• Click CONTACT US in the footer if you have any problems registering for the forums.

Three Weeks in Ravenna, May 2018

#1
Summary:

A seventy-something woman on her own in Ravenna for three weeks takes Italian lessons, sees the UNESCO sites, and visits Cesenantico.

Ravenna has a pedestrian center (which is truly free of motorized traffic), eight UNESCO world heritage sites, and an excellent Italian language school. It’s not as “pretty” as Lucca or Siena, but it seems more “real”. It has a less intrusive tourist element and very few Americans. I found it easy to strike up conversations with both locals and tourists (a bonus when traveling alone). Most tourists spend a day or two, see the mosaics, and move on, but it is worth spending some time here.

On Mother’s Day, my Italian relatives, who live in Bologna, took me to Cesenantico to walk the beach and have a wonderful lunch of fried fish.

Logistics:

Getting to Ravenna can be problematic unless you can do trains with luggage (I can’t). I traveled British Air from Boston to Bologna through London. Heathrow remains difficult for those with mobility problems, although the assistance has been improved marginally over what it was a few years ago. There is a bus (http://www.shuttlecrab.it/index_en.php) from the Bologna airport to the Ravenna train station, where there is a taxi stand. I was told I could buy my ticket on board. However, the bus runs infrequently and only during the high season. Because I was very tired and it was raining, I decided to take a cab from the airport rather than wait a couple of hours for the next bus. For my return flight, there was no convenient bus, so I again took a taxi. The taxi cost 130 E each way. The bus would have been much cheaper.

References:

I recommend “Ravenna in Late Antiquity”, Deborah Mauskopf Deliyannis for an in-depth understanding of Ravenna during its heyday (400-800 AD). Also, see the videos here (
View: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yvnr0wnmoGY
) and here (
View: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=It3i-dKusIM
) for history and inspiration.

This web site has a lot of good tourist information: http://www.turismo.ra.it/eng/Search, though I found it somewhat confusing to navigate. A good printable map of the historic center is here: http://www.turismo.ra.it/upload/materialeturistico/mappa_eng.pdf, but you should visit the tourist office (Piazza Caduti per la Liberta) to get a full-scale copy and to find out about special events during your stay. Other good websites are here: http://ravennacityguide.it/en/and here: http://rossiwrites.com/italy/day-trips-italy/ravenna-italy-stories-visit-city-mosaics/.

Hotel:

The Hotel Byron Centrale (website) was the perfect location: in the pedestrian zone just off the Piazza del Popolo, less than ¼ mile from my school and most of the UNESCO sites. There are many restaurants within a few blocks, and a favorite of mine is right next door (see below). There are two tempting gelaterias: one across the street, another within a couple of yards. Bars and a bakery are also nearby. The street is busy with bike and pedestrian traffic, but it’s only crowded during the early evening passagiata. At the end of the block is an indoor food market, which has been closed for renovations for several years. The streets around the market are full of shops, cafes, and restaurants.

I had a double room for single use on the inner courtyard. It cost about 70 E per night with the discount for my long-term stay and the included breakfast (an extensive buffet). It was not elegant, but it had everything I needed. It was impeccably clean. The friendly, helpful staff let me speak Italian even when their English was much better than my Italian. Very few people seem to stay more than a night or two. European tour groups appeared on the weekends. There is a small lounge area, but it only has one good reading light and it is not very comfortable. The breakfast/bar area is normally open all the time.

For me, there was only one negative about the hotel. The air conditioning was not turned on while I was there in May and the ventilation system appeared to just circulate the warm humid indoor air. The weather really didn’t require A/C, because it was in the low to mid 70s during the day and quite cool at night. However, my room (on the third floor) became very warm and humid during the day and held the heat into the night. If I left the windows open, I got not only the noise from the courtyard (until 1:00 AM) but also mosquitoes. As a result, I slept poorly and came home with dozens of bites.

I would return to this hotel in the future, but only in colder months or when the A/C has been turned on.

School:

I took Italian lessons at the Scuola Palazzo Malvisi (http://www.scuolapalazzomalvisi.com) for two weeks. Overall, I would highly recommend this school. The instructors were skilled and the staff was professional and helpful.

