- Introduction to Ravenna
- Brief History of Ravenna
- Geographical Summary
- Overview of Cuisine
- Most Convenient Travel Period
- Cultural Significance
- How to Get to Ravenna
- Air Travel
- Rail Travel
- Road Travel
- Public Transportation Options within the City
- Top Attractions in Ravenna
- Basilica San Vitale
- Mausoleo di Galla Placidia
- Dante's Tomb
- The Arian Baptistry
- National Museum of Ravenna
- Local Cuisine and Dining Experiences
- Overview of Local Cuisine
- Top-ranked Restaurants
- Street Food and Markets
- Food and Wine Tasting Tours
- Shopping in Ravenna
- Souvenirs to Buy from Ravenna
- Popular Markets
- Shopping Malls
- Local Crafts and Boutiques
- Outdoor and Recreational Activities in Ravenna
- Parks and Natural Reserves
- Popular Beaches
- Hiking and Cycling Trails
- Water Sports
- Practical Information for Travelers
- Accommodation Options
- Health and Safety Information
- Communication and Connectivity
- Currency and Payment Methods
- Local Customs and Etiquette
- Day trips from Ravenna
- Visit to Bologna
- Trip to Ferrara
- Day at Cesenatico
- Tour of Parco del Delta del Po
- Excursion to Modena
Introduction to Ravenna
Brief History of Ravenna
Ravenna is a historical treasure, its roots dating back to Roman times. In 402 AD, it became the capital of the Western Roman Empire and later the seat of Byzantine Italy until the 8th century. Particularly renowned for its stunning Early Christian and Byzantine mosaics, the city was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1996. Despite wars and sieges, Ravenna’s architectural jewels have survived, preserving nearly 1500 years of history. The city also nostalgically houses the tomb of Dante Alighieri, the revered Italian poet. Ravenna, with its cultural richness and historical relevance, is indeed a testament to Italy’s bygone eras.
Ravenna is a city found in the northeastern part of Italy, in the Emilia-Romagna region. It's located right on the Adriatic Sea, providing a picturesque coastal backdrop. The city is also near the bustling hub of Bologna, which is about 80 km to the west. Known particularly for its flat landscape, Ravenna is intersected by canals and rivers, adding to its scenic beauty. Despite its waterfront location, the city is also surrounded by dense forests, offering a diverse range of landscapes.
Overview of Cuisine
Ravenna's cuisine reflects its rich historical and geographical tapestry. Mostly known for its traditional Emilia-Romagna dishes, the food here is hearty, flavor-packed, and beautifully simple. Freshly made pastas, local seafood, and artisanal charcuterie define the food scene. Key dishes include tortellini, piadina (a type of flatbread), and passatelli (a bread-crumb pasta in broth). Pair these with local Sangiovese wine for an authentic taste. Don't miss out on trying traditional desserts like squacquerone cheese with honey to top off your meal.
Most Convenient Travel Period
The ideal time to visit Ravenna is from April to June and September to October. During these periods, the weather is generally mild and pleasant, making it perfect for sightseeing and outdoor activities. July and August can be quite hot and crowded with tourists. However, if your main aim is enjoying the beach, this might be the best time. During the winter months, although fewer tourists visit, the town takes on a different charm. Some might find exploring the city’s mosaics and monuments more enjoyable without the usual crowds.
Ravenna is renowned as a cultural hub, rich in remarkable historical sites and time-honored traditions. Recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the city boasts some of the most breathtaking Byzantine mosaics and monuments in Western Europe, reflecting its past as the capital of the Roman Empire. Moreover, the city is proud of its vibrant literary and music scene. Dante, the father of the Italian language, found his final resting place here, while every year the Ravenna Festival attracts music lovers from all over the world. A trip to Ravenna is truly a cultural immersion.
How to Get to Ravenna
The closest airport to Ravenna is Guglielmo Marconi International Airport in Bologna, just about 50 miles to the west. Numerous airlines service Bologna, making it easily accessible from various locations worldwide. Upon landing, you can reach Ravenna by train or rental car service. A direct train route from Bologna Centrale to Ravenna station is available, with a journey time of just under 1.5 hours. Most rental car companies operate at the airport for those individuals who prefer to drive.
