A perfect guide to Ravenna mosaics (Italy)

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Ravenna in Italy might be a town you haven’t heard of before. Most people visit this elegant town in the Emilia-Romagna region for Ravenna mosaics from the Byzantine period. However, there are other things to do in Ravenna besides viewing its mosaic art. You will find plenty of attractions to keep you occupied for one day.

Ravenna Italy mosaics

If you are an art lover planning a trip to Italy, add this town to your itinerary. It is the perfect antidote to nearby Bologna.

 

What is Ravenna in Italy famous for?

Why is Ravenna famous? Because Ravenna was once the capital of the Western Empire (AD 402). It is world-famous for its early Christian and Byzantine mosaics. They are the best-surviving examples of this form of art in Europe. Ravenna has a UNESCO status and is an excellent day trip from Bologna.

Ravenna is worth visiting because it is one of the gems of Northern Italy. This gorgeous city is home to 8 monuments which are UNESCO Heritage Sites. All these buildings have Ravenna mosaics which show great artistic skills and a unique blend of Western and Eastern designs.

guide to the mosaics of Ravenna. Ravenna is home to 8 monuments which are UNESCO Sites. All these buildings have Ravenna mosaics which show great artistic skills and a unique blend of Western and Eastern designs.

Ravenna has a high concentration of mosaics. Because of that, many people call it the capital of mosaics.

 

Did you know this city was once a bridge between Europe and the Eastern world? Ravenna rose to power in the 1st century BC. It became the capital city of the Western Roman Empire from 402 until its collapse in 476. After that, it served as the capital of the Ostrogothic Kingdom. In the 6th century (540 AD), the Byzantine emperor Justinian turned Ravenna into the western stronghold of the Byzantine Empire.

 

The best Ravenna mosaics

In our Ravenna travel guide, we share the top eight UNESCO monuments to visit and other exciting things to do in the city. We suggest you visit the famous attractions first and then explore the other places. 

As you already know, Ravenna has an extensive collection of mosaics. They span the years of Roman and Byzantine rule. Ravenna mosaics offer a comparison between Classically inspired designs and later Byzantine motifs. Six of eight UNESCO monuments are in the city centre within walking distance of each other. The other two are about six kilometres south of the Ravenna’s centre. 

Ravenna mosaics: Ravenna has an extensive collection of mosaics, they span the years of Roman and Byzantine rule. Ravenna mosaics offer a comparison between Classically inspired designs and later Byzantine motifs. Six of eight UNESCO monuments with mosaics are in the city centre within walking distance of each other.

The Ravenna mosaics are among the most beautiful things we have ever seen. They will leave you breathless and with a stiff neck.

 

TIP:

If you are walking from the train station, we suggest you see the monuments in the centre of Ravenna in this order. Start at the Arian Baptistery, then visit the Basilica of SantApollinare Nuovo and the Chapel of Sant’ Andrea. After that, explore the nearby Baptistery of Neon, the Basilica of San Vitale and the Mausoleum of Galla Placidia.

 

1. Arian Baptistery

The Arian Baptistery is one of the eight structures in the city registered as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This design decoration of the Arian Baptistery shows the religion of Theodoric’s court.

One of the first tourist attractions most people head to from the train station is the nearby Arian Baptistery. You can find it in a small square next to the old Arian cathedral of Santo Spirito. The locals call this small octagonal building Battistero degli Ariani. Look closely and see that the original floor is now more than 2 metres underground. This also happened to other monuments in the city.

The Arian Baptistery is one of the eight structures in the city registered as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is one of the best examples of Arian Christian art (an early branch of Christianity). They believed God created Jesus, but he was only a holy man.

Because of that, visiting the Arian Baptistery is one of the best things to do in Ravenna, Italy.

 

It is hard to imagine, but this small building was once part of a larger complex. King Theodoric the Great built it as his royal baptistery between the end of the 5th century and the beginning of the 6th century AD. 

