Ravenna is a city with a truly artistic and cultural history dating back to thousands of years. Over the centuries it was elected capital for three times: of the Roman Empire in 402-476, of the Kingdom of the Ostrogoths under Theodoric in 493-553 and of the Byzantine Exarchate in Europe in 568-751.
Today it is universally recognized as the Mosaic City and has been declared by UNESCO a world heritage site!
Let's go and discover this cultural capital and its hidden treasures...trying to spend as little money as possible! This route was suggested by Antonella -who we thank-, become citizen of Ravenna in 1994, who turned her love for Romagna into a real job.
In order to visit various places without spending too much money, the first suggestion is to purchase the Romagna Visit Card. With 10 Euros per person it is possible to access:
The Basilica of Sant'Apollinare in Classe - This Romanesque church dates back to the first half of the 6th century and is just a few kilometres from the city centre. Defined as the greatest example of Early Christian basilica, this is one of the best-preserved churches of Ravenna and is part of the eight monuments declared Unesco World Heritage sites. It is famous for its splendid polychrome mosaics of the apse and for the ancient marble archbishop sarcophagi placed along the aisles.
TAMO. All the Adventure of Mosaic - This innovative museum, housed in the picturesque Church of San Nicolò, tells the story of the mosaic, from antiquities to contemporary productions, through seven thematic itineraries and with the help of interactive and multimedia installations.
Rasponi Crypt and Roof Gardens - Inside the Palace of the Province, on the southern side of San Francesco Square (walking distance from the tomb of Dante), there is one of the most beautiful and picturesque corners of the city. The crypt has a mosaic pavement of the 6th century coming from Classe, with colourful decorations and animals. Coming out of the crypt, we reach the garden which houses in the middle a neo-Gothic tower, a fountain and consists of one hanging part.
Domus of Stone Carpets - It is one of the most important archaeological sites recently discovered in Italy and consists of a complex of overlapping building structures, dating back to a period ranging from the Roman Republican era to the Byzantine period.
Mausoleum of Theodoric - This impressive building of surprising size was built according to the will of Theodoric in 520 A.D. for his own burial. It is also part of the eight monuments declared by Unesco world heritage sites and is one of the most extraordinary examples of union between Roman and Gothic art. It differs from all other architectures of Ravenna for the fact of not having been built of bricks and its central plan reminds of Roman mausoleums. The decagonal structure composed of blocks of stone from Istria is dominated by a large monolithic dome of 10.76 m of diameter and 3.09 m of height, crowned by twelve loops bearing the names of eight Apostles and four Evangelists.
The National Museum - Housed within the cloisters of the former Benedictine monastery, in the monumental complex of San Vitale, the Museum is born from the collection of objects of artistic, antiquarian and natural interest that Classe's Camaldolese monks collected during the 18th century. Today the Museum has important collections of minor arts (burial stele and icons, archaeological finds, textiles, ivories, coins and ancient weapons) and guards the cycle of the 14th-century frescoes of Santa Chiara, which adorned the Church of the Poor Clares of Ravenna.
Finally, Romagna Visit Card includes discounted admission to MAR (Art Museum of the city of Ravenna) - The museum, housed within the monumental complex of Loggetta Lombardesca, hosts some of the most important art collections of the area: paintings and sculptures from the 14th century to the present, and a collection of modern and contemporary mosaics. Not bad for 10 Euros!
Continuing our tour at the discovery of "low cost" cultural-historical Ravenna, we arrive at the so-called Palace of Theodoric, where the admission is free. This little known but very interesting archaeological area is located in Via di Roma (at the corner with Via Alberoni, near the Basilica of Sant'Apollinare Nuovo). It is a residential complex of the late antiquity; inside, some mosaic finds are kept, through which it is possible to observe the evolution of the ancient floor mosaic in different historical epochs.
The oldest church of Ravenna, the Basilica of San Giovanni Evangelista, has also free admission and is located in Via Carducci (near the railway station). It was built at the behest of Galla Placidia after a vow made by the sovereign to the evangelist John during the difficult crossing that from Constantinople led her to Ravenna. In the Middle Ages the church became the seat of a group of Benedictine monks, who built an important monastery next to it. During the 14th century, the church and the monastery were renovated according to the Gothic style, as evidenced by the impressive marble entrance portal. Inside, some fragments of 1213 flooring are exposed and there is also a Mascioni pipe organ of 1974. The building is surmounted by a tower of 42 metres with square plan, which houses four historic bells, two of which are among the oldest in Italy.
Lastly, after so many monuments, we have a break in the middle of nature, and there is no better place than the Rasponi Garden or Garden of the Forgotten Herbs. This botanical garden is located in the historic centre (behind Battistero Neoniano) but its mighty walls absorb the noise of the city, making it a real corner of quiet and relaxation. Walking in the garden, where the herbs historically used by apothecaries are cultivated, you can admire one of the secret and suggestive views of Ravenna: the dome of the Cathedral and its bell tower.