Located on the eastern coast of Italy in-between San Marino and Bologna, Ravenna serves as the capital of the province on Ravenna and is one of the larger cities in the Emilia-Romagna region of the country. Throughout history, Ravenna has served as an extremely important city in many different empires including the capital of the Western Roman Empire and the capital of the Kingdom of the Ostrogoths.
Due to this elaborate ancient history, Ravenna has a plethora of fantastic historical buildings and several UNESCO World Heritage Sites – its Byzantine era architecture and mosaics are some of the best preserved in the country. With access too many fantastic coastal resorts and its close proximity to Bologna, Florence and the Adriatic Sea, Ravenna remains a popular tourist destination and has a myriad of wonderful attractions.
In the center of the city, you can visit a fine selection of decorative churches and basilicas, walk through the impressive squares, or even see the tomb of the legendary writer Dante Alighieri. Furthermore, the Ravenna Marina is a wonderful coastal resort that offers the chance to relax and soak up the blazing Adriatic sun.
Lets explore the best things to do in Ravenna:
1. Neonian Baptistery
As the most ancient building that remains standing in Ravenna, the Baptistery of Neon is an extremely important religious site and was created on the site of a Roman Bath complex.
Located next to the Cappella di San Andrea, the baptistery has an octagonal design and a fairly plain exterior; the inside however is a completely different story.
Inside the structure there is an absolutely stunning series of coloured mosaics that depict religious scenes such as John baptizing Jesus, and a procession of the twelve apostles.
Listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Baptistery is truly magnificent and the detailed artwork will leave you stunned.
2. Basilica di San Vitale
Not far from the Neonian Baptistery is the Basilica di San Vitale – This wonderful structure has a somewhat plain exterior and features a similar design and architecture to the Baptistery and has a large octagonal central dome.
As with the Baptistery, the exterior is not the main attraction however – the interior features some amazing Mosaics and decoration and is considered one of the finest examples of Byzantine artwork in Italy.
You will not believe the sheer amount of detail, colour and intricate decoration that is lavished on practically every surface of the church – each part of the walls and arches displays a different religious scene or person and the level of sophistication is unreal.
3. Mausoleum of Galla Placidia
Another UNESCO World Heritage site, the Mausoleum of Galla Placidia is located in the same grounds as the Basilica di San Vitale and features some gorgeous interior artwork that is considered one of the best preserved and artistically perfect examples standing today.
Dedicated to Galla Placidia who was the daughter of the Roman Emperor Theodosius I, this mausoleum is a simple structure that features various iconic designs and allegorical motifs such as the ceiling that represents the garden of Eden.
Although this structure was created thousands of years ago, it stands today in immaculate condition and is another of Ravenna’s treasures.
4. Sant’Apollinare Nuovo
Created by King Theodoric the Great during the 6th century, this ancient palace was originally dedicated to Christ the Redeemer in 504 AD. Located in the eastern part of the old historic town, this structure is easily accessible on foot, and is a great attraction to see during a walking tour of Ravenna.
A large bell tower stands to the right of the building and the front entrance is adorned with stone arches.
As with the other major religious and historical buildings in the city, the interior of this building features some fantastic mosaics.
On both walls, there is a series of coloured mosaics that depict Jesus miracles as told from the Bible.
5. Basilica di San Francesco
This church might not be as grand as the other structures in Ravenna, but it stills holds major significance and contains some important artefacts and tombs.
You can find this charming structure in-between the Neonian Baptistery and the Basilica di Sant’Apollinare.
Created in the 9th century, this structure has been modified and added to over the years and the bell tower was not added until the 10th century.
Whilst there is little decoration inside, the church does feature a somewhat eerie crypt that is often flooded with water and the tomb of Liberia III who was a 5th century bishop.
6. Museo Nazionale Ravenna
Housed within the cloisters of the old Benedictine Monaestery that joins onto San Vitale, the National Museum of Ravenna has a wonderful collection of art, artefacts and relics from various time periods.
Collected from the 18th century onwards, this immense collection includes decorated tombs, oriental marble capitals, textiles, carved ivories and a fascinating selection of ancient weaponry.
Furthermore, there is various artefacts from the 8 different UNESCO World Heritage sites in Ravenna such as the Basilica di San Francesco.
7. Tomb of Theodoric
Theodoric has huge significance in Ravenna and served as the King of the Ostrogoths during the 6the century.
Ravenna was a major stronghold of his kingdom and he chose the city as his eternal resting place and thus ordered the construction of his grand mausoleum.