What to see inside:

Arian baptistery inside

Many years ago, there were colourful decorations on the walls of this building. While they are no longer here, you can still see a beautiful mosaic ceiling in the cupola. The gold mosaic shows the twelve apostles and Jesus being baptized. 

things to do in Ravenna: The Arian Baptistery is one of the eight structures in the city registered as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is one of the best examples of Arian Christian art (an early branch of Christianity). Because of that, visiting the Arian Baptistery is one of the best things to do in Ravenna.

This mosaic shows the Baptism of Christ. It took artists several years to complete it. When you look closely, you can spot different colours of stones, which illustrate the grass at the feet of the apostles.

The design is quite simple with a gold ground, but it shows an unusual depiction of young and beardless Jesus. It shows Jesus as both an earthly and divine being. A young naked Jesus, standing in the waters of the River Jordan, surrounded by the apostles. You can also see a dove drizzling water on his head. If you do not know, the dove symbolizes the Holy Spirit.

FUN FACT:

The mosaic in the Arian Baptistery has a very similar composition to the one in the Baptistery of Neon, which you will see later. However, the Baptistery of Neon is the Orthodox building, while the Arian Baptistery was the lost Arian religion

This design decoration of the Arian Baptistery shows the religion of Theodoric’s court. During this time, two different perspectives on Christ existed within the empire. There were the Arians and the Christians. Only the Christians had baptisteries, and King Theodoric built his baptistery only for a political move.

 

GOOD TO KNOW:

The entry ticket to the Arian Baptistery costs only €2. You can buy your ticket from the machine next to the baptistery. 

 

2. Basilica of Sant’Apollinare Nuovo

One of the first places most people head to from the train station is the Basilica of Sant’Apollinare Nuovo, and there is a reason for that. King Theodoric the Great built this basilica church during the 6th century. He created it as an Arian church and dedicated it to Christ the Redeemer. When the Byzantines took over, it became a Catholic Church. Emperor Justinian I dedicated it to St Martin of Tours.

Basilica of Sant’ Apollinare Nuovo with a bell tower has a simple design on the outside. Don't confuse it with Sant’ Apollinare Classe, which you can find about 6 km from the city.

The Basilica of Sant’Apollinare Nuovo with a bell tower has a simple design on the outside. Don’t confuse it with the Basilica of Sant’ Apollinare Classe, which you can find about 6 km from Ravenna.

 

Its current name got after the first bishop of Ravenna in the half of the 9th century. This happened when the locals moved the body of Saint Apollinare here from its former location in the Basilica of Sant’ Apollinare Classe.

 

WHAT TO SEE INSIDE:

Exploring the Basilica of Sant'Apollinare Nuovo is one of the best things to do in Ravenna because this church hides some of the best Ravenna mosaics. According to UNESCO, these Ravenna mosaics have a traditional Roman style with a strong Byzantine influence.

Exploring the Basilica of Sant’Apollinare Nuovo is one of the best things to do in Ravenna because the Basilica of Sant’Apollinare Nuovo hides some of the best Ravenna mosaics. According to UNESCO, the mosaics have a traditional Roman style with a strong Byzantine influence.

When UNESCO first inscribed this church on their precious list, they also said that the Basilica of Sant’Apollinare Nuovo is one of the most important buildings from the period of crucial cultural significance in European religious art.

Ravenna mosaics: If you do not know, the Basilica of Sant'Apollinare Nuovo hides some of the best Ravenna mosaics. When UNESCO first inscribed this church on their precious list, they also said that the Basilica of Sant'Apollinare Nuovo is one of the most important buildings from the period of crucial cultural significance in European religious art.

The basilica is famous for its two side walls, full of beautiful mosaics. They have three major sections. The upper part shows the scenes from the life of Christ, and the middle one, Saints and Prophets. The lower one illustrated ships in the nearby Roman port of Classis on the left. On the right side, you can see Ravenna with its churches and Theodoric’s Palace.

 

FUN FACTS:

This basilica also has an exciting history. You are quite right to think that this church has undergone reconstructions work over the years. When you look closely, you can see that the Byzantines modified some of the mosaics in this church. They removed themes which were too Arian and expressed the king’s glory. Find images of arms and hands on some columns. They were once parts of illustrations which represented praying Goths and the Theodoric court.

