Ravenna in camper what to see and what to eat: our personal story of a weekend to discover it.
A weekend among the mosaics
A weekend dedicated to Ravenna means to be certainly enchanted by the most famous mosaics in the world:
“The set of early Christian and Byzantine religious monuments of Ravenna is of extraordinary importance due to the supreme artistic mastery of the art of mosaic. They are also proof of the artistic and religious relationships and contacts of an important period in the history of European culture “.
With this motivation, the inscription of early Christian monuments on the World Heritage List was sanctioned by UNESCO in December 1996.
The main monuments
- the Basilica of San Vitale
- the Mausoleum of Galla Placidia
- the Baptists of the Aryans and of the Orthodox
- the Basilica of Sant’Apollinare Nuovo
- Basilica Sant’Apollinare in Classe
- the Archbishop’s Chapel of Sant’Andrea
- the Mausoleum of Theoderic
they were no longer the heritage of the city of Ravenna, but of the whole of humanity.
Personally, in two days we visited them all and you do them easily on foot because they are in the city center and because they have timetables and access to many elastic bands (except for Sant’Apollinare in Classe that you have to move with the camper because 6 km away from the center)
It is superfluous to tell you about the beauty of each of them, the fascinating way in which they were created and for those who believe, the story and the meaning of each single representation that you find in the cards next to the entrances is certainly suggestive. Amazing the colors of the mosaics that stand out thanks to the light that goes beyond the windows. The marble of the colonnades and the floors, also mosaic, are imposing.
To be amazed, several times, especially in some places we sat in the desks to be able to take the time necessary to admire everything: it is not enough to look at them but it is necessary to pause and be overwhelmed by the majesty of the works.
Some necessary clarifications
- The Archbishop’s Chapel of Sant’Andrea can be found inside the Archiepiscopal Museum, located above the Cathedral
- You can visit the Duomo when you leave the Archiepiscopal Museum, go down the stairs and enter it on the left: really worth a visit inside, the Madonna del Sudore. Historical emblem and of great value for citizens.
- The Mausoleum of Theodoric is the only one of these to have no mosaics inside: just look at its grandeur, unique in its kind, consisting of two rooms connected by an external staircase and made with a single block of Istrian stone , not cemented but only stuck together
- When you exit the Basilica of Sant’Apollinare Nuovo, on your left, continue the road and you will find Theodoric’s Palace: according to some scholars, the building would be the rest of a guardhouse. According to others, however, it is the remains of the atrium-porch in front of the church of San Salvatore ad Calchi. We could not visit her because she observed the closure.
To visit them, I enclose the precise details provided by Ravenna Tourism, the official website of city tourism. I can tell you that the one-way ticket (which we did too) to visit 5 places of the ones I listed above at a price of € 10.50 is very convenient.
The other sites instead you have another cumulative ticket that includes Basilica Sant’Apollinare in Classe + National Museum of Ravenna + Mausoleum of Theodoric at the price of 10 €.
3 different places not to be missed
In addition to the splendid places that I mentioned above, (and which alone deserve a trip to Ravenna) I tell you others, which are worth a visit and which we have seen:
- Domus dei Tappeti di Pietra: it is one of the most important findings of the nineties following some excavations for the construction of an underground car park (as often happens). It is located inside the Church of Sant ‘Eufemia, below 3 meters above street level, and is made up of 14 floors with mosaics. I would say spectacular the mosaic in the center of the large Reception Room, which portrays the dance of the four seasons
- Piazza del Popolo, the central square of the city: built by the Venetians when the Serenissima governed the territory. In fact, it belonged to the Papal States, in fact Venice had to pay a sum to the Archbishop of Ravenna as compensation. At the corner of the building, you will find the town hall and opposite, two columns: on top of the one closest to the building, the lion of San Marco was placed; on the other, the statue of the patron Saint Apollinare. Now you can’t find them anymore because when the Venetians lost the city, the lion on the column was replaced by the patron Apollinare and the statue of San Vitale appeared at his side.
- Rocca Brancaleone: is the fortress built by the Venetians, (and you can still see the flags in front of the entrance), when they occupied the city. Yes, because the interest of the Venetians towards Ravenna was twofold: the importance of the port for the control of the coast and the willows of Cervia, because since the dawn of time, one of the most used forms for the conservation of goods such as meat, fish and cheese was just the salt. Well maintained and divided into two parts: the fortress and the citadel. The fortress had 4 circular towers and was an operational barracks. The citadel was an area of preparation for weapons, where ammunition was prepared. Today instead in the fortress, every year, the Ravenna Festival is held while the citadel, today a large park, is used for anyone who wants to relax and why not, with the deck chairs available, enjoy relaxation and sunbathe with refreshment areas and services
There are many other museums, sites and palaces with gardens to admire that we have not managed due to lack of time:
- Palazzo Rasponi, Palazzo rasponi-Murat and the Rasponi Garden
- Art Museum of the City of Ravenna
- TAMO – The whole adventure of the mosaic
- Ancient port of Classe, just outside the city reachable by bicycle
- National Museum of Ravenna
much more and for us it will be the destination of the next trip.
