Ravenna Piece by Piece

Are you difficult to surprise?

Are you still able to remain surprised?

In the world where every place is reachable, every piece of information is available, where secrets and mysteries are ceasing to exist, our capacity to wow!’ is disappearing together with them. It seems we’ve already seen and heard everything: a picture on the web, an article on a magazine, someone had already been there, experienced it, told me.

Every time I start for a trip I rediscover the pleasure of amusement that becomes ever more overwhelming when you manage to live it again and again the way it happened to me in Ravenna, in the region of Emilia-Romagna. Its amazing Byzantine art, the cultural imprint of empires, religions, influences, the unique and complex identity carried through centuries and preserved exactly as it deserves, that is, as the most precious of treasures. Piece by piece, the spirit of Ravenna is composed by its mosaics.

And not only. Here we go with some very good reasons for visiting Ravenna as soon as you have such a chance:

1. Basilica of Sant’Apollinare Nuovo 

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2. Church of San Giovanni Evangelista

It is a very shy place, compared to its mighty neighbours. But it is also very charming, indeed. Some of its mosaics are worth noticing, especially if they happen to be the first ones you ever come to see in Ravenna. Notice also that there is some water at the feet of the church’s biggest columns. Why? I’ll tell you in a while.

3. Arian Baptistery 

I confess it is the site that enchanted me most of all. The tiny building of the baptistery is hidden behind the modern walls of the city with its foundation placed under the actual street level. Discreet as it seems from the outside, its inner world reveals the splendour of one the most amazing and antique mosaics of Ravenna. Do not miss it!

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The ticket for the baptistery can be purchased at a self-service machine to the right of its entrance at the cost of €1,00. There’s no other ticket office in the whereabouts and the machine accepts no banknotes, so you will need some coins on you to proceed.

4. Piazza del Popolo, the central square of Ravenna, a lovely meeting point.

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5. Basilica of San Francesco

Right around the corner from the famous Dante’s Tomb, the church seemed quite common, but it proved me wrong disclosing the secret of its crypt: with its underground structure situated under the level of the sea, it tends to collect rainwater (exactly as some other churches in the city, for example, that of San Giovanni Evangelista mentioned above). The rainwater forms kind of an underground lake where it is possible to see some fish, and sometimes, they say, even ducks! A truly mystic place…

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6. Dante’s Tomb 

7. Neonian Baptistery 

8. Archiepiscopal Museum 

At some point, having reached a certain level of tiredness, we were considering a possibility to skip the ‘boring museum’. Shame on us! The museum was not at all boring. Neither was it big. Moreover, it had some very unique pieces, including an amazing Throne of Maximian dating back to the early Middle Ages. You have to see it with your own eyes!

9. St. Andrew’s Chapel 

It is very convenient to visit this chapel as far as it is right inside the Archiepiscopal Museum. Unfortunately, no pictures are allowed.

10. Mausoleum of Galla Placidia

When my husband used to tell me about Ravenna before we went there together, he kept on repeating this one: Galla Placidia, Galla Placidia, Galla Placidia. Now I know why. Moreover, now I also know it is worth seeing, remembering and repeating to everyone else you know. This place, designed and erected to accompany the Empress Gala Placidia into her last trip, was never used for its original purpose, but that purpose served to make both the mausoleum and the memory of its beneficiary immortal in the colours, complexity and uniqueness of its mosaics. A must see!

11. Basilica of San Vitale 

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12. Basilica of Sant’Apollinare in Classe

13. Mausoleum of Teodoric

The location of the tomb is a bit distant from the city centre. It might be a nice idea to reach tit by bike.

And to end with … some practical advice:

1. It is very convenient to come to Ravenna by train as far as the central railways station of the city is just in its center. One full day is quite enough to visit the city’s most iconic locations, but if you opt for a longer stay, there are some quite economic accommodation options in the roundabouts on the train station.

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2. If you come by car, watch out! The center of the city makes part of ZTL (limited traffic zone). Generally speaking, your car, unless you are a resident, which I presume you are not, and own a special permit, is not allowed to enter this area a) during a certain time period of the day, b) some streets are permanently closed for traffic. Check here for the map and more details on the subject. Mind that breaking this rule will cost you a very ‘salty’ fine.

3. The city of Ravenna is divided into different parking areas that each follows its own rules. To cut the long story short and sum up the main notions, keep in mind that: 1) white stripes mean free parking, 2) yellow stripes usually mean that the parking place in question is reserved for the disabled, 3) blue stripes mean you have to pay. Find the parking machine, read carefully the instructions and information it provides (some public pay parkings allow only limited parking time!) and leave the ticket confirming the payment under the wind shield of your car.

If you decide to stay at a hotel, ask the stuff whether the hotel has its own parking or provides a parking permit. At our hotel they gave us a parking permit valid till the end of our stay (we staied overnight), and it cost only €2,00. With such a document under the wind shield you can leave your car within the blue stripes in the proximity of your hotel with no need to pay additionally.

It might be useful to check here for more information on parking in Ravenna.

4. Have lunch, and even a casual dinner, at Naturalmente Burger in Piazza Duomo, 8. This place offers high quality local and organic food, fast and polite service, honest prices, great location right in front of Ravenna’s Cathedral and a very curious menu with abundance of dishes to choose from. Do not forget to try the famous local piadina romagnola. It a very good option for a fast, light and economic lunch.

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5. Do your shopping in Via Cavour. There are some nice stores in the neighbourhood.

6. There is one unique ticket that allows you to visit the following sites:

– Basilica of Sant’Apollinare Nuovo

– Archiepiscopal Museum and St. Andrew’s Chapel

– Neonian Baptistery

– Basilica of San Vitale

– Mausoleum of Galla Placidia

The ticket can be purchased at any of these sites. It costs €11,50 per person (if no reduction is concerned) and is valid for 7 days from the date of its purchase. Moreover, together with the ticket you will be given a free map of the city.

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The history of Ravenna, exactly like its famous mosaics, is made up by multiple pieces, colorful, elaborate, precise and precious. And it is surprising to think and realize that all those beautiful mosaics were created a millennium and a half ago, that the craftsmen of those times were able to reach such a level of preciseness and perfection and that all these priceless cultural artefacts survived thousands of various dangers that still surround them but never managed and will never manage to darken the light of their splendor. The light destined to inspire and surprise like the city of Ravenna itself.

All the pictures in this article were taken by Machs Gut ©, but edited by your humble narrator, so, just in case, I am the one to blame ;-).

P. S. I’d love to attract your attention and pay my compliments to the web site of the Tourist Information Centre of Ravenna, dedicated to tourism and culture of this amazing city. I found it well-structured, informative and really helpful. I used it to arrange my trip to Ravenna, discover its historical and cultural heritage. I linked a lot to this wonderful source of information in my article, so that you can enjoy it the way I did, be well-informed and study Ravenna from A to Z before even coming to the city.

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