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Ravenna Travel Guide: Travel Tips for Italy’s Mosaic City

WOW! Ravenna‘s tremendous mosaics will stun you at first sight. We never imagined the artistic treasures that the small town of Ravenna in the east of the Italian province Emilia-Romagna contained.

Ravenna’s mosiacs are a UNESCO World Heritage Site. And when you stand in front of them, you will quickly realise why. Precious gems and gold leaf sparkle in front of your eyes. The depictions, some of which are extraordinarily well preserved, are incredibly impressive, even for art laypeople like ourselves.

In this travel guide, we show you the main attractions in Ravenna for a day trip (or a longer stay). On top of that, as always, we provide our very own personal tips for your trip.

Ravenna Travel Guide

1. Ravenna: Overview of Initial Travel Tips for the Mosaic City

What makes Ravenna so unique?

Ravenna is the mosaic capital of the world, so to speak. It isn’t for no reason that Ravenna’s mosaics from the Byzantine and early Christian times are a UNESCO World Heritage Site. A total of eight of Ravenna’s monumental buildings (and their mosaics) belong to this world cultural heritage ensemble.  

The abundance of artistic treasures is impressive – as is the fact that many of these mosaics are so well preserved. Here we think first and foremost of the mosaic in the gigantic Basilica di San Vitale as well as the adjoining Mausoleum der Galla Placidia. Both are true architectural masterpieces!

Aside from the art history aspect of Ravenna, we also really enjoyed the lively flair of the city. With such a rich cultural history, you would expect a thoroughly touristic town centre. However, the opposite is true.

How much time do I need for the most beautiful sights in Ravenna?

Many tourists visit Ravenna as part of a day trip – from Bologna or Rimini. Because Ravenna is rather compact, it allows you have a good explore of the main sights in just a few hours.

There is a combo ticket for five of the main building monuments in Ravenna (more info about this soon). The offer the perfect programme for a day trip to Ravenna. In addition, you can also visit one or two other sight while there. The main square, called Piazza del Popolo, is worth visiting.

If you have more time, you can of course have a more relaxing trip. In this respect, we wouldn’t be opposed to spending one or two nights in Ravenna. You can, for example, take a road trop through Emilia-Romagna.

Combo ticket for the main sights & mosaics

Good to know: there is a combo ticket for five of the main sights and mosaics in Ravenna. More precisely, the combo ticket is valid for three sights (10.50 euros). However, an additional two euros (so 12.50 euros altogether) grants you entry into all five sights. And we would also really warmly recommend it.

Included are:

  • Basilica di San Vitale
  • Mausoleum der Galla Placidia
  • Basilica di Sant’Apollinare Nuovo
  • Battistero Neoniano
  • Museo Arcivescovile e Cappella di Sant’Andrea

You can purchase your combo ticket right by each sight. (Alternatively, it is also possible to buy the ticket online in advance – see the link below.)

You can find more info about prices and opening times here: Ravenna Mosaics (official website)

Ravenna Sights Mosaics

2. Ravenna Travel Guide: The Most Beautiful Sights & Mosaics in Ravenna

Basilica di San Vitale

Let’s start with one of the most outstanding sights of all in Ravenna, the gigantic Basilica di San Vitale. The antique early-Byzantine church is already impressive just to observe from the outside. However, its true treasure is contained on the inside.

Once inside, you can’t help but be amazed the entire time. The tremendous church interior is decorated with the most artistic mosaics and frescoes.

The mosaic altar is especially famous, with its splendid colours incredibly well preserved. Among other things, the scenes of the old testament are depicted. The portraits of Emperor Justinian and his wife Theodora are also significant.

Ravenna Basilica di San Vitale

Mausoleum der Galla Placidia

Ravenna’s next top attraction can be found in the same area as the Basilica di San Vitale: the Mausoleum der Galla Placidia. This Byzantian building was erected as the tomb of the Empress Galla Placidia in the 5th Century. However, she was probably never buried here.

The magnificent, deep blue, stary night sky shines down on you from the vaulted ceiling. This display of stars is among the most beautiful of late antiquity. The mosaics are somewhat older than the basilica and are therefore considered to be the oldest in Ravenna. 

Important tip: The Mausoleum der Galla Placidia is not part of the standard combo ticket. However, the additional two euros (which also goes for the Battistero Neoniano) is definitely worth it! Because the Mausoleum is so small and only a few people can be there at a time, you need to select a timeslot when purchasing your ticket.

Basilica di Sant’Apollinare Nuovo

The third mosaic highlight in the package is the Basilica di Sant’Apollinare Nuovo. It is located east of Ravenna’s old town. You can reach it from San Vitale after a relaxing 10 minute stroll. (It is best you take the route via the Via Cavour and the main square, the Piazza del Popolo.)

The Basilica di Sant’Apollinare Nuovo has enormous dimensions. Once you enter, the gigantic church interior awaits you. The mosaics are also the highlight here. The entire interior was once decorated, today only the mosaics in the central nave remain.

Basilica di Sant Apollinare Nuovo

Battistero Neoniano (Neon Baptistery)

The Battistero Neoniano is small but mighty. It is part of the cathedral and is considered the oldest preserved building in Ravenna – at least in terms of when construction began.

