Are you planning a trip to Italy and looking for what to see and do on your visit to Ravenna? Well, stick around because today we will tell you all you need to know to visit this incredible Italian City!
In this article, we will tell you all the things you need to know about Ravenna, Italy. So let’s begin!
What is Ravenna Famous for?
Ravenna was once a Western Roman Empire capital city from 408 AD when the emperor Honorius transferred the capital from Rome. The transfer happened because this city was easier to defend from the barbarian invasions than Rome due to the marshes that surrounded it.
After the fall of the Western Roman Empire, Zeno, the Emperor of the Eastern Roman Empire, sent Theodoric the Great, King of the Ostrogoth, to reconquer Italy after Theodoric succeeded used Ravenna as his capital and enriched the city with some amazing churches.
These historical reasons made Ravenna world famous for its Byzantine churches, magnificently decorated with mosaics. In fact, Ravenna is also known as the city of mosaics.
Where is Ravenna, and how to get there?
Ravenna is located in the Emilia Romagna region on the Adriatic coast. It is located 72 km east of Bologna. 144 km south of Venice and 351 km northeast of Rome.
The best way to get to Ravenna is by train. Most trains to Ravenna start from Bologna, and they take a little over one hour to get to Ravenna. So if you are coming from Rome, Florence or Venice you will have to change train in Bologna.
Ravenna also has a commercial port, and some cruise lines also stop there.
How to Move Around the City
Ravenna is a very walkable city. Most of the attractions in the city are a few steps away from each other.
You can visit the whole city in one day but if you really want to experience everything that Ravenna, Italy has to offer, you might want to consider spending the night in this great ancient city.
What to visit in Ravenna?
As we mentioned, Ravenna has some of the world’s most magnificent examples of Byzantine churches, some as old as the sixth century AD. It also has some beach clubs, impressive mosaics, mosaic monuments, a convent church, and historic sites.
Let’s explore this fascinating city, Ravenna, together:
Piazza del Popolo
We start our tour of Ravenna from Piazza del Popolo that is the center of Ravenna. This popular place has been here for more than 700 years.
When standing there, you can spot other important buildings right away, like the town hall and the prefecture building where important people worked. People usually come to Piazza del Popolo to meet up and hang out with each other.
No matter what time of the day, Piazza del Popolo’s square is always a busy place. It has lots of open-air cafes and it is where many streets come together, making it a popular place for many people to pass through the square regularly.
Important buildings surround Piazza del Popolo. When you travel and explore from the train station, one of the first buildings you will see is an Italian Bank called “Banca Nazionale del Lavoro”.
Piazza del Popolo was built by Nanni di Baccio Bigio. The Prefecture building is connected to it with a big archway. If you stand in the middle of the vaults of Popolo, you can see Dante’s Tomb right away.
Basilica of San Vitale
Ravenna, Italy, is famous for its mosaics. Many tourists say that they are some of the best in the world. From the Piazza del Popolo, you can walk about ten minutes through the beautiful streets of Ravenna, and you will arrive at the Basilica of San Vitale. The Eastern Roman Emperor Justinian commissioned the church in the 6th century AD.
From the outside, it doesn’t look very impressive, but when you go inside, your jaw will drop at how majestic it looks inside. There is something special in it The interior is decorated with some of the most magnificent mosaics in Italy. The walls are covered with beautiful pictures made from small tiles called mosaics.
It is more impressive that the Basilica di San Vitale walls were made by experts a long time ago and are considered some of the best examples of Byzantine art in the world. It is remarkable to think that you are walking on centuries-old intricate mosaics.
Inside Basilica di San Vitale, one of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites, a lot of beautiful artwork has been around for 1,500 years. It still looks impressive with lots of gold and bright colors.
Galla Placidia Mausoleum
Next to the Basilica of San Vitale, you can find the Galla Placidia Mausoleum. This is a very small building but very important. Again, from the outside, Galla Placidia Mausoleum looks pretty bare, but you will be stunned by the fantastic mosaics once inside.
Galla Placidia Mausoleum is remarkable to think this building has been perfectly preserved for over 15 hundred years. It was dedicated to Galla Placidia, the daughter of Emperor Theodosius the First, that lived in. the 4th century AD.
The Mausoleum of Galla Placidia, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is famous for its old Christian mosaics. The place was build in the fifth century.
This Basilica is about a 15-minute walk from San Vitale. The church was commissioned by King Theodoric, the Ostrogoth, in the 6th century, representing an incredible example of Roman-Barbarian architecture.
Inside you will be able to admire more stunning mosaics with an incredible amount of details. A few steps away from the basilica, you can admire the remains of the palace of King Theodoric.
