The city of Ravenna has been a capital of the Western Roman Empire until it has been conquered by Barbarians and eventually, turned it into major pillar of the Byzantine Empire under the emperor Justinian and empress Theodora.
This various influences made the city a must-see, the stunning mosaics and other sites have been added into the list of World Heritage Sites.
Piazza del popolo with its Venetian influences represents the centre of the city. Major attractions are located short distance away from here.
The octagonal Basilica di San Vitale dates back to 540 AD and can be considered one of the most important monuments in the city. The inside is adorned with stunning mosaics representing the Emperor and its Empress. An interesting detail is the double presence of God, beardless and bearded, particularly meaningful because were ancient and medieval representation. It was an important transition phase so these pieces of art can be considered the last ancient Roman mosaics but also the first Medieval European works.
Within the Mausoleo di Galla Placidia are located the oldest mosaics of Ravenna. It was supposed to be the tomb for Galla Placidia, sister of Emperor Honorius. The cross-shaped structure is pretty dark but the light coming in from the alabaster window is enough for the enlightenment of these symbolical mosaics.
The Basilica di Sant’Apollinare Nuovo has been built in the 6th century and, apart from the baroque altar, it has that Roman structure adopted throughout the Middle Ages, above all you can admire two well preserved mosaics depicting processions of martyrs and virgins.
In the cupola of the Battistero Neoniano you can admire gorgeous mosaic scene of the baptism of Christ and of the apostles.
Inside the Archbishop’s Palace are located the Museo Arcivescovile where you can admire a stunning ivory throne dating back the 6th century, and the Cappella di San Andrea where are other mosaics dedicated to St. Andrea. You can also visit the Museo Nazionale Di Ravenna the main museum of the city and has a great assortment of objects from early Christian and Byzantine period.
Ravenna is also the place where Dante spent the last years of life after his exile from Florence: Dante’s Tomb is a little neo-classical temple just close by the church of San Francesco.
A couple of meters below the 17th century Church of St. Eufemia is located the Domus dei Tappeti di Pietra, discovered accidentally in 1993, it consists of 14 rooms decorated with marbles and mosaics which belonged to a private byzantine building.
What/where to eat
Antica Trattoria al Gallo , an Art Nouveau jewel: building, halls, stained glass windows, furnishings, statues, paintings and objects with an D’Annunzio flavor. In 1909 it was the grandfather Giuseppe who purchased an old Locanda dated back to 1866 and launched it into legend. Destroyed by bombs in 1944, it was immediately reborn in the only house left in the street and it is an institution: here was a 1000 Miglia stop; here Dubcek, Rostropovich, Montalban passed; Maestro Muti is assiduous. Refined and exquisite, the fourth generation.
L’acciuga. The name means “the anchovy” and suggests the restaurant’s line of cuisine: seafood, with a double formula. There is an à la carte lunch, while – in the evening – a single tasting menu is offered enriched with some alternatives. Always present, the excellent anchovies!
Osteria del tempo perso. Unsuspected seafood cuisine in a small restaurant in the center with a rustic personalized atmosphere with soft lighting, jazz background, many books, bottles of wine, black and white photos.
Trattoria La Rustica. Small and intimate family-run tavern. The interior is truly home-made, with a belief that might seem very well that of grandmother and old household tools hanging on the wall as a testament to the good old days. All excellent: truly world-famous cappelletti, the soft polenta with melted pit cheese and raw olive oismoked goose breast, tortellini with meat sauce, Romagna-style rabbit.
Cinema Alexander Ristorante. Former movie theter, now restaurant with a wonderful restoration and adaptation work that recreates a truly particular and suggestive atmosphere. The specialties are the crispy red mullet, the amberjack, the linguine with black garlic (all prepared with herbs and particular flavors)
Pasticceria Veneziana, in the breach for more than half a century, in the historic center, has excellent small pastries, artisan fruit cakes and decorated
What/where to buy
The most important shopping streets in Ravenna are via Cavour, via Diaz, via Cairoli, via Corrado Ricci, Piazza del Popolo, via IV Novembre, via Matteotti and via Mazzini, without forgetting the covered market located in the center. There are many famous and non-famous brand shops, from clothing to crafts, but the most classic souvenir of Ravenna is the mosaic, given the very important examples of Byzantine art kept between the Basilica of San Vitale and Sant’Apollinare.
Lilith Studio Gallery is a space for art photography where ancient and contemporary Ravenna art come together. Exhibitions, meetings, workshops, fine art prints and artist books, unconventional postcards of the city.
Scattisparsi library. As soon as you enter this library you are struck by the warm and pleasant atmosphere, by the smell of the books and the vintage aspect of the decorations that characterize it takes you back in time.
Mangiafuoco Sartoni. A high level and exquisite craftsmanship collective shop, testimony to the manual skill of young craftsmen from Ravenna. Two outlets (near San Vitale and between San Giovanni Evangelista and the station) where you can admire eighteenth-century-style theaters, true and perfect in every detail, wooden toys, ceramic and fabric puppets, and magnificent wooden magnets.
Ca ’De Vén
housed in the fifteenth-century Palazzo Rasponi, also called Domus Magna, it is a wine shop that presents the bottles of the most prestigious Romagna wines on the shelves of a former grocery store and with a corner for books and magazines on the popular traditions of Romagna. The umbrella vaults are embellished with 1700s frescoes and the largest vault is made up of original bricks dating back to the 1500s with hooks on which the ancient lanterns were hung. The furnishings are also the original ones from 1876.
Annafietta: the philosophy of this workshop, created by Anna Finelli in the antique shop inherited from her grandparents Fietta, consists in transferring the wonderful Byzantine art of the Ravenna mosaics to furnishing accessories. Glass paste tiles cut by hand one by one, allured on concrete, leaving the joint free, to allow the light to create variations of great effect.