Two important personalities for Ravenna
What do Dante Alighieri and Giotto have in common? Of course a stop in the city
It is true that the great poet was born in Florence in 1265, but it is equally true that for political reasons he leaves the city and moves first to Verona, then to Romagna. Historical notes and long studies made by scholars reveal that when Alighieri arrived in Ravenna he still had to end Purgatory and start Paradise and therefore many verses have references to the surrounding countryside, the monuments, and some details of the city.
Just in Ravenna Giotto, bound for Padua to fresco the Cappella degli Scrivegni, stops together with his disciples to fresco various churches and monuments, from here he creates his first school. One structure that saw the decorations was the Basilica of San Giovanni Evangelista, perhaps the most loved by citizens. In 1944 it was seriously damaged by aerial bombing which caused, in addition to the loss of the frescoes, the destruction of the mosaics in the apse.
A curiosity about Dante Alighieri
Speaking of Dante Alighieri, do you know that he dies from illness just in Ravenna? Her funeral is celebrated in the Basilica of San Francesco, the oldest in the city, (which I recommend you visit, because inside there is the suggestive crypt decorated with splendid mosaics submerged in water. You see it off, but with a 2 euro coin turn on the lights and you will be enchanted).
Next to the Basilica you will find the Dante Museum in the ancient Franciscan cloisters and the tomb of Dante, that is, the small temple built specifically where inside there is the sarcophagus with the remains of the poet.
What to do in Ravenna again?
- Shopping: in the streets of the center you will find numerous artisan and characteristic shops, the historic food and wine and elegant shops: via Armando Diaz, via Cairoli via IV Novembre, and the elegant via Cavour are an example
- Having fun: for the little ones, a few km away you will find the most popular amusement park in Romagna, Mirabilandia.
- Cycling: already because Ravenna is one of the cities with the highest rate of use of bicycles, in fact wandering around the city, you always had to be careful! Lots of cycle paths, which also reach the nearby Marina di Ravenna, Punta Marina and Lido Adriano. Look at some itineraries in the city or in the Pineta a Classe in the nearby Comacchio Valleys or in nature along the Lamone river
- Going to the sea: wanting to alternate with days of culture and walks in the city, both in summer and in winter, (why not?) You can take advantage of the nearby seaside resorts. Marina Romea, Marina di Ravenna, the Lidi di Classe with the beautiful pine forest, and Lido di Savio, Punta Marina Terme, with the spa on the beach.
- Events: there are many fun opportunities throughout the year organized in the city. One of all, the Ravenna Festival, dedicated to music, dance and are usually called internationally renowned protagonists.
What to eat in Ravenna
Ravenna boasts a long food and wine tradition, both for the inland cuisine based on meats but also on the home-made puff pastry, piadina and for the seafood cuisine.
We could therefore list the cappelletti, the traditional first course that we ate with the blackberry ragù from Romagna. Another first course is the strozzapreti, also seasoned with ragù. Unmissable the handmade noodles, and the inevitable piadina, to be accompanied with cold cuts and cheeses and fig jam (which we loved). Another important component on the table is the grilled meat. All washed down with good Sangiovese or Cagnina Doc.
As far as seafood cuisine is concerned, there is a wide choice of sardines, anchovies, sole, turbot, shrimps and much more, and there is really only embarrassment in the choice of dishes.
We personally discovered the covered market in Piazza Andrea Costa where we found everything we listed before: butchers, bakers, piadineria, fishmongers, fresh pasta, cheeses and salami, the supermarket and two restaurants for lunch and dinner, bar , ice cream parlors, and upstairs an events and culture space, library and temporary shop.
A very complete and very welcoming reality, in line with the expansive and convivial nature of the people of Romagna.
Obviously the historical center is full of restaurants and piadinerias where you can taste every delicacy!
Where to stop in Ravenna
We have found several solutions:
- an unloading point is in the free parking in Via Chiavica Romea in front of Via Gamberini. From there it is very easy to go to the historic center on foot or by bicycle
- another unloading point remains in Piazza Resistance, and there is a paid parking next to it
- in Via Teodorico there is an unloading point but the stop is only for unloading time
Our personal conclusions
I had made this trip when I was very young and I had no memory except for some personal detail: my weekend was intense and full of beauties visited and how many were left out due to lack of time. A weekend isn’t really enough and if you have more time, it deserves a lot more depth.
I found a city very welcoming and full of services including the many toilets scattered and information points to ask for any need. It may seem trivial, actually not, in my opinion. Very sociable people, available to give you advice or an indication, and ate very well. What can I say … the trip with taste was very satisfying and will be the reason for a next visit!