Ravenna is well-connected by trains, with frequent services from major Italian cities like Rome, Florence, and Bologna. The city’s main station, Stazione di Ravenna, is conveniently located near the city center. Trenitalia, Italy's national rail service, offers regular and high-speed services to Ravenna. This service provides comfortable, reliable travel with stunning views of the Italian countryside. When you arrive in Ravenna, the historic city center is just a short taxi ride or a 20-minute walk away. So, you can start exploring the city's UNESCO World Heritage sites right away.
Ravenna is connected to several major Italian cities by an extensive network of highways. If you're coming from Bologna, take the A14 motorway and exit at Ravenna. From Venice and Ferrara, the quickest route is along the SS309 Romea highway. If you prefer scenic coastal drives, the SS16 Adriatica state road from Rimini is ideal. This journey leads you directly into the city center. Ensure you have some Euros for the toll roads which are common in Italy. Once there, parking is plentiful around the city, just remember to pay for your spot.
Public Transportation Options within the City
Ravenna offers several reliable public transportation options, with local buses being the most common means. Tickets can be bought from newspaper stands, tobacco shops, and directly onboard. Taxis are another option; they are metered and can be found in well-trafficked areas. Alternatively, for a bit of exercise, you can rent a bike from numerous locations across the city. Finally, walking is an excellent way to explore Ravenna’s historic city center, where most tourist sites are located. Remember to purchase a Ravenna Tourist Card for unlimited travel within the city.
Top Attractions in Ravenna
Basilica San Vitale
Famed for its remarkable mosaics, the Basilica San Vitale stands as a magnificent spectacle in Ravenna. Constructed in 547 AD, the church boasts unique Byzantine architecture that previews the artistic prowess of the Middle Ages. Inside, visitors marvel at the stunning mosaics covering the presbytery and triumphal arch, reflecting biblical stories and imperial imagery. Notably, the captivating mosaics of Emperor Justinian and Empress Theodora are historical highlights. Overall, the Basilica San Vitale provides a vibrant, irreplaceable insight into Ravenna's artistic heritage. This exquisite archaic monument should top your must-visit list in this city.
Mausoleo di Galla Placidia
The Mausoleo di Galla Placidia, one of Ravenna's UNESCO World Heritage sites, bears witness to the city's significant history. This 5th-century monument enthralls visitors with its vibrant mosaics depicting biblical scenes. The grandeur of the tomb's interior, studded with stars against a midnight-blue sky, induces a sense of serene transcendence. Time spent here, marveling at the exquisite mosaics, is a highlight of any Ravenna visit. It's said that the empress, Galla Placidia, was actually never buried here. Nonetheless, the Mausoleo still resonates with silent echoes from a distant, grandiose past.
Dante's Tomb holds significant importance in Ravenna, housing the mortal remains of Dante Alighieri, the acclaimed poet. Famed as the author of Divine Comedy, Dante rests in a simple yet solemn stone tomb, supplemented by a gorgeous monument built by local artists in the 18th century. Visitors can also explore the Quadrarco di Braccioforte, an adjoining monument dedicated to Dante. Nearby, a flame burns continuously, symbolizing the everlasting impact of Dante's works. Exploring this reverent site, be prepared to be taken on a historical journey, paying homage to one of Italy's greatest scholars.
The Arian Baptistry
Discover the Arian Baptistry, a remarkable testament to early Christian architecture, built by King Theodoric in the 5th century. The simple octagonal exterior contrasts significantly with the intricate mosaic dome inside, a visual spectacle portraying the Baptism of Christ. Considered a UNESCO World Heritage site, it's an ideal place to soak in some ancient history. The exquisite symbolism in the artistic details, embodying Arian theology, is captivating. Don't miss this rare insight into a different sect of early Christianity in Ravenna.
National Museum of Ravenna
The National Museum of Ravenna is a must-visit for history lovers. Tucked within the awe-inspiring setting of the Benedictine Monastery of San Vitale, the museum houses a rich collection of artifacts. You'll find pieces from Greek, Roman and Etruscan civilizations alongside Late Antique and Early Middle Ages works. Known for its exceptional collection of ivory carvings and jeweled religious icons, it offers a unique peek into Ravenna's cultural history. This treasure trove of historical artifacts certainly heightens the allure of Ravenna for every discerning traveler.
