Ravenna, a small city on the coast south of Venice, was the seat of the Roman Empire in the 5th century and then of Byzantine Italy until the 8th century. It is known for its Byzantine churches and monuments, built in the 5th and 6th centuries and decorated with mosaics. There are several historic sites to see in the city, and some nearby. Eight of Ravenna's historic buildings are UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
Location: Italy - Emilia-Romagna - Ravenna - Ravenna
Category: Ancient Byzantine
Tags: Mosaics, UNESCO World Heritage Site
Website: Ravenna Tourism
Day trip contributed by Pauline Kenny
These are the main places to see mosaics in Ravenna:
- Church of San Vitale (Chiesa di San Vitale), contains the largest and best preserved Byzantine mosaics outside of Constantinople. The most well-known mosaics depict Justinian I, a Byzantine Emperor from 527 to 565, and Theodora.
- Mausoleum of Galla Placidia (Mausoleo di Galla Placidia), on the grounds of the Church of San Vitale, has a plain exterior and an interior decorated with mosaics. These are the earliest mosaics in Ravenna. The mosaics on the ceiling are beautiful (gold stars on a blue background).
- Neonian Baptistery (Battistero Neoniano) is a small building with exceptional mosaics, especially the mosaic of the baptism of Christ by John the Baptist in the center of the domed ceiling.
- Basilica of Sant'Apollinare Nuovo (Basilica di Sant'Apollinare Nuovo), a large church with mosaics.
- Archbishop's Chapel and Museum (Archiepiscopal Chapel and Museo Arcivescovile), next to the Duomo, is a museum built around a small chapel with beautiful mosaics.
- Arian Baptistery, a small brick building, with mosaics in the dome.
- Mausoleum of Theodoric (Mausoleo Teodorico) is a 10 sided building outside the historic center. You can walk to it, but it is a short, ugly walk along a busy road. As soon as you get out of the historic center you can see, and smell, the industrial zone.
- Basilica of Sant'Apollinare in Classe (Basilica di S. Apollinare in Classe) is a large church with beautiful mosaics covering the apse featuring San Apollinare standing in a meadow of sheep. Located in the town of Classe, a few miles south and east of Ravenna. Take the SS 16 in direction of Rimini south. When you get to big roundabout (no signs for Classe when we were there) take the 9 o'clock left turn towards the sea. San Apollinare will be in a mile on your left. It is easy to visit this one on your way to or from Ravenna (if you are traveling by car). Don't miss this one - it was my favorite.
We visited Ravenna in 2000 but BJ Firestone visited in 2011 and supplied the photos. I loved our stay in Ravenna. We spent a few nights in a hotel in town, when driving from Switzerland to Umbria. The town is nice and seeing these mosaics was a dream come true for me.