bishops of Equinox, built in the early 6th century under Theodoric. The interior is beautifully decorated with mosaics.

Sant'Apollinare in Classe

Sant’Apollinare in Classe

Sant’Apollinare in Classe is a 6th-century basilica outside the old town. It was built over the tomb of St. Apollinarius, the first bishop of Equalia. It is a masterpiece of Byzantine art. The interior of the church is decorated with mosaics from the period of Justinian.

What else interesting you can find in Ravenna:

  • The National Museum in the building of the old Benedictine monastery. It displays a fine collection of art, artifacts and relics from different periods of the region’s history.
  • Marina di Ravenna is the marina northeast of the city. On the northern edge is a harbor with many fishing and sailing boats, and on the southern edge is a long stretch of beach with beautiful golden sand.
  • Cesenatico is a charming seaside resort town southeast of Ravenna about a half hour away.
  • Piazza del Popolo is one of the city’s busiest and most significant squares. It is located in the center of the historic Old Town, within walking distance of the Basilica of San Francesco and the Basilica of San Apollinare. The square stands out for its beautiful architecture and many restaurants.
  • Mirabilandia is a theme park with a variety of attractions. One of the most visited in Italy.
  • Municipal tower is 39 meters high, built in the 12th century. It is located at – Via Ponte Marino, 2.

Interesting tours

Hidden corners of Venice

€200 for the tour

Hidden corners of Venice

Medieval, elegant, fragile: walk through the most authentic quarters of the city and grasp its soul

Rome - a sightseeing tour of the main sites and the undiscovered ghetto

€120 per excursion

Rome – a sightseeing tour of the major sites and the undiscovered ghetto

Trace the city’s path from antiquity to modern times and learn about the inhabitants of the past and present

City of ancient mosaics – Ravenna, Italy

The name Ravenna is synonymous with fine examples of art . The sophisticated charm of this city makes it extraordinarily appealing. The ancient city of saints and kings keeps the memory of the early periods of Christianity alive. Ravenna is a city of beautiful monuments inspired by faith.

1. “At Sleepy Eternity’s Hands”

This line from Alexander Blok’s poem about Ravenna reminds us of the centuries since the city was founded. Ravenna appeared on the site of a settlement of Etruscans, Umbrians or Thessalians. The Romans arrived here in the II century BC. In the I century on the site of the city was founded port Klassis. But the coastline gradually moved away because of the silt brought by the Po River. Now Ravenna is connected to the Adriatic Sea, which is 10 kilometers away, through a canal. The city began to form around the port of Classis. Since 402, Ravenna becomes the center of the Western Roman Empire. During this period, its history was associated with the Emperor Honorius. In the 5th century, buildings decorated with mosaics were built, which now attract the attention of connoisseurs of beauty.

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City of ancient mosaics - Ravenna, Italy

1. “At Sleepy Eternity’s Hands”

2. Mausoleum of Galla Placidia.

The oldest of Ravenna’s mosaics are in the mausoleum of Galla Placidia. It was built in the second quarter of the 5th century. Despite its name, the mausoleum is not the resting place of Galla, sister of Emperor Honorius and daughter of Emperor Theodosius the Great. The mausoleum was used as an oratory (prayer room) and nearby was the Basilica of Santa Croce, which has not survived. The oratory, or chapel of prayer, was built in memory of the great martyr Lawrence, revered in the family of Galla Placidia. This ancient structure has the shape of a Latin cross in plan. The central cubic tower is topped with a dome on the inside. From the outside the mausoleum looks rather modest, but its interiors are striking. The mosaics in the mausoleum are valuable monuments of early Christian art. A golden Latin cross, placed in the center of the dome, is surrounded by golden stars. The cross symbolizes Christ, and the stars represent the righteous. The background for the cross and stars is a mosaic of intense blue, the solemn and radiant color of eternity. The corners of the vault are decorated with symbolic images of the four evangelists: a lion, a calf, an eagle and an angel. The ceiling of other rooms of the mausoleum is covered with a complex ornament consisting of flowers, stars and circles. The ornaments symbolize the Garden of Eden. The most famous of these is the mosaic of the north lunette depicting the Good Shepherd, Christ in the guise of a shepherd watching over the flock of sheep. This very ancient image comes from the Christian catacombs. The golden mosaics of the mausoleum convey the rapture of a soul beholding heavenly radiance.

City of ancient mosaics - Ravenna, Italy

2. Mausoleum of Galla Placidia.

3. San Vitale

The Basilica of San Vitale was founded in 527 and was fully completed twenty years later. In the same period all the mosaics of the basilica were created. Over the centuries the building was completed and reconstructed. Unlike the Mausoleum of Galla Placidia, the Basilica of San Vitale is a monument of Byzantine architecture. It has the shape of an octagonal martirium (a temple or chapel built over the place of the death or burial of a martyr). Eight pillars support a dome 16 meters in diameter. The mosaics of San Vitale are meant to show the splendor of the Byzantine emperor Justinian, as the basilica was built in that short period when Byzantium reigned in Italy. The conch of the apse is decorated with a picture of Christ with angels and St. Vitalius. Four rivers of Eden flow out from under Christ’s feet, illustrating the notion of Christ as the source of living water or eternal life. Emperor Justinian can be seen in the Basilica of St. Vitale, together with his wife Theodora, among a group of ladies, dignitaries and priests presenting a gift to the temple. Justinian’s head is surrounded by a halo, a typical feature of Byzantine images. Also on the walls of the basilica can be seen mosaic paintings depicting various biblical stories. The arches are decorated with symbols, such as images of a vine symbolizing Christ.

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City of ancient mosaics - Ravenna, Italy

3. San Vitale

4. Dante’s Tomb

Ravenna is home to the Basilica of St. Francis, where the poet Dante Alighieri, revered in Italy as the creator of literary language, was originally buried . He died in this city in 1321. The tomb resembles a small classical temple and is near the Dante Museum. The museum opened in 1921 to commemorate the 600th anniversary of the great poet’s death. One of the most valuable pieces in the museum is the wooden casket in which the monks kept Dante’s remains for 200 years in order to protect them from being stolen by Florentines. As you know, Dante was banished from Florence because of his political views and wandered around Italy for 17 years. After his death, Florence demanded that the remains of the national genius be returned to his homeland. But the Franciscan monks hid them, so the tomb, already built in Florence, remains empty. Dante found refuge with the ruler of Ravenna, Guido I da Polenta. It was his daughter Francesca, whose sad love story Dante immortalized.

City of ancient mosaics - Ravenna, Italy

4. Dante’s Tomb

4. Grape jam and tortelloni

After seeing the ancient basilicas and mausoleums, it’s time to take a closer look at the cuisine of Emilia-Romagna. Ancient Ravenna has a lot to offer. The proximity to the sea affects the abundance of fish. Ravenna serves an original seafood soup that combines shrimp, mullet, squid and other sea creatures. Lobster meatballs and healing frog soup will appeal to gourmets and fans of the exotic. Tortelloni, a large dumpling stuffed with vegetables, ricotta and herbs, is more usual but no less delicious. Dessert lovers will appreciate the grape jam made according to an ancient recipe. In the jam are added almonds, orange zest, young wine and grape must. But the symbol of Ravenna cuisine is special egg pasta, served with boiled eggs, parsley and meat broth.

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