One of the most frequent questions asked by our clients is where to stop during their transfer from Florence to Venice, preferably a place where they can visit something interesting and has a good choice of restaurants offering local cuisine.
Luckily for us, Italy is full of places to recommend and a tour of Ravenna, with its history and its unique style, has always been a suggestion highly appreciated by tourists.
Ravenna is a city of art by the sea and of ancient origin. It was a capital three times: once the capital of the Roman Empire, once of the roman-barbaric Kingdom of Theodoric, and lastly the seat of power of the Byzantine Empire in the West.
It is a city full of palaces and monuments of great historical and cultural value; eight of its landmarks are considered World Heritage sites by UNESCO, seeing as Ravenna preserves the richest heritage of mosaics dating back from the 5th and 6th century. In fact, Ravenna is one of the six Italian cities that are vying for nomination as European Capital of Culture in 2019.
Aside from San Vitale, the Galla Placidia and St Apollinaris in Classe, it is also worth visiting the Domus dei Tappeti di Pietra, the Mausoleum of Theodoric and the Tomb of Dante.
The Basilica of San Vitale, dating back to the 6th century, is one of the wonders of the Western Byzantium: marbles, capitals and extraordinary mosaics, especially those depicting the processions of Giustiniano and Teodora. Nearby is the small mausoleum of Galla Placidia in which you can admire the most ancient wall mosaics of Ravenna; most striking of all is the starry sky that centuries later may have even inspired the great painter Giotto.
The Domus dei Tappeti di Pietra is an archaeological site that was only discovered in the last few decades (1993-1994). It was found accidentally during construction of underground parking garages, bringing to light several buildings dating from the 3rd and 2nd century BCE; most particular was the discovery of a Byzantine palace with fourteen rooms and three courtyards, fully decorated with beautiful mosaics and marble inlays. It can now be accessed from the eighteenth century Church of St Euphemia.
About 5 km from the historic center is St Apollinaris in Classe, divided into three naves by two rows of twelve columns of Greek marble. It is grand and solemn for its architecture and for its mosaics depicting the Transfiguration in a lush and pastoral landscape.
The Mausoleum of Theodoric is the most famous funeral construction of the Ostrogoths. It was built with marble from Istria in 520 as the king’s future tomb. It is an interesting fusion of different architectural expressions: the Roman, the barbarian, the Syrian and the Constantinople style.
Lastly, you cannot leave Ravenna without visiting the small chapel where Dante Alighieri, the greatest Italian poet, is buried.