48 Hours in Ravenna

Situated in the northern Italian region of Emilia Romagna, Ravenna is a breath-taking city steeped in culture and history. Best known for the plethora of colourful, magnificent mosaics adorning its buildings and churches, it is the perfect place to visit if you’re a fan of your historic artworks.

 

But it’s not all about the visuals, as there are also plenty of other attractions to explore, tantalising treats to taste and natural wonders to experience. So, whether you’re a culture vulture, a foodie fanatic or an outdoor adventurer, we’ve got a range of activity suggestions to help you have a fantastic 48 hours in Ravenna!

For culture vultures…

Basilica di San Vitale

Immerse yourself in the magnificent metropolis of mosaics, starting off at the Basilica di San Vitale – a stunning cathedral which is one of the most important examples of Byzantine art left in Europe! Consecrated in 547 AD by archbishop Massimiano, this Basilica will take your breath away as you enter and glimpse the luminous golden, green and deep blue mosaics that adorn the altar of this ancient church.

 

But the beauty doesn’t stop there, as there are also intricate mosaics depicting stories from the Old Testament, from Abraham’s sacrifice of Isaac to the death of Abel.

 

Another fascinating fact about this cathedral is that it’s labyrinth-like floor plan and winding corridors are meant to remind visitors of a maze. Mazes were often associated with sin in the early years of Christianity and therefore finding your way out of the Basilica’s disorientating paths is supposed to constitute an act of rebirth and purification as you finally emerge in the centre of the church and are greeted by the aforementioned breathtaking altar.

Dante Alighieri, Poet, Spiritual Writer

Once you’ve finished exploring the cathedral, why not pay homage to one of the most famous writers and poets to come out of Italy, Dante Alighieri, best known for his Divine Comedy describing his journey through hell? Passing away in Ravenna in 1321, his tomb is now situated in the medieval centre of the city.

 

His coffin is sheltered by a small building stone building constructed in the 18th Century by famous local architect Camilo Morigia, who is also famous for reconstructing other famous landmarks in Ravenna such as the façade of the Basilica of Santa Maria in Porto.

 

If this isn’t enough to satisfy your Dante desires, there are also plenty of other landmarks related to the poet to explore. From the Old Franciscan Cloisters (a place of respect dedicated to Dante in an ancient convent) to the Basilica of San Francesco where Dante came to pray during his stay in Ravenna (and where his funeral procession took place after his death!),

 

Dante is dappled across Ravenna, making the city just as important a destination as Florence for those who want to learn about the poet’s life and work.

 

Top Tip! If you’re a Dante devotee, the best time to visit Ravenna is in the Autumn, as the city organises a variety of events in his honour including exhibitions, performances and lectures.

For foodie fanatics…

Whilst all of Italy is undeniably renowned for its tantalising cuisine, Ravenna, in particular, has some tasty treats for you to sample during your weekend visit. First up, we recommend heading for a delicious evening meal at Antica Trattoria Al Gallo (algallo1909) which is owned by the Turicchia family since 1909.

 

Not only a delight for the taste buds but also for the eyes, this trattoria is opulently decorated with finely dressed tables, copious paintings, sculptures
and art-deco style windows. In these lavish surroundings, you can enjoy a traditional menu which reflects the gastronomic tradition of Ravenna, producing dishes with local, seasonal ingredients including handmade pasta, Adriatic Sea bluefish, truffle, wild asparagus, game and mushrooms from the hills of Romagna.

Or, if you’re a big fan of seafood, why not try out Osteria L’Acciuga (osterialacciuga.it), which specialises in serving up fresh fish and anchovies accompanied by tipples from their extensive wine cellar! The menu at L’acciuga amazingly changes twice a day, every day, so if you fall in love with this Osteria, you could even go for lunch and dinner to try out a dish of the new menu! Some of the restaurant’s most popular meals include spaghetti with anchovies and fragrant bread, slices of Ombrina (Umbrina Cirrosa) with chicory, tomato and olive pesto and octopus roasted with artichokes and Taggiasca olives. Fun fact! The marine theme is not just limited to the cuisine, as L’Acciuga is decorated like the inside of a submarine!

For outdoor adventurers…

Whilst Ravenna is technically a city, there are still many natural delights to explore, making it a perfect destination for outdoor enthusiasts. Situated just a few kilometres outside of Ravenna is the Po Delta Park which is a prime location for a spot of birdwatching!

 

Take a walk amidst the reserve’s flooded forests, historic pine woods and coastal dunes to be in with a chance of spying (or even capturing on camera!) some of the aquatic birds, of which there are hundreds of species, from tufted ducks to purple herons, black-winged stilts to slender-billed gulls. Not all of these species are native to the area, however, as the Po Delta Park is, in fact, an important migratory stop on the route of many birds as the fly from Northern Europe to Africa and the Southern Mediterranean over the winter.

Another site of natural beauty just outside Ravenna is the Pine Forest of Classe. Whilst it used to be much more expansive, the wood now only stretches over 900 hectares but is still just as beautiful and important of a landmark to visit.

 

Take a walk through the forest and encounter varying species of trees from holm oaks to hornbeams, privets to blackthorns, and perhaps stop to enjoy a picnic, and read a verse or two of Dante.

 

After all, Dante visited this forest multiple times during his stay in Ravenna, and even mentioned it in his Divine Comedy, referring to it as “that celestial forest, whose thick shade with lively greenness.”

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