Basilica of Sant'Apollinare Nuovo

 

Also, some art historians claim that one of the mosaics in this church contains the first depiction of Satan in Western art. Find a blue angel on the left side of Jesus behind three goats. Because of that, the Basilica of Sant’Apollinare Nuovo has some of the best Ravenna mosaics.

Ravenna mosaics: Also, some art historians claim that one of the mosaics in this church contains the first depiction of Satan in Western art. Find a blue angel on the left side of Jesus behind three goats. Because of that, the Basilica of Sant'Apollinare Nuovo has some of the best Ravenna mosaics.

 

Also, you can see illustrations of young and beardless Jesus on the left side (eastern origin). When you look on the other side, you can spot there the bearded Christ. It was a symbol of human pain. This is typical of Western culture, where Romans used to grow a beard as a sign of mourning. 

three wise men Ravenna mosaics

The three Wise Men.

 

TIP:

Before you leave, do not forget to explore the cloister. There are also exhibits on the creation of Ravenna mosaics on the first floor. 

 

GOOD TO KNOW:

You can find the Basilica of Sant’Apollinare Nuovo in the eastern part of the old historic town. The opening times of the Basilica of Sant’Apollinare Nuovo are every day from 9 am – 7 pm (4 March 2023 – 1st November 2023). If you visit it between 2nd November 2023 and 8th March 2024, you can do that between 10 am and 5 pm.

You cannot buy an entry ticket only to see this church. You need to purchase a combination ticket for the UNESCO-listed monuments. The Combination ticket for UNESCO sites in Ravenna costs €12.50 per person. It is valid for 7 days, and you can visit every place only once. The other places you can see on the combination ticket are the Basilica San Vitale, the Mausoleum of Galla Placidia, the Basilica of Sant’Apollinare Nuovo, the Neonian Baptistery, and the Archbishop’s Chapel.

You can buy your ticket online or on-site on the day of the visit. But do not forget, there are only two ticket offices. One is next to the Basilica of Sant’Apollinare Nuovo. The other one is in the Archiepiscopal Museum.

 

No time to read now? Save the best Ravenna mosaics to read it later.

 

3. Archbishop’s Chapel in Ravenna

Ravenna mosaics: Finding St. Andrew Chapel is one of the best things to do in Ravenna because it is the only existing chapel of the early Christian era which have survived through the centuries. St. Andrew Chapel is the smallest of the famous mosaic sites in the city, and the Ravenna mosaics you can see here date to the time of its construction.

Another attraction included in your combination ticket is the Archbishop’s Chapel which you can find in the Archbishop’s Palace. The original building with a chapel dates back to the end of the 5th century. The locals also built it during the reign of Theodoric, similar to the other two sites you have read about. The Archbishop’s Chapel, also called St Andrew Chapel, is on the first floor. St Andrew Chapel has some of the best Ravenna mosaics – do not miss them.

 

St Andrew Chapel

Ravenna mosaics: St Andrew Chapel in the Archbishop’s Palace is the smallest of the famous Ravenna mosaics sites. It has a Greek cross shape, and marble covers its lower walls. The mosaics here date back to the end of the 5th century.

Archbishop’s Chapel, is the smallest of the famous mosaic sites in the city. It has a Greek cross shape, and marble covers its lower walls. The mosaics you can see here date to the time of its construction. 

 

Finding St. Andrew Chapel is one of the best things to do in Ravenna because this is the only existing chapel of the early Christian era which has survived through the centuries without serious damage. What’s more, St Andrew Chapel in Ravenna is the only orthodox monument built during Theodoric’s reign

Archbishop’s Chapel was a private oratory for Catholic bishops when Arianism was the dominant religion. The interpretation it presents is heavily against Arianism.

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In the hall, you can spot Christ portrayed as a warrior, with one foot on a lion and the other on a snake. A young Christ on a gold background hold a cross on his right shoulder. He is holding a book, and the text says ‘I am the way, the truth and the life’.

 

The other mosaic shows Jesus, birds and illustrations of Martyrs. There are also images of Saints which underline the Catholic orthodoxy. You probably do not know, but the Arians did not worship the saints. Other paintings come from the 16th century.

