Ravenna is famous for its Late Antiquity and Byzantine wall mosaics in early Christian monuments and churches. The town is a popular day-trip destination from Bologna and Rimini, as well as shore excursions for luxury passenger boats calling in Venice.
Glorious past is also preserved in its basilicas and baptisteries where there is the richest patrimony of mosaics of the 5th and 6th centuries. Ravenna has eight monuments included on the UNESCO’s World Heritage List and in this city there are the remains of Dante Alighieri and not in Florence as many people think...
Ravenna has a rich cuisine too and in the summertime, if you like the seaside, you’ll be few steps away from a 35 kilometres beach. To the ones who loves nature in a few kilometres there’s the Po delta, the Comacchio Valleys, the Classe and Saint Vitale’s pinewoods, and the Oasis of Punte Alberete.
The Mausoleum of Galla Placidia
The atmosphere you breathe inside the Mausoleum is magic. The emperor Onorio, who transferred the capital of his empire from Milan to Ravenna, wanted this monument for his sister Galla Placidia.
The theme represented with the technique of the mosaic is the victory of life over death according with the future use of the monument.
The starry sky represented on the vaulted ceiling is the real protagonist and makes this place unforgettable.
Basilica di San Vitale
The Basilica of San Vitale is a highlight of any visit to see the Byzantine wall mosaics in Ravenna, a town popular with day-trippers from Venice and Bologna.
In addition to the magnificent architecture, the mosaics in San Vitale are the main attractions. These are considered the largest and best-preserved Byzantine mosaics outside modern-day Istanbul.
The whole apsis and altar area is still covered by original mosaics. The intrados of the triumphal arch features fifteen figures including Christ and the twelve apostles.
The vault of the presbytery is decorated with numerous plants and animals with the Lamb of God at the center on a medallion carried by four angles.
Basilica di Sant'Apollinare Nuovo
This church has the greatest cycle of mosaics in the world. The walls of the nave are divided into three distinct strips of mosaics:
The high one represents the life of Christ, the central one represents Saints and Prophets, and the lower one portrays the famous Palace of Theodoric.
The cancellation of the figure of the Emperor and other characters, covered with white drapes, happened when the basilica passed from Arian cult, for which it was built, to Catholic worship.
On the opposite wall there is a portrait of port of Classe, one of the most important in the Mediterranean sea during the Roman Empire.
The Mausoleum of Theodoric
According to the legend, the red porphyry tub, on the top floor of the Mausoleum, is the same where the barbarian Emperor died.
The Mausoleum of Theodoric is one of eight sites in Ravenna inscribed on the UNESCO World Cultural Heritage list. In contrast to the other early Christian monuments, which are rightly famous for its Byzantine mosaics, the Mausoleum of Theodoric is important mostly as being the only surviving tomb from a “barbarian” king from late-Roman, pre-Middle Ages period
There are many legends about the death of this barbarian king who ruled in Italy for 33 years bringing tolerance, peace and wealth and who built this mausoleum in Istrian stone.
The two floor structure in decagonal shape and the massive roof ,made with a single block of stone, makes it a unique monument, completely different than the other buildings of Ravenna.
Dante’s Tomb - Mausoleum
Dante’s tomb is here in Ravenna and not in Florence. Dante died in Ravenna during his exile and his body is still in Ravenna.
The Franciscans stole his mortal spoils and jealously kept them for several centuries, opposing to the will of kings and popes who tried to bring back the body in Florence.
Thanks to the Franciscans the spoils of the writer has been saved from the bombardments of the second world war.
There’s one thing which remembers Florence near this grave: a votive lamp of the XVIII century made up from the oil produced on the Apennines of Tuscany.
This oil is donated every year, the second Sunday of September, from the city of Florence...
The Arian Baptistery in Ravenna in Italy is UNESCO-listed as an excellently preserved example of an early Christian monument with a Late Antiquity mosaic.
The baptistery was built during the kingdom of Theodoric, when Ravenna was the Capital of his reign and the Arianism was the official religion of his court.