The first week I was in class with three other students and the experience was similar to lessons I have taken elsewhere over the years (Lucca, Sienna, Florence, Bologna) with perhaps a bit more emphasis on grammar. The second week I was paired with a woman who was studying for the certification exam, and there was a stronger emphasis on grammar. Because there were only two of us, the class time was reduced from 4 to 3 hours per day.

Compared to my favorite schools (in Lucca and Siena), this one was less “fun” but I worked harder (there was significant homework) and learned more. I had a bit of a breakthrough with the language. After many years of study, it was about time!

The only negative was the lack of air conditioning (a theme in Ravenna). Being on an upper floor, the classrooms were hot and humid. Opening the window, let in some cooler air, but also street noise (the school is on a busy square just outside the pedestrian zone) so the windows were usually kept closed.

Ravenna Restaurants:

Ravenna is known for two food specialties: cappelletti (filled pasta) and piadini (flat bread), but I found large variations in quality. The cappelletti were often made from thick possibly eggless pasta, which I didn’t like. I also prefer thin piadini, which I was told were more typical of Rimini, but this type is rare in Ravenna. In some places, the piadini were almost as thick as pita bread.

I did enjoy some great food in Ravenna, especially salads. Salad choices in Italy are usually the same-old “verde” or “mista”. In Ravenna, I found some wonderful combinations of interesting, fresh and tasty ingredients. Where they get good tomatoes in May is a mystery.

The house wines are usually a local dry Albana (white) or Sangiovese (red). I don’t care for dry Albana, but love almost any Sangiovese. Surprisingly, I do like the Albana dolce, an inexpensive sweet but not too sweet desert wine (I tried unsuccessfully to find a bottle to take home with me).

Restaurant Notes: I ate only a few evening meals in Restaurants, so most of my comments apply to noon-time meals. In the list below “(X/Y)” refers to trip advisor ratings of X out of Y in the category.

Recommended:

Ristorante Bella Venezia (49/536), Via Quattro Novembre 16, +39 0544 212746, open 12:15 PM - 2:15 PM, 7:30 PM - 10:15 PM, Closed Tues: This restaurant, which was next to my hotel, was my favorite place for a nice lunch or dinner. The “petroniana” (veal scaloppini with ham and cream sauce) with asparagus was to die for. The cappelletti were better than elsewhere. Excellent food, friendly staff, up-scale but relaxed ambiance, moderate to expensive. Reservations recommended.

Al Caroli (83/536), Via Benedetto Cairoli 16, +39 0544 240326, open 10 AM – 11:30 PM, Closed Wednesday. I had several very good lunches here. Good food, inexpensive to moderate prices, casual; You can get a meal or only a piadina (separate menu). They are open all day but the kitchen is not always open.

Caffe Palumbo (247/615), Piazza San Francesco 3, +39 0544 201377, Another favorite casual lunch spot with an outdoor area under the portico where you can watch the kids playing in the square. I loved the black rice salad with shrimp, tomatoes and zucchini. I was told they had wonderful pastries, but did not try them. Inexpensive daily specials.

Antica Bottega di Felice (29/536) Via Ponte Marino 23-25, +39 0544 240170 closed Tues, Open 8am-12pm, restaurant opens at 7 pm. This is a specialty food shop with a restaurant attached. I arrived for dinner here one night at 7, and that was clearly too early. However, the place filled up quickly. I had grilled vegetables and the cappelletti with ragu; neither was particularly good or bad. Casual comfortable atmosphere, moderate prices.

Ristorante Vecchia Ravenna da Mario(122/562) Via Giuseppe Pasolini 41,
+39 0544 215135 I ate lunch here before visiting the House of the Stone Carpets because the Trattoria Rustica, which had been recommended to me, was full. It was an “experience” as I was the only tourist and the only female in the place. The men were all dressed for work - both office work and manual labor. I had low expectations, but the lunch special (creamy spinach risotto; chicken with mushrooms, grape tomatoes and tiny winey olives) was quite good, and it was enough food to fuel a laborer returning to hard work in the fields. Unpretentious and inexpensive.