 

Museum

The museum contains the sacred objects collected over the centuries. They call them Treasures of the Cathedral. One of the highlights is the ivory throne of Maximian from the 6th century. Also, do not miss an Eastern calendar in marble from the 6th century and a silver cross from the same century. There is also a small art gallery with works. It dates between 1500 and 1800.

 

GOOD TO KNOW:

Archbishop’s Palace has the same opening times as the monuments in the city. You need to purchase a combination ticket if you would like to see this place. 

 

4. Ravenna Baptistery of Neon

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The best preserved Early Christian baptistery in the world is just next to the Archbishop’s Palace.

 

You cannot take a trip to Ravenna in Italy without visiting the Baptistery of Neon. This octagonal brick building from the late 400’s is one of the most popular attractions in the city. The locals built it near the remains of a Roman bath complex. Similarly to the other baptisteries from this period, it was once attached to a church. Unfortunately, it no longer exists. The floor of this baptistery is like in the Arian baptistery 3 metres underground.

One of the top things to do in Ravenna is to visit the Baptistery of Neon because it is the best-preserved example of an Early Christian baptistery. There are other baptisteries from IV and V centuries in the world. But only the basement or the outside walls survive.  

 

About the Baptistery of Neon

Ravenna mosaics: The orthodox Baptistery of Neon is the oldest monument in the city - it dates back to the final years of the Western Roman Empire. This baptistery has some of the best multi-coloured Ravenna mosaics in the city. Make sure you do not forget to visit it.

The UNESCO-listed Baptistery of Neon is also the oldest monument in the city. This building dates back to the final years of the Western Roman Empire when Ravenna was the seat of the Western government. This orthodox baptistery is about 50 years younger than the Arian Baptistery, which you have already read about. It also has more decorations than the Arian Baptistery.

Ravenna mosaics: In fact, the Baptistery of Neon has some of the most beautiful Ravenna mosaics because they also have Greco-Roman influences, while many others in the city have the Byzantine style. The scene of the Baptism in the River Jordan is similar to the one you have already seen in the Arian baptistery.

The scene of the Baptism in the River Jordan is similar to the one you have already seen in the Arian baptistery.

 

The Baptistery of Neon got its name after the bishop who most likely commissioned its decoration, including mosaics. The main reason why tourists flock here is not the marble baptismal font. They come here to see the gorgeous multi-coloured mosaics. In fact, the Baptistery of Neon has some of the most beautiful Ravenna mosaics. They also have Greco-Roman influences, while many others in the city have the Byzantine style.

"Neonian

The Neonian Baptistery is famous for detailed artwork. The highlights are the Baptism scene and a procession of the twelve apostles on a blue background. There is also an outside ring – it has mosaics with architectural scenes. It was typical for Roman mosaics.

 

GOOD TO KNOW:

The tickets to the Baptistery of Neon usually sell out. If you want to visit the Neonian Baptistery, you need to pre-book your ticket with a time slot several days in advance. Only a few visitors can explore it at the same time.

 

5. Mausoleum of Galla Placidia

Ravenna mosaics: The tiny Mausoleum of Galla Placidia is home to some of the most beautiful Ravenna mosaics. Also, visiting the Mausoleum of Galla Placidia is one of the best things to do in Ravenna because this UNESCO Heritage site is the earliest and best preserved of all Ravenna mosaics monuments.

The Mausoleum of Galla Placidia built between 425 and 450 AD

 

The tiny Mausoleum of Galla Placidia is home to some of the most beautiful Ravenna mosaics. This UNESCO Heritage site is, in fact, the earliest and best preserved of all mosaic monuments. It is one of the earliest monuments in the city, built during the last years of the Western Roman Empire. 

Who was Galla Placidia?

Galla Placidia was a powerful woman, sister of Western Roman Emperor Honorius. She married Emperor Constantius II. After his death, she acted as a ruler of the Western Roman Empire instead of her young son. 

 

About the mausoleum

As the name suggests, this building, with a rather plain exterior, should hold the remains of a Roman empress and her family. Unfortunately, it was never her resting place, as she died in Rome. 

