Who says Ravenna, says sea, beaches, entertainment and social evenings: a festival of liveliness, typical of all the seaside resorts along the coast of Romagna.
But Ravenna, the city of mosaics, has a heart, a soul, so full of history, traditions and ancient cultural monuments to have been declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO! The monuments listed are 8 and they all deserve to be visited.
Basilica of San Vitale (6th century)
The most famous and important Catholic temple in Ravenna, a masterpiece made by early Christian and Byzantine artists. It was built between 525 and 530 A.D. the conquest of Ravenna by the Roman emperor Justinian. You will be struck by its powerful external structure but crossing the door, you will find out an even more incredible space, a multitude of delicate mosaics, domes, capitals carved by Byzantines. On the presbytery floor, there is a labyrinth symbolising the path of the spirit towards purification.
Mausoleum of Galla Placidia (5th century)
It is located near the Basilica of San Vitale and it is said to have been built by the will of Galla Placidia, daughter of Theodosius, for her son Valentinian III. This small building with a Greek cross-shaped plan and a central dome dominating the internal space, is a wonderful casket that dates to the 5th century. The well-preserved shining mosaics, under the barrel vaults and the arches are some of the best artworks of early Christian age.
Archbishop's Chapel (about 500)
It is at the first floor in the Archbishop's palace (now the seat of the Archiepiscopal Museum). It is a work of Orthodox inspiration, built during the time of king Theodoric of the Ostrogoths. You will be fascinated especially by the marble vestibule and beautiful mosaics in its upper part! The four archangels Michael, Raphael, Gabriel and Uriel stand out, depicted in the mosaics of the vaulted ceiling.
Basilica of Sant'Apollinare Nuovo (6th century)
This three-aisled church was also raised by Theodoric for his royal court. The magnificent decorations on the walls, the naves and the domes decorated with shimmering mosaics capture the eye and let us understand the great cultural value of Ravenna and its monuments!
Mausoleum of Theodoric (about 520)
This funerary building is the most famous Ostrogothic artwork, since 1996 included among the UNESCO World Heritage sites. It was totally built with blocks of Aurisina, an Istrian stone. The coverage is really something: just one shell-shaped Aurisina monolith; 3 m in height and 10.76 metres in diameter! The way it was positioned is still a mystery nowadays.
Baptistery of Neon (about 430)
Due to slow and progressive sinking of the ground, this heavy octagonal building is about 2 m underground now. Inside, the dome is completely decorated with mosaics dating back to the time of Bishop Neon. Instead, charming frescoes and stucco adorn the walls. The 16th-century marble baptismal font in the centre of the building is also important and evocative.
Arian Baptistery (6th century)
As well as the Baptistery of Neon, this one has an octagonal shape and it is even 2.25 metres below the ground for the subsidence of the soil. Raise your gaze to the dome and you will find out and appreciate a precious golden mosaic representing Christ's Baptism with John the Baptist, the dove of the Holy Spirit and Jordan River.
Basilica of Sant'Apollinare in Classe (consecrated in 549)
This church is 5 km far from Ravenna, in the site of Classe. Recently it has become the most visited monument in Emilia-Romagna. Its interiors amaze for the immensity of the three naves with trussed roof, separated by twelve white Proconnesian marble columns. You will literally be dazzled by the beauty and intensity of its mosaics, especially the one in the apsis.