The Top 10 Things To Do And See in Ravenna

Luca Pinelli

Ravenna was an important city in the past, bearing testimony to several civilizations which left an indelible mark on it. It was elected capital city of the Western Roman Empire, the Goth Kingdom under Theodoric, and the Byzantine Empire in Europe. Today it boasts eight UNESCO World Heritage sites as well as other important cultural monuments which merit a mention and a visit. Here are 10 things every tourist should see!

Piazza del Popolo, Ravenna

1. Basilica of San Vitale

Church

Basilica of San Vitale

Basilica di San Vitale is one of the best-known churches in Ravenna. It boasts an octagonal plan with a combination of Roman and Byzantine elements. These are mainly represented by the famous Byzantine mosaics, some of the most beautiful things any tourist can find in Ravenna. The church was built from 526 to 547, but some other elements which can be seen today were not there at the time and were only added later. It is one of the finest examples of early Christian Byzantine art and architecture. via San Vitale, Ravenna, Italy

2. Mausoleum of Galla Placidia

Building

Mausoleum of Galla Placidia

This mausoleum was added to the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1996 because of the beauty of its mosaics and the artistic perfection of its design. The story goes that Galla Placidia, a Roman patron of the arts, had intended this building to be a mausoleum for her and her family, but there is currently no clear evidence which may prove or disprove this account of the purpose of the building. In fact, it does contain three sarcophagi and it is one of the most beautiful buildings in the region for sure, as its presence in the UNESCO World Heritage List proves. via Giuliano Argentario 22, Ravenna, Italy

3. Battistero Neoniano

Cathedral

Battistero Neoniano

Located north of Ravenna’s cathedral, Battistero Neoniano is one of the oldest monuments in the city. It was constructed around the 5th century AD by order of Bishop Urso, but a new dome as well as all the interior were realized a bit later, upon the initiative of Bishop Neon, from which the baptistery draws its name. The stunning beauty of the internal decorations mesmerized the famous psychiatrist Carl Gustav Jung and continues to amaze a large number of visitors today. Battistero Neoniano is part of the UNESCO World Heritage List, too, another proof of its majesty and historical importance. piazza Duomo 1, Ravenna, Italy

4. Basilica di Sant'Apollinare Nuovo e in Classe

Basilica di Sant’Apollinare Nuovo e in Classe

These two Basilicas, both dedicated to Saint Apollinaire, are another inclusion on the UNESCO World Heritage List, famed because of their beauty and because they have been witness to ancient civilisations. Basilica di Sant’Apollinare Nuovo was built by Ostrogoth King Theodoric the Great in the first half of the 6th century and was intended to be his new chapel. Sant’Apollinare in Classe was constructed around the same time by Bishop Urcisinus and, as other monuments in Ravenna, was financed by the Greek banker Iulianus Argentarius. They both boast wonderfully crafted mosaics and a wise use of space. via di Roma 52, Ravenna, Italy; via Romea Sud 224, Classe (RA), Italy

5. Cappella di Sant'Andrea

Cappella di Sant’Andrea

The Chapel of Sant’Andrea or Archiepiscopal Chapel was built during the reign of Theodoric as a private oratory for Bishops when Arianism was the dominant religion. It is the only existing chapel of the early Christian era to have survived through the centuries without any serious damage. The interior boasts some wonderful mosaics which will leave an indelible mark on any tourist’s holiday in Ravenna. Admission is €9.50, which also includes a visit to the other main churches in Ravenna. piazza Arcivescovado 1, Ravenna, Italy

6. Mausoleum of Theodoric

Mausoleum of Theodoric

Constructed by Theodoric in 520 AD, this is the site of the man’s burial. It measures 10 metres wide and 3 metres tall. The whole building is made out of Istrian stone and it is topped by a massive monolithic dome with twelve square arches. Located amid a green expanse, this mausoleum is the reminder of Theodoric, one of the greatest leaders ever to have set in Ravenna. For this reason, this building merits a visit and close observation. via delle Industrie 14, Ravenna, Italy

7. MAR (Museo d'Arte)

MAR (Museo d’Arte)

Housed in the Loggetta Lombardesca, the 16th-century monastery of the adjacent Abbey of Santa Maria in Porto, as part of a larger whole, Ravenna’s Art Museum hosts periodical exhibitions with nationally as well as internationally acclaimed artists and painters. It is located near the public gardens, which makes it an ideal stop-over during a sunny day after enjoying the beautiful weather which the area knows perfectly well. via di Roma 13, Ravenna, Italy,+39 0544 482477

MirabilandiaMirabilandia | © Antonio Manfredonio/Flickr

8. Mirabilandia

Park

Mirabilandia

Mirabilandia is one of the best-known amusement parks in Italy and is regarded as a fine destination for families because of its kids-friendly atmosphere and attractions. Located in Savio, a frazione (a kind of Italian hamlet) in Ravenna, it is the largest park in Italy, covering an area of 850,000 square metres. Expect the usual coasters, rides and attractions galore! Strada Statale 16 Adriatica, km 162, Savio (RA), Italy, +39 0544 561156

9. Battistero degli Ariani

Building

Battistero degli Ariani

Another construction done on Theodoric’s initiative, Battistero degli Ariani bears witness to the Goths and their creed. A UNESCO World Heritage site, it boasts a ceiling covered with wonderfully crafted, colourful mosaics representing the apostles. What is today regarded as a baptistery used to be only the central part of a larger whole, now lost, but it is still possible to appreciate the utter beauty of this small building despite the absence of the rest. piazzetta degli Ariani, Ravenna, Italy

Dante's tomb Dante’s tomb | © Keith Laverack/Flickr

Zona del silenzio

Dante Alighieri, generally called in Italian “Sommo Poeta” because of the paramount importance he has always maintained in the history of Italian literature, was buried in Ravenna and his remains are still in the city, in what has grown to be one of the most important monuments on The Boot. It is a small building in Neoclassical fashion with a small dome on top of it. Close to this tomb is Quadrarco di Braccioforte, another important building in the area, with four vaults opening on each of the sides which protect another two graves. The Basilica di San Francesco next to Dante’s tomb is where the bard’s funeral service took place in 1321. This church also boasts a 10th-century crypt whose floor is completely submerged in water, thus creating a magical atmosphere where tourists can admire the wonderful mosaics which ornament the floor. via Dante Alighieri 9, Ravenna, Italy (Dante’s tomb), Piazza San Francesco 1, Ravenna, Italy (Basilica)By Luca Pinelli

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