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View from the centre of the mausoleum

 

Today visiting the Mausoleum of Galla Placidia is one of the best things to do in Ravenna because this monument has some of the oldest Ravenna mosaics. Although this building is thousands of years old, it is beautifully preserved. According to UNESCO, mosaics with a dark blue background reflect the Western Roman architectural tradition.

Marble covers the lower walls of the Mausoleum of Galla Placidia. The upper part and the ceiling have gorgeous mosaics. They represent the victory of eternal life over death. The entire vault has a blue background, golden stars and a gold cross. 

The Mausoleum of Galla Placidia is one of the earliest monuments in the city, built during the last years of the Western Roman Empire. Although the Mausoleum of Galla Placidia is thousands of years old, it is beautifully preserved.

Do not miss a beardless Christ as the Good Shepherd. There are also iconic designs, such as the ceilings representing the Garden of Eden. Look for the apostles and for symbols of the four evangelists. A lion represents Saint Mark, an ox Saint Luke, a man Saint Matthew and an eagle Saint John. Find two doves and deers drinking water at the pond (the water = a symbol of life).  

 

GOOD TO KNOW:

You can find the Mausoleum of Galla Placidia near the Basilica di San Vitale. If you want to visit this mausoleum, pre-book your tickets with a time slot. It is small, and only a limited number of people can go inside at the time. Once inside, you can spend here only about 5 minutes. 

 

6. Basilica of San Vitale in Ravenna

things to do in Ravenna: Seeing the Basilica of San Vitale is one of the best things to do in Ravenna because it is also the only major church from the period of Emperor Justinian I, which survived visually intact. No wonder UNESCO added this 6th-century church to its precious list.

Head to the church and prepare yourself for a pleasant surprise – the Basilica of San Vitale has a breathtaking mosaic display.

 

If there is one more church you should visit when exploring Ravenna in Italy, it’s the Basilica of San Vitale. This octagonal basilica, with a plain exterior, is the most visited church in the city. It dates back to the first half of the 6th century and is almost 1500 years old. It is from the time of Justinian and it testifies the greatness of his empire.

Why is the Basilica of San Vitale famous?

Seeing the Basilica of San Vitale is one of the best things to do in Ravenna because it has the largest and best-preserved collection of mosaics outside Istanbul. The Basilica of San Vitale is the finest example of Byzantine art in Italy. It combines elements from both the Western and Eastern traditions.

Ravenna mosaics: The Basilica of San Vitale has the best collection of Ravenna mosaics. In fact, San Vitale has the largest and best-preserved collection of mosaics outside Istanbul. Because of that, this church is the finest example of Byzantine art in Italy.

Moreover, the Basilica of San Vitale is also the only major church from the period of Emperor Justinian I, which survived visually intact. No wonder UNESCO added this 6th-century church to its precious list.

 

Ravenna mosaics: San Vitale is one of the most celebrated Byzantine monuments in the world because its presbytery and choirs have the best Ravenna mosaics. They are some of the best examples of early Christian Byzantine art and architecture in Western Europe.

It is easy to see why the Basilica of San Vitale is one of the top attractions in the city. The Basilica of San Vitale is one of the most celebrated Byzantine monuments in the world. Its presbytery and choirs have the best Ravenna mosaics. They are some of the best examples of early Christian Byzantine art and architecture in Western Europe.

 

What to see inside:

Apart from a few century Baroque frescoes added to the dome, the entire decoration inside of the church is in mosaics. The three mosaics scenes, Christ the Redeemer and the panels with Justinian and Theodora are probably the best mosaics west of Istanbul. The mosaics on the side and end walls of the church illustrate scenes from the Old Testament. Also, do not miss a labyrinth on the floor. It is a symbol of sin and the path of the soul towards purification.

 

Christ the Redeemer

Ravenna mosaics: The Basilica of San Vitale is one of the most celebrated Byzantine monuments in the world because it has the best Ravenna mosaics. San Vitale dates back to the first half of the 6th century and is almost 1500 years old. It is from the time of Justinian and to testify the greatness of his empire.

