Ravenna, a city in the Emilia-Romagna region of Italy, boasts a rich history spanning several empires and kingdoms. Its numerous UNESCO World Heritage Sites and stunning Byzantine-era architecture make it a popular tourist destination. This article explores the Ravenna Top 10 attractions that should not be missed on your visit to this fascinating city.
1. Neonian Baptistery: A Glimpse into Ravenna’s Ancient Past
The Neonian Baptistery, also known as the Baptistery of Neon, is the oldest surviving building in Ravenna. Constructed on the site of a Roman bath complex, this octagonal structure is adorned with breathtaking mosaics that depict religious scenes, such as the baptism of Jesus by John the Baptist and a procession of the twelve apostles. Declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Neonian Baptistery is a must-visit attraction in Ravenna.
2. Basilica di San Vitale: A Showcase of Byzantine Art
Another UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Basilica di San Vitale is an architectural marvel in Ravenna. Its exterior, which features a large octagonal central dome, is only a prelude to the spectacular interior that houses some of the finest examples of Byzantine art in Italy. The intricate and colorful mosaics depict various religious scenes and figures, showcasing the incredible craftsmanship of the time.
3. Mausoleum of Galla Placidia: A Testament to Ravenna’s Rich History
This UNESCO World Heritage Site, dedicated to Galla Placidia, the daughter of Roman Emperor Theodosius I, is known for its well-preserved and artistically perfect interior artwork. The mausoleum’s ceiling represents the Garden of Eden, and its various iconic designs and allegorical motifs showcase the exquisite artistry of the time. The Mausoleum of Galla Placidia is an important historical site and treasure in Ravenna.
4. Sant’Apollinare Nuovo: A Palace Turned Church
Founded by King Theodoric the Great during the 6th century, Sant’Apollinare Nuovo was originally dedicated to Christ the Redeemer. This church, located in the eastern part of the old historic town, features a beautiful bell tower and stone arches adorning its entrance. The interior of the building houses stunning mosaics that depict Jesus’ miracles as told in the Bible.
5. Basilica di San Francesco: A Symbol of Ravenna’s Religious Significance
Though not as grand as other structures in the city, the Basilica di San Francesco is an important religious site in Ravenna. The church, built in the 9th century, has undergone multiple renovations, including the addition of a bell tower in the 10th century. While the interior is minimally decorated, it houses a crypt that is often flooded with water and the tomb of Libera III, a 5th-century bishop.
6. Museo Nazionale Ravenna: A Treasure Trove of Art and History
Located within the cloisters of the old Benedictine Monastery that adjoins San Vitale, the Museo Nazionale Ravenna features a vast collection of art, artifacts, and relics from various time periods. The collection includes decorative tombs, oriental marble capitals, textiles, carved ivories, and an impressive array of ancient weaponry. The museum also houses artifacts from Ravenna’s eight UNESCO World Heritage Sites, such as the Basilica di San Francesco.
7. Tomb of Theodoric: A Monument to a Powerful King
The Tomb of Theodoric, built by King Theodoric of the Ostrogoths in the 6th century, is an important historical site in Ravenna. The mausoleum, located in Parco di Teodorico, is constructed of stone and has stood for nearly 1,500 years. The roof is made from a massive 300-ton Istrian stone that measures 10 meters in diameter. Though the interior is modestly decorated, the Tomb of Theodoric is a poignant place to visit.
8. Marina di Ravenna: A Coastal Retreat near the City
Located northeast of Ravenna, the Marina di Ravenna offers a relaxing getaway from the bustling city center. The northern edge of the town features a picturesque harbor filled with fishing and sailing boats, while the southern edge boasts a long stretch of golden beach. The area is home to numerous hotels, beach bars, restaurants, and amenities, providing visitors with a taste of Italian beach life.
9. Tomb of Dante Alighieri: Paying Homage to a Literary Legend
Dante Alighieri, the renowned Italian poet best known for his work “The Divine Comedy,” is buried in Ravenna. His tomb is a simple marble structure that houses his remains and is considered one of the city’s most treasured relics.
10. Arian Baptistery: A Beautiful Example of Arian Religious Art
The Arian Baptistery, built by Theodoric the Great, is another stunning religious structure in Ravenna. Located near the Piazza del Popolo and the Chiesa dello Spirito Santo, this 6th-century octagonal building features intricate ceiling mosaics that depict the baptism of Jesus Christ. The Arian Baptistery is an excellent example of Arian religious artwork and is a must-see attraction in Ravenna.
Nearby Attractions: San Marino and Cesenatico
While visiting Ravenna, consider exploring nearby attractions such as the microstate of San Marino and the charming resort town of Cesenatico. San Marino, one of the smallest countries in the world, is approximately an hour’s drive from Ravenna and offers notable sites such as Mount Titano, Guaita Fortress, and the San Marino Cathedral. Cesenatico, located southeast of Ravenna on the coast, features a long stretch of golden beach and numerous resort establishments.
Indulge in Local Cuisine at Trattoria La Rustica
A trip to Ravenna wouldn’t be complete without sampling the local cuisine. Trattoria La Rustica, situated near the Basilica di San Vitale, offers a delightful menu featuring traditional Ravenna dishes prepared with locally sourced ingredients. The restaurant’s welcoming atmosphere, attentive staff, and extensive wine selection make it the perfect place to enjoy a fine Italian meal.
Family Fun at Mirabilandia Theme Park
For a day of family fun, head to Mirabilandia Theme Park, located southeast of Ravenna near Lago Standiana. As the most visited park in Italy, Mirabilandia offers thrilling rides such as Divertical, Ispeed, Katun, and the Eurowheel. From roller coasters to stunt shows, the park has something for everyone and guarantees an enjoyable day for all ages.
As you explore the Ravenna Top 10 attractions, you’ll discover a city steeped in history, culture, and natural beauty. From ancient churches and mausoleums to sun-soaked beaches and lively theme parks, Ravenna offers a diverse array of experiences that cater to every type of traveler.