Ravenna is best known for its mosaics and houses some of the oldest and well preserved in the world. Despite neither of us being religious or having that much interest in religion, you cannot come to Ravenna without seeing some mosaics. It would be like being in Italy and not eating ice cream or pasta! You just don’t do it!
For €9.50 (or €8.50 reduced for students/groups etc) you can pick up a ticket from the Tourist Information Centre that gives you entry into the Top 5 Ravenna Monuments. This includes Archiepiscopal Museum (Chapel of Sant’Andrea and the Ivory Throne), Neonian Baptistery, Basilica of Sant’Apollinare Nuovo, Basilica of San Vitale and Mausoleum of Galla Placidia. There are also 2 free monuments, Dante’s Tomb and Battistero degli Ariani, which are must visits during your trip around this beautiful city!
Make sure you read to the end to see my most recommended thing to do in Ravenna!
First up we headed to the Battistero Neoniano (Neonian Baptistery) which is one of the oldest buildings in Ravenna dating back to the 5th century. Due to this and the weight of the building its actually sunk about 10m into the ground and they’ve had to put four floors in to enable people still to walk in and stand at floor height. It’s a tiny little building but the mosaics are amazing.
Archiepiscopal Museum (Chapel of Sant’Andrea and the Ivory Throne)
We then popped just round the corner into the Chapel of Sant’Andrea, the private chapel of the bishop and built in the 5th Century, which is inside the museum. Now we weren’t meant to take photos so the photo below you didn’t see it ok!
This beautiful museum holds relics of early Christian Ravenna including some rescued mosaics from other parts of the city. One of the main The Ivory Throne or The Throne of Maximian dating from 545-553. This throne is the most intricately decorated piece of ivory picturing numerous Christian scenes. It’s absolutely stunning; I’d prefer for it to not be made out of Ivory, but you couldn’t fault the work.
We walked back through the square to see Dante’s tomb. This is something that Ravenna are very proud to have despite him living and working in Florence.
Ravenna itself is a beautiful little town with its little cobbled streets and lively quaint restaurants and gellaterias. I also got rather fascinated by all of the craft shops selling just about everything covered in mosaics; it’s definitely something else I want to learn how to do! Along with pottery… Maybe I’ll become a Jack of all crafts rather than trades.
Basilica di San Vitale
On the other side of the high street is the Basilica di San Vitale (Basilica of San Vitale); Jack walked in staring at the ceiling and said ‘There’s no mosaics in here!’. I laughed and told him to look at the floor which was covered. Slightly further round from the entrance you can also see the complete masterpiece. We were a little disappointed for the lack of information available inside the place. Normally when you pay for a ticket you can read a little about the place you’re visiting, yet in all of them today you have to pay an extra €2 to listen to information through a phone so no one else can listen to without paying. Despite this, and Jack’s first thought, this Basilica has to have the most impressive for mosaics and paintings.
Mausoleo di Galla Placidia
Just behind this is the Mausoleo di Galla Placidia (Mausoleum of Galla Placidia) which is a tiny little place dedicated to the sister of an emperor. There are asophegus dedicated to her, her husband and son, despite none of them ever visiting and all being buried in Rome. The ceiling of this little place is decorated completely with stars and flowers which was really pretty.
Battistero degli Ariani
On our way back through town we stopped at the Battistero degli Ariani which is really tiny. It’s free to enter because it’s so small and like many of the others has sunk into the ground. It’s circular mosaic ceiling is quite worn and similar to the first place we visited. There were also some faint paintings still on some of the arches if you look closely enough.
Basilica di Sant’Apollinare Nuovo
Our final stop on the mosaic trail was the Basilica di Sant’Apollinaire Nuovo (Basilica of Sant’Apollinare Nuovo). It has the oldest mosaic work of the New Testimant and has a really impressive square panelled ceiling quite common in Italian churches.
As I said, visiting Italy and not eating ice cream is just downright rude! Make sure you grab a scoop or two on your journey through this beautiful city.
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