One of the highlights is the artwork above the altar depicting Christ the Redeemer. Look closely and see that he is sitting on the globe – it represents the universe. Next to him are two angles, a bishop with a model of the church and San Vitale. 

 

Did you know?

The East Roman Emperor Justinian the Great was one of the most powerful Byzantine emperors. He ruled for 38 years. Theodora was a Byzantine empress, a wife and one of the chief advisers of Justinian the Great. She was a daughter of a prostitute and worked as an actress earlier in her life. Justinian changed a law forbidding rulers to marry actresses and made her his wife.

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Mosaic of Justinian, Ravenna, Italy

 

Justinian and Theodora’s panels

Also, see two famous panels dedicated to Justinian I on the left and his wife, Theodora, on the right. They both wear halos around their heads, testifying to their role in the divine.

Ravenna mosaics: The panel with Justinian in San Vitale is one of the best Ravenna mosaics because it is one of the best mosaics west of Istanbul. The mosaic of Emperor Justinian surrounded by his court shows the king with the bishop of Ravenna and two priests, the bodyguards, and a general.

The mosaic of Emperor Justinian surrounded by his court. It shows the king with the bishop of Ravenna and two priests (on the right side), the bodyguards, and a general who won much of Italy back from Germanic people and an adviser (on the left).

 

Ravenna mosaics: The panel with Theodora in San Vitale is one of the best Ravenna mosaics because it is one of the best mosaics west of Istanbul. The panel shows Theodora with a golden halo wearing jewellery (pearls are a sign of purity) and a group of court women.

The second panel shows Theodora with a golden halo wearing jewellery (pearls are a sign of purity) and a group of court women.

 

GOOD TO KNOW:

Buy a combination ticket if you want to visit the Basilica San Vitale. It costs 12.50 euros and gives you access to other UNESCO monuments in the city.

 

7. Basilica of Sant’ Apollinare in Classe

The Basilica of Sant’ Apollinare in Classe is also one of the eight UNESCO Sites in Ravenna. Don’t confuse it with the Basilica of Sant’ Apollinare Nuovo – this church is about five kilometres from Ravenna. You can find it in the nearby town of Classe.

The 6th-century Basilica of Sant’ Apollinare in Classe is an important monument of Byzantine art. It is an outstanding example of the early Christian basilica with beautiful Ravenna mosaics. The locals dedicated it to the first bishop of Ravenna, and it also housed its remains. In the 9th century, they moved them to the basilica with a similar name in Ravenna.

The highlights are gorgeous mosaics illustrating the saint in a meadow with sheep. The upper part has a large disc with a cross and 99 stars. The three lambs in the lower part symbolize the saints (Peter, James and John).

Also, do not miss mosaics of the Byzantine Emperor Constantine IV and biblical figures such as Abel and Abraham. The basilica also has various sarcophagi of bishops, which you should also see.

 

GOOD TO KNOW:

Take bus number 4 from the opposite Ravenna train station if you want to visit the Basilica of Sant’ Apollinare in Classe. Alternatively, drive a car or take a local train to Classe, in the direction of Rimini (first stop). There is free admission to the church on the first Sunday of the month. Otherwise, pay €5 or choose one of the combined tickets. 

OPENING TIMES: Monday – Saturday 8.30 am – 7.30 pm and Sunday 1.30 pm until 7.30 pm.

 

Now you know where to find the best Ravenna mosaics!

 

Other things to do in Ravenna

 

8. Mausoleum of Theodoric

things to do in Ravenna: Seeing the Mausoleum of Theodoric is one of the best things to do in Ravenna because this UNESCO site is the only surviving example of a tomb of a barbarian king of this period. What's more, the 3D model suggested that the mausoleum is aligned with significant moments within the astrological year.

The Mausoleum of Theodoric was once home to the remains of the famous king.

 

If you have time to visit one more UNESCO site, find the Parco di Teodorico outside the city centre. This green park is home to the nearly 1500 years old Mausoleum of Theodoric. As the name suggests, the most famous king of Ostrogoths built this two-story rotunda as his future tomb.

Today seeing the Mausoleum of Theodoric is one of the best things to do in Ravenna because this UNESCO site is the only surviving example of a tomb of a barbarian king of this period. Even though it does not have any Ravenna mosaics, it is worth a brief visit.

