The love story between Teresa Guiccioli and the poet George Gordon Byron, as the final years of the poet Dante, are only some of the stories that took stage in the tiny streets of the historic centre of Ravenna.
Its magnificent mosaics and monuments inspired poets and travellers across the centuries and today eight places are recognised as UNESCO World Heritage sites. The following are the most important ones.
The bizantine mosaics
All you need to visit Ravenna is a bike or a comfortable pair of shoes. You can start from Porta Adriana, the entrance to via Cavour. After few meters, on your left, you’ll find the entrance to Basilica of San Vitale. Here you can see the amazing mosaics of the sumptuous cohort of the emperor Giustiniano and of his legendary wife Teodora. Royalty and beauty are emphasised by the gold used in the small mosaic pieces made out of glass.
Not far from there you can find the Mausoleum of Galla Placidia. When you walk into this building shaped as a Latin cross, turn your head up to the sky and you’ll be fascinated by the vault of golden stars. There are about 570 stars. You won’t be the only one to be amused by it, also Gabriele D’Annunzio was entranced by this deep blue in which a gold cross stands out.
Next recommended stop is the Battistero Neoniano, one of the oldest monuments in Ravenna that remains preserved in great conditions. Carl Gustav Jung, one of the fathers of the psychoanalysis was struck by the impact of the central medallion in which Jesus is half immersed in the transparent water of the Jordan River.
The itinerary of the mosaics leads you to via Roma, towards Sant’Apollinare Nuovo, the most characteristics and the most representative building of the byzantine art of Ravenna.
Getting a bit further (and farer) you can reach Basilica of Sant’Apollinare in Classe, just outside Ravenna. It was once next to the seaside, but today it is located beside the archaeological area of the ancient port of Classe, base of the antique Roman fleet and it’s open to the public.
Dante and the MAR
On the way back to the town, you can visit the small neoclassical temple that hosts the remains of Dante Alighieri. The poet, escaped from Florence, arrived in Ravenna where he died in 1321. The funerals were celebrated in the nearby church of San Francesco. Here, in the ancient apse that is now drowned, you can see red fishes swimming peacefully on the top of a floor decorated with mosaics.
From May to October, during the famous Ravenna Festival, numerous lectures, conferences, theatrical and literary performances are held in the kiosks of the Franciscan friars that are located near the church of San Francesco.
And if you like modern art, then you should visit the MAR, Art Museum of Ravenna, where there are many exhibitions and laboratories specially created to engage the children.