On the occasion of the Cervia Aquiloni Festival, we decided to make a stop in Ravenna, which we had not yet visited.
Capital in the past of no less than three empires – Western Roman, Theodoric’s and Byzantine empire in Europe – Ravenna is a real architectural concentration.
Not everyone knows that 8 sites-the Basilica of San Vitale, the Mausoleum of Galla Placidia, the Baptisteries of the Arian and Orthodox, the Basilicas of Sant’Apollinare Nuovo and in Classe, the Archbishop’s Chapel and the Mausoleum of Theodoric-have been declared UNESCO World Heritage Sites, and that Ravenna preserves the richest heritage of mosaics in humanity dating from the 5th and 6th centuries. For us, Ravenna was a real discovery!
Ravenna is the ideal destination for fans of culture, art and history but also for those who want to relax by the sea in the summer and for those who want to taste the enviable gastronomy of Romagna; in addition, a short distance away is the Mirabilandia park, for the fun of the whole family.
Below you will find all the information for visiting Ravenna in one day.
Ravenna: what to see in a day
❖ Basilica of San Vitale
Our tour of Ravenna started from the Basilica of San Vitale, one of the most important monuments of early Christian and Byzantine art. The basilica has an octagonal plan and is surrounded by a beautiful green lawn.
The most important mosaics to see inside include the vision of Christ on the Globe handing the crown of glory to Saint Vitale surrounded by angels, and Emperor Justinian and his wife Theodora. The floor, on the other hand, depicts a turreted labyrinth, a symbol of sin, and finding the exit means being reborn.
Hours: 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily
❖ Mausoleum of Galla Placidia
A few meters from the basilica is the Mausoleum of Galla Placidia, a veritable treasure trove of precious mosaics, the oldest in Ravenna.
The Mausoleum was dedicated by Emperor Honorius to his sister Galla Placidia in 402, when he moved the capital of the Western Roman Empire from Milan to Ravenna. The theme of the mosaics is the victory of life over death.
The most valuable mosaic is located just above the entrance and depicts Christ the Good Shepherd among his sheep.
Hours: 9 a.m.-7 p.m.
❖ Basilica of Sant’Apollinare Nuovo
The Basilica of Sant’Apollinare Nuovo is a fifteen-minute walk from the Basilica of San Vitale. The Basilica was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1996 and houses the largest mosaic cycle in the world. The side walls are entirely covered with sparkling golden mosaics.
The decorations of the nave are divided into three distinct bands: the uppermost band tells the life of Christ, the middle band portrays Saints and Prophets, and the lower band depicts the Palace of Theodoric.
Hours: 9 a.m.-7 p.m.
❖ Basilica of Sant’Apollinare in Classe
Sant’Apollinare in Classe, not to be confused with Sant’Apollinare Nuovo, is the greatest example of an early Christian basilica anywhere. It is located 8 kilometers from the center of Ravenna and was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1996.
The basilica is dedicated to St. Apollinaris, the first bishop of Ravenna. The most striking mosaic inside is the one in the apse, which depicts the saint flanked by 12 sheep (a symbol of the Christian flock) and surmounted by a gem-studded cross on a sky in which 99 stars shine.
❖ Tomb of Dante
Well yes, Dante is not buried in Florence but in Ravenna itself! Exiled from his hometown, the Supreme Poet spent his last years here until his death in 1321.
His remains are housed in a small, marble-clad neoclassical-style temple near the Basilica of St. Francis. It was the Franciscans who smuggled and preserved Dante’s bones for several centuries, opposing attempts to bring the remains back to Florence.
Hours: 10 a.m.-7 p.m.
❖ Basilica of San Francesco
Located next to Dante’s Tomb is the Basilica of San Francesco inside which Dante Alighieri’s funeral was celebrated. A must-see is the underground crypt with cross vault and the mosaic floor where fish swim! Depending on rainfall and sea level, the (filtered) water varies in height. To illuminate the crypt, which would otherwise be dark, you have to insert 1 euro.
Hours: Monday to Friday 7 a.m.-12 noon and 3 p.m.-6 p.m.; Saturday and Sunday 7 a.m.-6 p.m.
❖ Neoniano Baptistery (or the Orthodox)
Next to the cathedral is the Neonian or Orthodox Baptistery, one of the oldest monuments in Ravenna.
It is the best-preserved baptismal building in the world, both for its interior stuccoes and marbles and for its exterior structure; the mosaics that cover it here also leave one speechless.
In the dome one can see the scene of the Baptism of Jesus with the twelve apostles wearing alternating gold and white robes and crowns to offer to Christ.
The Neonian Baptistery was built at the behest of Bishop Orso but is named after his successor, Bishop Neone, who decided to redo its roof.
Hours: 9 a.m. to 7 p.m.
❖ People’s Square and historic center
A walk through the historic center of Ravenna is a must, visiting Piazza del Popolo and the Clock Tower Palace. Note that the streets are not indicated by simple signs but by very beautiful mosaics, evidence of the fact that everything here revolves around mosaics.
A stop at a local piadineria or bar is a must, where you can taste the piadina romagnola with salami and squacquerone cheese! You can take a stroll through the Ravenna Covered Market where you can also find bathrooms with changing tables for the little ones.
↪ A great way to explore Ravenna, could be to join a guided tour, discovering the mosaics 👇
Where to park in Ravenna: free and paid parking lots
Used to the cost of our parking lots in Genoa, I must say that parking in Ravenna was a real surprise: on the blue stripes (from 8:00 am to 6:30 pm) the cost varies from a minimum of 0.35 €/h to a maximum of 1.90 €/h in the areas closest to the ZTL. In addition, in the San Vitale parking lot, right in the center, there is a daily rate of 4.00 €. So very cheap in my opinion. Having some time to go around the surroundings, you can also find several free parking lots, on white stripes, not far from the center.
Where to sleep in Ravenna
Centrally located, the Palazzo Galletti Abbiosi Hotel is housed in a historic building (some rooms have frescoes) with modern and comfortable furnishings. Free parking in the inner courtyard, possibility of family rooms and excellent breakfast included. Recommended! Book here.
Located 15 km from the center of Ravenna, Mirabilandia is the second largest amusement park in Italy and one of the busiest in Europe. It is a theme park with roller coasters, slides, live shows and many games for the whole family. You can purchase your ticket here.
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