FUN FACT:

Nobody knows, for sure, how the locals built the roof of this unusual monument. 300-ton Istrian stone covers this structure. It has a diameter of 10 meters and originates from a location that is 400 kilometres (249 miles) away by land. The 3D model suggested that the mausoleum is also aligned with significant moments within the astrological year.

 

GOOD TO KNOW:

Visit the Mausoleum of Theodoric only if you have plenty of time because the walk is about 800 metres. Do not forget, you cannot visit the Mausoleum of Theodoric with a combined ticket with other sites in Ravenna. The entry fee to the Mausoleum of Theodoric costs 4 euros (free first Sunday of the month). Buy a combined ticket with the Basilica of Sant’ Apollinare in Classe and the museum for 10 euros.

 

9. Basilica di San Francesco with Ravenna mosaics

Ravenna mosaics: The Basilica di San Francesco is also home to the Ravenna mosaics. This church is most famous for its 10-century crypt, where you can see the mosaics from the previous church underwater. These Ravenna mosaics date back to the 5th century AD and have two inscriptions, one in Greek and one in Latin.

Though you may not find it on the cover of a tourism magazine, the Basilica di San Francesco is also home to the Ravenna mosaics. The Basilica di San Francesco might not be as grand as the other UNESCO sites in the city, but it is well worth a visit. It houses the tomb of 5h century bishop. Also, Dante Alighieri’s funeral was held here.

However, this beautiful church from the Middle Ages is most famous for its 10-century crypt. Head down under the altar to see the crypt, which is now permanently underwater. 

TIP:

Light up the lights for 1 euro and see the mosaics from the original church underwater. The mosaics date back to the 5th century AD and have two inscriptions, one in Greek and one in Latin. The groundwater varies in height, depending on the rainfall and sea level.

 

GOOD TO KNOW:

You can find the Basilica di San Francesco between the Neon Baptistery and the Basilica di Sant’ Apollinare Nuovo. You can visit this church for free.

 

10. National Museum in Ravenna

Museum lovers looking for the best things to do in Ravenna should visit its National Museum. This museum has a large collection of archaeological findings from various periods. It houses artefacts from 8 UNESCO Sites in Ravenna, such as decorated tombs, paintings and even weapons from the Ostrogoth Kingdom.

GOOD TO KNOW:

You can find the Museo Nazionale in the cloisters of the Old Benedictine Monastery that joins into the Basilica San Vitale. The entry ticket to the National Museum costs 6 euros. Alternatively, you can purchase a cumulative ticket. This way, you can explore the National Museum, the Mausoleum of Theodoric and the Basilica of Sant’ Apollinare in Classe for 10 euros.

 

11. Piazza del Popolo in Ravenna

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Once you have seen all the famous Ravenna mosaics and other attractions, find the Piazza del Popolo. The Piazza del Popolo is the busiest square in the city. Its origin dates back to the late 13th century. It is only a walking distance from the Basilica di San Francesco and the Basilica Sant’Apollinare Nuovo. 

 

FUN FACT:

Did you know the Venetian Republic once ruled over Ravenna? The Venetians put two columns on the square in the 15th century, following the example of the famous Piazza San Marco in Venice. They placed the statue of Saint Apollinaris on one column and the lion of Saint Mark on the other column.

We recommend you visit the Piazza del Popolo because this square is the beating heart of Ravenna. It also has beautiful architecture and many restaurants with plenty of outdoor seating. It is a perfect place for people-watching and a relax.

 

12. Classis Museum with Ravenna mosaics

We also recommend you visit Classis Museum if you have decided to see Sant’ Apollinare in Classe. Both attractions are about 6 km away from Ravenna. They are only a few hundred meters from each other. You can find it in the former sugar factory.

Exploring Classis Museum is one of the best things to do in Ravenna for museum lovers because you can learn more about Ravenna’s history here. This archaeological museum illustrates the history of Ravenna from its origin to the year 1000. Classis Museum houses beautiful artefacts, such as statues or memorial stones. You can even see a floor mosaic from the legendary Theodoric Palace here.