Recommended with Reservations/Caveats:

Osteria Pianoforte (31/536)Vicolo Degli Ariani 10, +39 0544 33220, Open 12:00-3:00; dinner 7:00 pm, closed Wed: Although I was not altogether happy with my lunch here, I would try it again. The salad was fantastic: sweet fennel and tomatoes, radicchio and greens, topped with long curls of carrot - impeccably fresh and a perfect balance of flavors. However, the cappelletti were a disappointment. Interesting décor, moderate to expensive. This is a small place so reservation might be wise in the evening.

La Gardela (67/567) Via Ponte Marino 3, 12-2:30, 7-10:30, closed Tues:I had one of the best and one of the worst dishes of my trip here for lunch. The mushroom salad was spectacular: paper thin slices of mushroom and cheese layered with radicchio and greens to dress with juicy lemon and fragrant olive oil. The veal Bolognese, however, was just awful - really an embarrassment so close to Bologna! However, the folks at a nearby table said their fish was excellent. The menu is huge; they should remove the dishes they can’t do well. I would try this restaurant again but avoid the veal.

Cà de Ven (46/567) Via Corrado Ricci 24, 48121, +39 0544 30163, closed Monday, Open 11 – 2:15, 6:30 – 11:00. I had my first-ever spritz here with a couple of classmates and it was great. Lunch (piadini with cold cuts) was just ok. Moderate to expensive. This is touted as “genuine old Ravenna” but it came across to me as fake and somewhat pretentious. When I went to pay at the register, there was a long line. The single cashier had multiple duties: answering phones, making reservations etc. so the line barely moved. I waited in line 15 minutes and ended up leaving the bill with cash on the counter. I would recommend it for cocktails.

Taberna Boaria, (38/536): Via Mentana 33.+39 345 401 6131, closed Tues. Open 12-2:30; 6:30-11 Like Ca de Ven, another “ye olde” place. Moderate prices. I had a decent but not particularly memorable lunch here: an interesting salad of grapefruit and fennel (I would have welcomed some greens as part of this) plus a pasta dish with a meat sauce I didn’t care for (but that could have been just my taste). I would try this place again.

I Furfanti Ristorante e Pizzeria (19/536): via Paolo Costa,1, +39 0544 219707, Closed Monday lunch Open11:30-3:00; 6:00 – late. Prices are highly dependent on what you order. I had a wonderful rabbit salad (perfectly cooked rabbit, fennel and orange atop greens) and an unappetizing filled pasta dish (thick pasta with a tasteless spinach filling oozing out onto the plate).

Not Recommended:

La Piadina del Melarancio, (34/536), Via Quattro Novembre 31, +39 0544 201108 ; open 11:30-22:00. I had an unappetizing piadina in this dreary place the evening I arrived and did not return.

Cesenantico:

This is a beach vacation town with a cute older section and a busy beach area. The older section is on a canal lined with restaurants, and it seems everyone is there on Sundays to eat fried fish (no reservations, so you must arrive early). Both antique and working fishing boats are docked in the canal and most of the restaurant have outdoor areas. I had visited Cesenatico with my relatives 14 years ago, and it has not changed much. After lunch we drove to the main beach area and walked along the long pier. One side had views of fishing shacks and small tour boats coming and going; the other had a sandy beach with umbrellas, beach tennis, etc.

Photos:

Piazza Del Popolo

1539442926537.jpeg


Via Novembre

1539443472463.jpeg


Cesenantico

1539443673133.jpeg
 

Tim W

100+ Posts
#2
Thanks for an interesting and detailed report

I only spent a few hours in Ravenna - we did a day trip from Bologna last week - but I really liked it. Several reports on various forums described it as "a dump" , "uninspiring" and "only worth it for the mosaics" - but I really rather enjoyed the atmosphere there, and thought it quite livable.

I was quite interested in your comments about language schools. My recent trip made me realise how much Italian I have forgotten since I studied in Siena a decade ago - maybe I need to consider Ravenna if I want to do another immersion course.
 
#3
If you go, try to stay in the pedestrian zone. It has a small town feel to it. I saw a lot of restoration going on, so it may be getting spruced up, but I did not find it dreary.

Also, consider Lucca (see my trip reports 2017 and 2016 ).
 

Sponsors

Booking.com Hotels in Europe
AutoEurope.com Car Rentals

Latest posts

New resources

Top