Arianism was considered from the Catholic church as heresy because one of this religion convictions was that Jesus Christ was son of God but he was considered human until the moment of baptism. The mosaics on the vault represent and celebrate the baptism.
Unlike the Orthodox Baptistery, the representation here shows a Christ not coming from the East, as “Light from Light, real God from real God…”, but going in direction of the East, becoming divine only during the baptism moment.
Jesus Christ is considered as a man, so his nudity it’s not censored, while he’s immersed in the Jordan’s waters and John the Baptist is baptising him. From the sky the divine dove is coming down and brings with her the light, symbolizing the spirit, on the Jesus head.
Neonian Baptistery and the Archbishop’s Chapel
The Neonian Baptistery and the Archiepiscopal Chapel are two of the smaller UNESCO-listed sites in Ravenna with superb wall mosaics.
Heritage-listed sites in Ravenna as excellent examples of early Christian monuments and Late Antiquity wall mosaics. Both are adjacent to the Ravenna Cathedral, as both were closely associated with the main center of Christian worship.
The Neonian Baptistery is the oldest of the octagonal Christian structures in Ravenna while the Archbishop’s Chapel is the oldest surviving private Christian oratory.
The Archbishop’s Chapel is on the second floor of the former bishop’s palace, which is now the Archiepiscopal Museum.
This contrast is evident if you compare the mosaic of the vault of this baptistery with the one you can find in the Arian Bapstery. The Christ here comes from the East and he’s divine before the baptism. While in the Arian one is the contrary.
Karl Gustav Jung, the famous psychologist, during his stay in Ravenna, in the 30’s, visited this baptistery and he saw a mosaic which represented Jesus Christ holding his hand to Saint Peter who was drowning. He debated long time with his friends about this image and he concluded that it was a symbolic representation of the death and of the rebirth.
Only after some time, when he was looking for a photo of that image, he understood that it didn’t exist and that it was just an invention of his mind. Jung took as example that episode to write beautiful pages about unconscious and conscious and about how the imagination can change our perception of reality.
Ravenna's delicious traditional food
Besides its wonderful cultural heritage, Ravenna is a great place for delicious traditional food. First of all, the cuisine is characterised by a general creaminess; the main dishes are soups, obviously followed by different kinds of pasta such as tagliatelle, lasagne, and strozzapreti served in a typical meat sauce.
You can also taste passatelli, with delicate hints of parmesan and nutmeg, or even cappelletti, with cheese or meat fillings and served in broth. These pasta dishes are all made using fresh homemade pasta – and this is why they are greatly cherished.
Furthermore, other traditional and delicious dishes include pork and pinzimonio, crudités to dip in salt and oil. Since Ravenna is a seaside city, you can also enjoy many seafood-based delicacies, such as risotto, tagliolini with seafood, and also spaghetti with clams: true culinary luxury!
Fish as well as meat dishes are always served with warm and tasty piadina, which is also masterfully paired with the delicious and unforgettable traditional cheese from Romagna, squacquerone.
Naturally, all such dishes can be complemented with typical wines – Sangiovese, Trebbiano, Pagadèbit – and rustic desserts, like dry biscuits, tortelli with jam filling, ciambelle and crostate, which can be dipped in sweet wines Albana, a white wine, or Cagnina, a red wine.
Caterine: A typical titbit from Ravenna. Caterine are biscuits shaped like dolls, roosters, or hens, coated in chocolate and elegant coloured-sugar decorations. They are given to children on Saint Catherine’s day, on 25th November.
The various shapes have different meanings. The hen should represents fertility for girls, the rooster symbolises the break of day, and the doll is the symbol of the patron Saint Catherine
Theodora cake: this cake got its name from the empress of Byzantium who was the wife of Justinian I. The recipe uses local products: pine nuts, cornmeal, butter, icing sugar, eggs, yolks, wheat flour, baking powder, chopped almonds, and cinnamon.