GOOD TO KNOW:

The entry ticket to Classis Museum costs 7 euros and an audio guide 1 euro. You can also buy a combination ticket with a nearby basilica and the ancient port of Classe. The opening times of Classis Museum are 10 am – 5 pm until 11th June 2023 and 9 am – 2 pm from 12th of June 2023.

 

13. Tomb of Dante

things to do in Ravenna: Finding the Tomb of Dante is one of the quirky things to do in Ravenna because the small marble mausoleum at the Basilica of San Francesco houses Dante’s bones. Dante Alighieri was a great writer and is world famous for his Divine Comedy. Dante also promoted the use of the Italian language.

The city of Florence still supplies the oil for the lamp that burns continually in his tomb.

 

Did you know that the Italian poet Dante Alighieri spent his last years of life until his death in 1321 in Ravenna? This great writer is world famous for his Divine Comedy, in which he wrote about Dante’s journey through Hell, Purgatory and Paradise. Dante also promoted the use of the Italian language. Before, communication was difficult between different communities. The residents from the other regions of Italy could not understand each other and had to use several languages.

Today finding the Tomb of Dante is one of the quirky things to do in Ravenna because the small marble mausoleum at the Basilica of San Francesco houses Dante’s bones.

Dante died in Ravenna, where he was in exile. There was an ongoing battle with Florence for his bones. The Franciscan monks removed his bones from a tomb and hid them inside the walls of the Convent of San Francisco for hundreds of years. They had to move them because Pope Leo X wanted his remains back in Florence. The locals discovered them in the 19th century during the renovation works. Later they moved them again because they wanted to keep them safe from the bombing during the Second World War.

 

14. See Ravenna mosaics in the Church of Sant’ Eufemia

things to do in Ravenna: Seeing the Church of Sant’ Eufemia is one of the best things to do in Ravenna because it is the entrance to the archaeological sites of the Domus of the Stone Carpets, which has famous Ravenna mosaics. This large underground space consists of 14 rooms paved with beautiful Ravenna mosaics.

Many tourists turn back once they explore the Ravenna mosaics of 6 UNESCO sites in the city centre, but it would be a mistake. There is another church which houses the Byzantine mosaics. It is Sant’ Eufemia Church on Via Barbiani.

This Round-shape Roman Catholic church from the 18th century is hiding a rich and and also fascinating history. The Church of Sant’ Eufemia was the first church built in Ravenna and in the whole Po Valley area. The present church has three different altars – one main and two side altars. One of the side altars covers a well. The legend has it that St. Apollinaris used it to baptise the first converts in Ravenna.

But that is not all: seeing the Church of Sant’ Eufemia is one of the best things to do in Ravenna because this church is the entrance to the archaeological site of the Domus of the Stone Carpets. It is a large underground space located about 3 metres below street level. The locals discovered it during the construction works of an underground car park by chance.

The Domus of the Stone Carpets consists of 14 rooms paved with mosaics and dates back to different periods. Part of it is a private Byzantine building from the 6th century with gorgeous mosaic floors.

 

GOOD TO KNOW:

If you want to visit the Church of Sant’ Eufemia, you should know there is no entry fee. However, if you want to see the Domus of the Stone Carpets you will need to pay an entry fee of 4 euros. The opening times of the Church of Sant’ Eufemia are 10 am until 6.30 pm.

 

15. A day trip from Ravenna to San Marino

San Marino day trip from Ravenna

Did you know San Marino lies only one hour’s drive from Ravenna? Yes, that is right, one of the smallest countries in the world is a perfect day trip from Ravenna. San Marino is proud of its rich historic heritage, has a UNESCO status and has three castles. This land-locked microstate is the world’s oldest surviving republic, and its capital city stands on the gorgeous Mount Titano. Make sure you visit San Marino if you spend a few days in Ravenna – you will not regret it.

San Marino day trip

 

Now you know what the best things to do in Ravenna are!

Have you been to Ravenna in Italy? Did we miss anything? Please let us know in the comments below. If you like our post, save it to Pinterest.

 Ravenna Italy

Pin the best Ravenna mosaics for later!

 

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