Local Cuisine and Dining Experiences
Overview of Local Cuisine
Renowned for its delectable fare, Ravenna’s local cuisine is a joyful fusion of rustic coastal and rich land-based dishes. The food is deeply connected to the region's history, with influences from the Byzantine era, incorporating various seafood dishes, including prawns, and clams. The gastronomy also boasts exquisite traditional dishes such as passatelli in broth, and piadina, a flatbread served with a myriad of fillings. Not forgetting Romagna’s wines like Sangiovese and Albana sealing the rich, flavor-filled taste experience. The culinary tradition in Ravenna offers an evocative journey that satisfies both gourmet experts and food enthusiasts.
Start your culinary adventure at Al Cairoli, well-regarded for its exquisite seafood, local recipes, and excellent wine list. The comfortable and modern ambiance is the perfect setting for a romantic or celebratory meal. Another must-visit is Vecchia Ravenna da Mario, offering traditional Ravenna dishes in a warm, rustic setting. Famed for their fresh pasta and cured meats, the experience promises authentic Italian cuisine. Finally, do not miss out on Trattoria Al Gallo – 1909, a historical food venue known for its signature Piadina, a local flatbread accompanied by various fillings. It's a delicious way to end your quest for flavors.
Street Food and Markets
In Ravenna, street food is a delicious mix of traditional Italian fare and coastal treats. Try the 'Piadina', a thin Italian flatbread filled with a variety of fillings; or fresh seafood at Piazza del Popolo's bustling food market. On certain days, the cobblestone streets teem with lively farmer's markets offering everything from a selection of cheeses, cured meats, olives, and local wines. Also, don't miss the Mercato Coperto, an indoor market with a grand selection of fresh produce and regional specialties.
Food and Wine Tasting Tours
The vibrant culinary scene of Ravenna offers various food and wine tasting tours for gourmets. These tours not only introduce you to the local cuisine but also to the rich history and culture of the region. You can sink your teeth into authentic Piadina, a local flatbread, and pair it with Sangiovese, a robust local red wine. Squacquerone cheese and Ravenna's famous honey are also must-tries. Some tours also include visits to wineries or local markets, giving you an immersive gastronomic experience of Ravenna's food scenes. Ready your palate for this delicious journey through Ravenna.
Shopping in Ravenna
Souvenirs to Buy from Ravenna
Ravenna reveals an interesting shopping scenario, with traditional souvenirs that capture the artistic charm of the city. Don’t miss getting the famous mosaics which can range from home decor pieces to ornaments, portraying different Byzantine styles. Also, grab a bottle of Sangiovese, a regional red wine, to cherish your memories of Ravenna. You can also stock up on local food delights like squacquerone cheese and passatelli pasta. Luxury fashion items such as handmade shoes and stylish dresses are also a great buy for fashion enthusiasts.
Immerse yourself in the local culture at Mercato Coperto where you can find fresh produce, local cheeses, and homemade pastries. Open every morning but Sunday, it's an ideal spot for inquisitive foodies. The Piazza San Francesco and Piazza del Popolo transform into lively shopping venues during the Ravenna Antique Market. Occurring each second weekend of the month, it's a treasure trove of vintage items, collectibles, and curiosities from all over Italy. Lastly, check out Mercato Cittadino, a weekday market in the city's heart. Here, you can bargain for clothing, footwear, and numerous household items.
Ravenna provides several shopping mall options for a one-stop shopping experience. Centro Commerciale Esp is an impressive mall housing diverse shops for fashion, beauty, electronics, home accessories, and more. The vibrant food court and free parking add to its convenience. Less than a kilometer away, Punta di Ferro Centro Commerciale showcases a fine selection of brands, a supermarket, and a multiplex cinema. Ravenna's shopping malls guarantee a complete shopping experience, satisfying different tastes and budgets.
Local Crafts and Boutiques
Ravenna is known for its unique mosaic art. Visit the TAMO Museum's shop for quality mosaic pieces or drop by Ravenna's local art boutiques like Koko Mosaico for bespoke designs. For fashion enthusiasts, trend-setting boutiques such as Ghirri and Dolly are a must-visit. Find the perfect Italian-made handbag or shoes at Borsalino, a longstanding leather goods store. Foodies shouldn't miss Ravennate's olive oil and wine, available at local vendors. For a sweet souvenir, Pasticceria Foschi offers traditional almond cookies and pastries. In Ravenna, shopping is truly a cultural experience.