The wall and ceiling mosaics in the interior are gigantic. They are among the most beautiful in Ravenna. In the centre of the baptistery is located the octagonal baptismal font made of Greek marble and purple stone. The oldest parts date back to the 13th Century.

Important tip: Just like the Mausoleum der Galla Placidia, the Battistero Neoniano is also not part of the standard combo ticket. You also need to select a timeslot when you purchase your ticket here, due to limited parking spots.

Ravenna Battistero Neoniano

Museo Arcivescovile e Cappella di Sant’Andrea

The fifth and last sight on the combo ticket is the Archbishop’s Museum, which also contains the Archbishop’s Chapel. Of all the highlights, this one appealed to us the least. Perhaps it was due to the fact that we were somewhat “oversaturated” with the many impressions by the end.

The museum is quite extensive. If you have a good look at everything, you could easily spend an hour here. The highlight in our eyes is certainly the chapel (Capella di Sant’Andrea). It is a little hidden and smaller than expected, but the mosaics are fantastic.

Piazza del Popolo

Ravenna’s main square is also well worth visiting. The Piazza del Popolo is the heart of Ravenna’s old town. It is not the most spectacular square in Italy, but still pretty to look at.

The square is surrounded by several gems. The Venetian style clock tower is particularly eye-catching. On sunny days people meet in the bars and cafés around the Piazza for a coffee or an aperol spritz.

Ravenna Piazza del Popolo

Dante Alighieri’s tomb

Just a stone’s throw away from the Piazza del Popolo is the resting place of the famous Italian poet and philosopher, Dante Alighieri. The tomb is rather inconspicuous at first sight. Although you will recognise it right away by the crowd of people gathering in front of it.

The Dante Musuem can be found across from the tomb. It is probably more for those who are interested in literature. The museum is located in a Franciscan monastery with a really pretty cloister. It is worth taking a peek inside the inner courtyard.

3. Culinary Tips for Ravenna: Cafés & Restaurants

In this chapter we provide you with some culinary recommendations for Ravenna. Are you still searching for a relaxing trattoria or a restaurant for a quick lunch? Then you can find our tips here.

  • Grinder Coffee Lab: Very hip café not far from the Basilica di Sant’Apollinare Nuovo. A good place for a quick snack and superb coffee.
  • Serafina: A bright, modern restaurant with a lot of wood in the centre of Ravenna. Lunch is served in the form of a buffet with several dishes on offer, from which you can put together your own platter.
  • Mercato Coperto: If you would like to take home a culinary souvenir, you are in good hands in this market hall. Mercato also has a spacious and very stylish restaurant.
  • Antica Trattoria Al Gallo 1909: Hugely popular, upscale, art nouveau trattoria close to the Basilica di San Vitale.

4. Staying the Night in Ravenna

Are you searching for accommodation for your time in Ravenna? Then we can warmly recommend M Club De Luxe B&B. A wonderful, personally run bed and breakfast awaits you here in the best part of Ravenna.

The accommodation is located in a fantastically renovated patrician house, right next to the famous Basilica San Vitale. All the other main attractions in Ravenna are just a stone’s throw away.

The entire house is tastefully decorated with an eye for detail. The carpark inside the accommodation’s courtyard is also very practical.

You can book your accommodation here: M Club De Luxe B&B

5. Additional Travel Tips: Getting There & Parking 

Getting there: where is Ravenna & how do I get there?

Ravenna is located in northern Italy, more precisely in the east of the Emilia-Romagna region. Ravenna was once even located at the sea. However, today the Adriatic coast is located about nine kilometres away, due to silt build up.

Ravenna is an ideal stop on a road trip through Italy. It is around an eight hour drive from Vienna and 6.5 hours from Munich. Many visit Ravenna as part of a day trip, e.g. from Rimini or Bologna (around 1 hour).

Ravenna does not have an airport. You usually travel there with your own car or a rental car (e.g. from the Bologna airport).

We always book our rental car here: Sunny Cars.

Parking in Ravenna

There are several public carparks on the outskirts of Ravenna’s old town. We ourselves parked our car at the “Parcheggio San Vitale” carpark, which we can really recommend. (Apparently the carpark is now called “Parcheggio Giustiniano”.) We’ve marked the location in the map below.

The price is just three euros for one day. Another bonus: you can reach the old town from the carpark in just a few minutes and stand directly in front of the Basilica di San Vitale. It could hardly be better.

6. Map: Overview of all the Sights in Ravenna

You can find an overview of all Ravenna’s sights and highlights of our travel guide on this map, so you can better orientate yourself. Our tip: simply click on the top right corner to open the map in the Google Maps app on your smartphone. That way you can comfortably navigate your way from A to B in Ravenna.

Disclaimer: Affiliate Links

This travel guide contains our personal recommendations in the form of affiliate links. If you book or buy something via the links, we will receive a small commission. This will not change the price for you at all. A million thanks from the both of us! 

Have you already been to Ravenna? Were you also amazed by the town’s sights and mosaics? We look forward to hearing about your experiences under this travel guide.

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