Located within the Parco di Teodorico, the structure is built of stone and has stood for nearly 1500 years.
The roof of this structure is made from a staggering 300ton Istrian stone that is 10m in diameter.
Although the inside is quite plain and sparsely decorated, this is a poignant place to visit nonetheless.
8. Marina di Ravenna
To the immediate north east of Ravenna is the marina that lies on the Adriatic coast of Italy.
This charming coastal resort is the perfect place to escape the city and take in some sun, sea air and relaxation.
At the northern edge of the town is the fascinating harbour that features a plethora of fishing and sailing boats, whilst at the southern edge is a long stretch of golden beach.
On this stretch you can find a series of hotels, beach bars, restaurants and amenities all equipped to provide you with a perfect slice of Italian beach life.
9. Tomb of Dante Alighieri
Dante Alighieri was a legendary Italian poet who is famous for his literary works, most notably the Divine Comedy which details Dante’s journey through Hell, Purgatory and eventually to Paradise.
He is also noted for bringing prominence to the Italian language at a time when regional variations meant that communication was often difficult between different communes etc.
The real tomb of Dante can be found in Ravenna whilst a memorial is situated in Florence.
This simple marble structure that holds Dante’s bones is an important place of burial and one of Ravenna’s treasured relics.
10. Arian Baptistery
The Arian Baptistery completes the fantastic series of beautifully decorated religious structures within Ravenna and was built by the important Theodoric the Great.
You can find this magnificent baptistery in close proximity to the Piazza del Popolo, next to the Chiesa dello Spirito Santo.
Created in the 6th century at the same time that many of Ravenna’s other important structures were erected, this building features an octagonal design that is typical of the style in the city.
Inside, the baptistery is lavishly decorated and its most impressive feature is the highly detailed ceiling mosaic that depicts the baptism of Jesus Christ.
This structure truly is a fine example of Arian religious artwork.
11. Visit San Marino
When visiting Ravenna, you have the unique opportunity to visit one of the smallest countries in the world – San Marino.
Located approximately an hours drive to the south of Ravenna, this microstate is a land-locked nation that has a population of just 33,200. Although only a small nation, it is one of the wealthiest countries per capita in the world.
At the centre of San Marino stands the towering Mount Titano and the epic fortress of Guaita and this is one of the main attractions of the country.
Other notable sites include the San Marino Cathedral, the aerial tramway to the top of the mountain, and the Palazzo Pubblico.
Located approximately 34 minutes to the south east of Ravenna on the coast is the charming resort town of Cesenatico.
A long stretch of golden beach full of soft sand awaits those who travel to this pleasant place, and a host of sun loungers and amenities.
Resort establishments such as the Diamanti Beach Village and Bagno Marconi have outdoor pools and water slides, whilst along the main promenade is a plethora of restaurants, amusements and hotels.
Don’t forget to walk along the Piazza Andrea Costa and see the ornate Grand Hotel Cesenatico.
13. Piazza del Popolo
Ravenna has several delightful squares and one of the busiest and most significant is the Piazza del Popolo.
Located in the centre of the historic old town, this square is in walking distance from the Basilica di San Francesco and the Basilia di Sant’Apollinare.
On this square, you can find several significant structures including the Comune di Ravenna and the Ravenna territorial government building.
Aside from the fantastic architecture, there is also a series of restaurants with outdoor seating.
14. Sample a fine Italian meal at Trattoria La Rustica
During your stay in Ravenna it is advisable to try some local cuisine and there is no better place to try it than at the Trattoria La Rustica restaurant.
Located on Via Massimo D’Azeglio in close proximity to the Basilica of San Vitale, this delightful eatery features a wonderful menu and a great atmosphere.
Ingredients are locally sourced and meals are created in traditional Ravenna methods.
You can enjoy a dish of pasta, various meats, and a fantastic selection of starters, plus an extensive wine selection, all delivered by friendly staff.
15. Mirabilandia Theme Park
There is no better place in the region to have a little family fun than the Mirabilandia Theme Park.
Located to the south east of Ravenna next to Lago Standiana, this wonderful theme park is packed full of fun rides and attractions.
As the most visited park in Italy, some of its most renowned rides include Divertical, Ispeed, Katun and the Eurowheel.
The Ispeed rollercoaster launches you at 70mpg through a series of twists and turns, whilst the Eurowheel is the second tallest on the continent at 90m in height.
There is also a series of thrill rides and even a stunt show that will keep you entertained for hours.