Ravenna offers a shopping experience full of elegance and style. The city dwellers love high fashion, making it a haven for fashionistas. Streets like Via Cavour and Via Diaz are lined with chic boutiques, independent stores and designer shops. Beyond fashion, Ravenna is known for its exquisite mosaic art. Numerous local shops and studios sell ornate mosaic pieces, offering you the chance to take home a piece of Ravenna's iconic art. Quaint markets also dot the city selling fresh produce, olives, and local wines. Remember to check opening times as many stores close for a mid-afternoon siesta. Happy shopping in Ravenna!
Outdoor and Recreational Activities in Ravenna
Parks and Natural Reserves
Ravenna offers various outdoor attractions including vibrant parks and natural reserves. The Parco del Delta del Po Emilia Romagna is a notable highlight, featuring a diversity of fauna and flora - the perfect spot for hiking and bird watching. Casa delle Farfalle & Bosco degli Ulivi, a tropical botanical garden with an array of exotic butterflies, is also a favored destination. The Classense Library’s botanical garden offers tranquillity amidst historic ambiance. Discover Ravenna's natural beauty for a refreshing escape!
Ravenna boasts several breathtaking beaches. Marina di Ravenna, a popular spot, has pristine sands and offers numerous activities including sailing, surfing, and beach volleyball. Lido di Dante, another favorite, is renowned for its soft sands and crystal-clear waters and is perfect for a relaxed day out. For more peaceful surroundings, Punta Marina Terme is ideal. It's also famed for its therapeutic mud and splendid spa facilities. Regardless of whether you're an adventure lover or peace seeker, Ravenna's beaches have plenty to offer.
Hiking and Cycling Trails
Ravenna offers many scenic hiking and cycling routes steeped in natural beauty and historical intrigue. The Delta del Po Park trail, a UNESCO site, offers a unique mix of lagoons, marshes, and ancient woodland. Bring a pair of binoculars for bird-watching. For cycling enthusiasts, the Transadriatica Bike Route from Ravenna to the Republic of San Marino is a favorite, boasting rolling landscapes and enticing eateries en route. Whether you're an experienced hiker or casual bicyclist, Ravenna's trails cater to all levels.
Water sports enthusiasts visiting Ravenna are in for a treat. The Adriatic Sea offers diverse opportunities for various water activities such as sailing, jet skiing and wind surfing. There are several rental services to facilitate you with the necessary equipment and training. Try kitesurfing at Punta Marina or Mirabilandia Beach, known for their excellent wind conditions. Scuba diving is also popular in Ravenna, featuring stunning underwater sights including reefs and remains of ancient shipwrecks. Therefore, the city offers thrilling water experiences for everyone! Ravenna’s clean beaches and warm summer weather make it an ideal place for families who enjoy swimming and sunbathing. You can also find quiet spots, perfect for fishing.
Ravenna has a vibrant nightlife scene with a variety of venues for evening entertainment. From bars filled with locals sipping on traditional Italian wines to lively nightclubs, there's enough to keep you entertained till the wee hours. At the city center, Piazza del Popolo and its surrounding areas boast many bars and pubs, offering a sophisticated ambiance for a relaxed evening. For those who like to dance the night away, clubs like Bronson and Rock Planet feature local and international DJ’s playing exciting tunes.
Practical Information for Travelers
Ravenna offers a wide range of accommodation options to suit different budgets and preference. High-end hotels offer luxurious stays, with amenities like spas, gyms, and in-house restaurants. For those looking to be immersed in the city's culture, family-run Bed & Breakfasts in historical buildings make a great option. Budget travelers can opt for hostels, economy hotels, or rent an apartment. Consider staying close to the historic city center for easy accessibility to key sites. However, even the outskirts are well-connected via public transport.
Health and Safety Information
While Ravenna is generally safe, it's sensible to take standard precautions against petty theft. Keep belongings close in crowded areas as pickpocketing may occur. Tap water is safe to drink. As for health services, Ravenna hosts several pharmacies and clinics and a main hospital, "Santa Maria delle Croci". EU travelers should bring their European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) for access to state-provided healthcare. Lastly, local mosquitoes can be persistent during summer. They aren't typically dangerous, but their bites can be an annoyance. Use repellents or protective clothing if needed.