Neonian Baptistery and Archiepiscopal Chapel
Just a few minutes from Sant’Appollinare you can explore two more special places that are listed as UNESCO World Heritage Sites. They are called the Neonian Baptistery and the Archiepiscopal Chapel. They both have impressive mosaics on their walls.
These religious places are very important parts of Ravenna as they show us how people worshipped in the early Christian times. Both of these places are near the Ravenna Cathedral.
The Neonian Baptistery is a small building next to the Duomo of Ravenna and the Bishop’s palace. It is also known as the Baptistry of the Orthodox. It was built in the fifth century and beautifully decorated by Bishop Neone with majestic mosaics.
In the dome of the Baptistery, you can admire the mosaic of St. John the Baptist, who baptizes Jesus, surrounded by the 12 Apostles. This incredible monument is a UNESCO world heritage site.
The Archbishop’s Chapel is found on the second floor of the Bishop’s palace, Inside you can find mosaics that date back to the 5th century AD.
You can visit and admire all the beautiful churches and the Neonian Baptistery by buying one single ticket that covers all of them it costs €10.50.
Remember that to visit the Mausoleum of Galla Placidia, you have to reserve a time slot because it is very small, and only a few tourists are allowed inside simultaneously.
However, if you really want to enjoy and better understand the latest day of the Roman Empire and its art, we strongly recommend you book a guided tour of Ravenna. We will also leave a link below.
Let’s continue our exploration of Ravenna with the following:
Domus dei Tappeti di Pietra
From the outside, this building looks like a small church, but in the basement of the church, you will find an incredible archeological site discovered only a few years ago. On the site, you can admire the floors of a Roman villa still perfectly preserved.
We strongly recommend you go and visit this incredible site. You can buy the tickets on-site, and at the time of recording, the price is €4.00.
Mausoleum of Theodoric the Great
On the city’s northeast side, not too far from the Castle of Brancaleone, you will find the ancient Mausoleum of Theodoric the Great. This is the tomb of Theodoric the Great, King of the Ostrogoth, that died in Ravenna in 526 AD.
This impressive stone mausoleum is located in a park and it is famous because its dome is made from an enormous single piece of solid Istrian stone that weighs more than 230 tons!
This massive stone was quarried more than 400 km from Ravenna and brought into place by land. The Mausoleum is open in the morning, and the ticket costs €4.00 and it can be bought on site.
The old San Vitale monastery near the sixth-century basilica has been home to the National Museum of Ravenna since 1885. This rich history museum has many exciting things to see.
A long time ago, in the 1700s, monks from the big city collected particular objects like artwork, antique items, and things from nature. They put them together to make a collection for a museum.
The National Museum has many unique things you can explore. You can find tombstones, statues from long ago, objects connected to places that are important to the world, and art that people used in their daily lives.
This museum is special because the two Renaissance courtyards and the abbatial spaces create a magical atmosphere. It is one of the most important places to see in this majestic city, which shows how beautiful the city was throughout hist
Tomb of Dante Alighieri (Dante’s Tomb)
Another famous site in Ravenna is the tomb of the father of the Italian Language, the 14th-century poet Dante Alighieri, who died in Ravenna in 1321. The mausoleum is located by the church of Saint Francis in Ravenna and is free to visit.
It is a small Chappell built in the Neo-Classic style 1781. The Tomb is located right next to the Church of San Francesco, right in the city center.
The Arian Baptistery is another unique place to visit in Ravenna, Italy. It is part of eight important sites in the city, that have been part of the UNESCO world heritage sites.
The Arian Baptistery is less famous than the Neonian Baptistery, but it’s still worth visiting. It is located just a few steps away from Sant’ Apollinare Nuovo. Inside the Arian Baptistery, you can admire more stunning mosaics perfectly preserved since the 5th century.
Basilica di Sant’Apollinare in Classe
This impressive Basilica di Sant’Apollinare is located about 7 km outside the city center, on the ancient Roman Port of Classe site. Basilica di Sant’Apollinare was built in the year 594 AD by Bishop Ursicinus.
Once more, the Basilica di Sant’Apollinare is not very ornate from the outside, but once inside, it is magnificently decorated with stunning mosaics.
Not far from the Basilica, you can visit the ruins of the ancient Roman port of Classe.
Marina di Ravenna
Ravenna has nine beach towns. Marina di Ravenna is the closest to Ravenna City. It is one of the famous beach towns along the Adriatic coast.
Marina di Ravenna is a great place surrounded by a forest of tall trees. It has many places to enjoy a typical seafood meal – typical of the area. It is also the perfect place to stay near Ravenna because it has plenty of hotels and campgrounds.
We hope this blog inspired you to visit the beautiful ancient city of Ravenna. If you have any questions, please leave a comment below.
We love to hear from you and answer your questions. In the meantime, we will see you in our next post.