Ravenna is simply one of the most outstanding examples of Byzantine art in the world. Famous for its dazzling early Christian mosaics dating from 4th-6th century, it’s truly a place you need to visit in person. No camera can convey their glistening vibrancy.
Ravenna is a city on the east coast of Italy about an hour and a half from Bologna airport via train. You have probably never heard of it, as most people hadn’t before I mentioned I was going there. Well only my Grandad anyway. This tiny ‘city’ is an assuming place, if you were to go through it on a bus you wouldn’t think twice of looking up as there would be nothing remotely interesting to see. However Ravenna was capital of the Western Roman Empire from the year 402 and amazingly eight fascinating buildings containing intact mosaics from the time still stand in Ravenna. From the outside you would never even know they were there, so you need to know where to look.
Ravenna is the perfect trip for a weekend. You can drink prosecco, eat pasta and slowly meander to each site easily in 48hours. The eight sites are small and you can nip around quickly if you only have a day to visit. I would recommend spending two nights in the Santa Maria Foris (Via Giuseppe Pasolini 61, Ravenna, 48100, Italy) a new decorated, smart modern hotel with a lovely owner. Me and my mum were his first guests of 2017 and the only people staying for the weekend, so he upgraded our room for free. This amazing room cost me €138 for two people for two nights. Yes – that’s correct!
The best thing to do on day one is head straight for the tourist office and get a A4 map of the sites. Then your not wasting phone battery for photo’s on google maps. At the tourist office you can get a Ravenna pass for €9,50 which will enable you to get in the Archiepiscopal Museum (Chapel of Sant’Andrea and the Ivory Throne), Neonian Baptistery, Basilica of Sant’Apollinare Nuovo, Basilica of San Vitale, Mausoleum of Galla Placidia.
Flights from London Stanstead to Bologna on Friday morning returning Sunday evening were £75 return. The food in Ravenna is very reasonable and you can easily have a pasta and a carafe of wine for €15 a head.
We did stop off in Bologna for lunch en route to Ravenna to see if it was interesting… I wouldn’t bother. It’s not very interesting or pleasant to walk around, save yourself for the mosaics!
Bon Ton (Via Camillo Benso Cavour, 95, 48121 Ravenna RA, Italy)
Set off the main street, the quirky bar serves lovely wine and nibbles in a fairy light filled courtyard.
A bit of background…
Ravenna became capital of the Western Roman Empire in 402 when the Emperor Hororius moved his court here from Milan. Galla Placidia, his sister, lived here during her widowhood and made it the centre of Christian art and culture. When Theodoric the Great, king of the Ostrogoths, took over the city in 493, it continued to flourish. lt was taken by Belisarius, a general of the Byzantine Empire in 540 and remained the centre of Byzantine control in ltaly until 752. Belisaruis was appointed general under the Emperor Justinian I.
There are eight fabulous sites for you to see:
1: Mausoleum of Galla Placidia, built 425-450
2: Neonian Baptistery, built around 450
3: Basilica of Sant’Apollinare Nuovo
4: Arian Baptistery
5: Archiepiscopal Chapel
6: Mausoleum of Theodoric
7: Church of San Vitale
8: Basilica of Sant’Apollinare in Classe