A city famous for its intricate mosaics, Ravenna is an absolute must for any traveller exploring Emilia-Romagna.
In a previous post, I explained why Rimini is an ideal travel hub for exploring this northern Italian region. It takes just under an hour to reach the former capital of the Western Roman Empire from Rimini.
Before you head down to Rimini Central Station, I would recommend checking out train times and prices on the Tren Italia website. Usually, a return ticket costs just under €10, but prices can vary and trains can sell out too. So make sure you’re not the one boarding a 90-minute service.
We arrived in Ravenna just as the sleepy city was waking up and made a beeline for a coffee and a pastry.
Once we’d recharged our batteries, we headed down to the first of Ravenna’s monuments. Steeped in history, these monuments aren’t to be missed and for €12 entry into all five, you’d kick yourself for missing out.
With our tickets purchased, we made a beeline for the Basilica di San Vitale. This 6th Century church exemplifies Ravenna’s unique architecture. From the outside, it’s red brick walls aren’t very revealing but inside it’s covered in a splendour of mosaics. This basilica was built as a tribute to the Emperor Justinian, whose face you can’t miss in Ravenna.
Inside, the light is low and the temperature refreshing, if you’re trekking around on a hot summer’s day like us. One the walls, tiny deep green tiles are interlaced with gold and depict key scenes. Try to take in as much as you can because it’s truly a wonder to behold.
Adjacent to the Basilica of San Vitale is another monument called Mausoleo di Galla Placidia. This mausoleum was built for Galla Placidia (the half sister of Emperor Honorius). Originally intended as her final resting place, it was never actually used for that purpose as the she died in Rome and was buried there instead. Despite this common misconception (I was none the wiser until I read a plaque), it’s still worth a visit. Of the five monuments, this is arguably the most unassuming from the outside but once you’re plunged into the depths of the tomb you are once again surrounded in breathtakingly intricate mosaics.
From there, we took things at a slower pace and wandered around Ravenna’s cobbled streets and grabbed some postcards for friends and family.
After a quick bite of bruschetta and a glass of wine, we headed over to the Battistero Neoniano. This is Ravenna’s oldest intact building. This Christian baptistry was built in an octagonal shape. Then, a Century later it was decorated with mosaics on the inside. The baptistery is filled with benches which means you can park your bum and really soak in the scene.
Directly next to the Battiestero Nenoniano is the fourth stop on our tour, the Museo Arcivescovile e Cappella di Sant’Andrea. This Chapel of St Andrew is a hidden jewel and is actually inside the museum. It’s located on the museum’s first floor and it worth the hunt.
Our final stop of the day was the Basilica of Saint’Apollinare Nuovo. Closest to the train station, we knew it made sense to leave this site for last. From the outside this basilica looks plain, but that brick exterior is hiding a treasure trove of wonders. Step inside and you’ll be amazed to discover more ornate mosaics.
From there, we headed to the station and jumped back onto a train to our hotel in Rimini.
While our day was short and sweet, I’m happy to say I ticked a travel a treasure trove of sites off my bucket-list.
Like with any trip, I always have a reason for returning and here are the three activities I’d do if I ever returned:
- The tomb of Dante Alighieri. This Italian poet is famous for his contribution to Italian literature, most notably the Divine Comedy
- I’d also try and head to the The Comacchio lagoons for a spot of wild flamingo watching
- Finally, if money was no object, I’d attended the mosaic making at the Art school, but at €750 a pop I don’t think I’ll be able to head there in a hurry.
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Thanks for reading,
Disclaimer: I took this trip in 2018, when there were no covid-19 restrictions on travel.