Communication and Connectivity
In Ravenna, as in most parts of Italy, the official language is Italian. English is not widely spoken, particularly among older generations, however, younger people and workers in tourist-related industries often have a basic understanding. Try learning a few key Italian phrases to help your interaction with locals. As for connectivity, WiFi is widely available in public areas, cafes, hotels and many restaurants. If you plan to use your mobile, check roaming charges with your service provider before your trip. Alternatively, local SIM cards can be purchased for a more cost-effective solution.
Currency and Payment Methods
The primary currency in Ravenna, like the rest of Italy, is the Euro (€). You can exchange your currency for Euros at local banks, airports, or specialty exchange stores. ATMs, known locally as "Bancomats," are also widely available for cash withdrawals. Credit and debit cards are widely accepted in hotels, restaurants, and many shops, with Visa and MasterCard being the most commonly accepted brands. However, small vendors and cafes may only accept cash. Ensure to carry some with you for smaller transactions or in places that may not accept cards.
Local Customs and Etiquette
In keeping with Italian custom, greet locals in Ravenna with a warm "buongiorno" (good day) or "buonasera" (good evening), depending upon the time. Polite etiquette is appreciated, like standing while shaking hands, or waiting to sit until invited. During meals, note that the fork is held in the left hand and the knife in the right. If you're invited to a local's home, bring a small gift. Also, Italians take public decorum seriously. Avoid loud behavior or inappropriate clothing in churches and other public places. Modest dress and respectful volume are appreciated.
Day trips from Ravenna
Visit to Bologna
Just over an hour away from Ravenna, Bologna, the lively, historic capital of the Emilia-Romagna region is worth exploring. Known for its rich food culture, the city boasts numerous markets, shops, and restaurants making it a haven for food lovers. The city’s heart is Piazza Maggiore, surrounded by notable buildings such as Palazzo d’Accursio, Palazzo del Podestà, and San Petronio Basilica. Don’t miss the iconic Two Towers and the university, which is the oldest in the world. Bologna encapsulates an authentic Italian experience that should not be missed.
Trip to Ferrara
Located just over an hour away from Ravenna, Ferrara is the perfect day trip for history enthusiasts. Known for its Renaissance architecture, the city’s Cathedral and Estense Castle are must-see landmarks that offer a rich insight into Italy's past. You can explore this UNESCO World Heritage city by bike, as local laws favor cyclists. Round off your trip indulging in unique culinary delights like 'Cappellacci di Zucca', a sumptuous pumpkin ravioli. A day trip to Ferrara from Ravenna promises a blend of history, culture, and delectable cuisine.
Day at Cesenatico
Enjoy a refreshing day trip to Cesenatico, just 30 minutes from Ravenna. Famous for its picturesque canal, designed by Leonardo da Vinci, this coastal town is a sanctuary for seafood enthusiasts with fabulous restaurants adorning its colorful port. Browse the local market for fresh produce, or visit the Maritime Museum to appreciate Cesenatico's naval history. You can also admire its traditional sailboats or the pastel houses along the canal. Don't miss out on a relaxing sunbath at the beautiful sandy beach.
Tour of Parco del Delta del Po
A perfect day trip from Ravenna takes you to the expansive Parco del Delta del Po. Undoubtedly a treat for nature enthusiasts, this park is spread across various provinces, including Ferrara and Ravenna. Its captivating wetlands, hidden lagoons and diverse wildlife make it one of Italy's must-visit locales. You can explore the rich vegetation by foot or cycle along its numerous trails. Bird watchers have a wonderful opportunity to spot hundreds of bird species. Turn the visit into a learning experience at the park’s nature museum. Make sure to enjoy a traditional lunch at a local trattoria to complete the experience.
Excursion to Modena
Journey west from Ravenna to Modena, a renowned gastronomic and cultural hub. Famous for its balsamic vinegar, Modena also boasts the UNESCO World Heritage Sites of the stunning Piazza Grande, Modena Cathedral, and the Torre Civica. Enjoy the city's vintage Italy charm and warm hospitality. Be sure to visit the Enzo Ferrari Museum to delve into the impressive history of Ferrari and its founder. Savor the delicious street foods, dine at a Michelin-starred restaurant, or enjoy a tasting tour in one of the traditional balsamic vinegar factories. This day trip promises a rich experience.
Have a good trip!