Located in Emilia-Romagna in northern Italy, Ravenna is one of the most impressive yet overlooked cities in the country, with a rich cultural heritage and monuments of truly global importance.

The city’s current standing stems from its ancient history, incorporated into the Roman Republic in 89 BC and inaugurating a period of fame and prosperity. A crucial part both of the Republic and the Empire, Ravenna was the site where Julius Caesar assembled his troops before crossing the Rubicon in 49 BC, home of the vital Clase Imperial harbour and the remarkable 70 km long aqueduct constructed under Trajan’s rule and even the seat of the Empire itself briefly in 402 AD. Briefly controlled in the post-Empire period by the Ostrogoths, Ravenna was later established as the seat of Byzantine government in Italy (the so-called Exarchate of Ravenna) and a second golden age commenced for the city, ending in the 8th century with the Lombard takeover.

Although the city’s history thereafter boils down to little more than shifts from Papal control to Venice and back again before incorporation into the new Italy in 1861, Ravenna remains a prominent cultural spot thanks to its incredible and beautifully preserved architecture. Coupled with fine local gastronomy and crafts, it’s the perfect location for any visitor.


Ravenna’s cultural worth stems from its eight early Christian monuments, reflected in their classification on the UNESCO World Heritage List. The most famous of these is unquestionably the Basilica of San Vitale in the Via Frandrini Benedetto. Built in 548 AD, the octagonal plan is accompanied by a façade beautifully mingling Roman and Byzantine influences. However, the interior surpasses this sight, being emblazoned with truly remarkable mosaics depicting events in the reign of Justinian I. Indeed, the Basilica is the only standing church built during his reign, making it a sight of high historical importance.

Among the other sights is the Neonian Baptistery in the Piazza Duomo, built around 430 AD and containing a marvellous ceiling mosaic depicting a Biblical scene. In a similar vein, the Mausoleum of Galla Placida in the Via Frandrini Benedetto, also built in 430 AD in the shape of a Greek cross, is notable both for its mosaic-covered cupola and also for containing the tomb of the aforementioned daughter of Emperor Valentinian I. Somewhat different is the Mausoleum of Theodoric in the Via Delle Industrie, built around 520 AD in Gothic style and, in macabre fashion, courtesy of Theodoric the Great himself.

However, even a cursory stroll through Ravenna will lead to an encounter with some of these renowned buildings, providing some of the best Byzantine art in the world.

Other religious buildings of interest include the Basilica of St. Francis, rebuilt in the 10th and 11th centuries and holding the tomb of the great poet Dante Alighieri (who died in Ravenna in 1321), and the 18th century Church of Santa Eufemia, providing access to the fine Byzantine mosaics of the 6th century Stone Carpets Domus.

The main secular building in Ravenna is the Rocca Brancaleone Castle. Built by the Venetians in 1457, the site is now a public park and a perfect place for a stroll.

Ravenna houses a number of museums including the National Museum in the Via Frandrini Benedetto (containing collections of Renaissance icons and historical weapons as well as the 15th century Santa Chiara cycle of frescos), the City Art Gallery in the Via Di Roma (with contemporary exhibitions and a permanent historical art collection) and the Dante Museum in the Piazzale Dante (filled with works inspired by the poet and his writings).

The city enjoys a number of festivals throughout the year, the most prominent of which being the Ravenna Music Festival between April and July, and the Ravenna Bella di Sera festival in August, packed with theatrical and musical performances.


Considering its history, mosaic workshops unsurprisingly proliferate all across Ravenna, with plenty of beautifully ornate pieces available to buy. Check out the Via Faentina and the Via G. Rossi for some of these specialist craftworks.

An open-air market takes place in Ravenna in the Piazza A. Costa regularly.

Nightlife and Eating Out

The regional Emilia-Romagna cuisine is some of the best in Italy, with beautiful speciality dishes like ragù alla Romagnola (Romagnese meat and vegetables), Romagnese Cappeletti and, more specific to Ravenna, the fantastic crepe-like Piadina bread. The city is also famous for its local wines, so you’re guaranteed a great gastronomic experience.

For more traditional cuisine, the Ristorante La Gardela on the Via Ponte Marino and the Antica Trattoria al Gallo on the Via Maggiore are both highly recommended. That said, pizzerias like the Pizzeria Al Portico in the Via Faentina are fantastic if you want something more familiar. You can also find international alternatives, like Chinese at Nan Jing in the Via Maggiore.

Ravenna has a relatively quiet nightlife compared to the surrounding cities, but you can find many bars around the Piazza Einaudi as well as dancing at the Marina de Ravenna.

Alternatively, the shows at the Teatro Alighieri and the Teatro Rasi (in the Via Mariani and the Via di Roma respectively) are perfect if you want some high culture.

Tourist Information

Ravenna Tourist OfficeVia Salara, 8RavennaTel: +39 (0)544 35755turismo@comune.ravenna.it


Although Ravenna does have its own Ravenna Airport, the nearest international airport is Bologna Airport. Buses and trains can both be used from the airport to reach Ravenna itself, and international and domestic connecting flights are available regularly to destinations in the continent.

British Airways (London-Gatwick) use Bologna to and from British destinations.

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