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Ravenna – The City of Mosaics

Ravenna was our sixth port of call for our cruise. Throughout our cruise we had visited many popular cities that everyone talks about, but we have never heard anyone talk about Ravenna before, which is such a shame. Ravenna is a beautiful city known for their history, culture and early Christian and Byzantine mosaics. Our day in Ravenna was spent wandering throughout the city in search for the mosaics in five different locations – Mausoleum of Galla Placidia, Basilica of San Vitale, Basilica of Sant’Apollinare Nuovo, Neonian Baptistery and Archiepiscopal Museum and the Chapel of St. Andrew.

Piadinas and Sorbet!

First thing first, food and drinks! We walked to Ravenna’s Piazza del Popolo and shared some refreshing frozen sorbet in the summer heat – coffee and lemon. The coffee one was Shelby’s and ended up being ten times better than my lemon. Italians sure know how to make their coffee, it was delicious! Since I am the big sister, I definitely one upped my little sister and almost finished her coffee sorbet. When it comes to dessert I do not play nice. During the entire cruise, my cousins, Angela and Maria, kept raving about piadinas, a known Italian thin flatbread sandwich. For our first piadina we chose wisely, a nutella piadina and it was tasty! Not a bad way to start our day in Ravenna.

After we finished our snacks we went to Opera di Religione della Diocesi di Ravenna, where we purchased a self walking tour to discover five UNESCO World Heritage Sites for €8.50 per person. In addition to receiving our tickets we were also provided a map listing the sites along a paved trail to follow – no GPS needed as the map was very helpful.

Opera di Religione della Diocesi di Ravenna
48121 Ravenna, P.zza Arcivescovado, 1

Mausoleum of Galla Placidia

The Mausoleum of Galla Placidia is a Christian funerary monument that has mosaic art embracing faith and the transition of passage from life in time to life eternal. It is known for the cupola which has mosaics that symbolizes the sky. The cupola is covered in blue with 570 golden stars with a glorious cross, the Christian symbol of the resurrection.

Basilica of San Vitale

The Basilica of San Vitale is a place of contemplation and a symbol of Archiepiscopal Chancellery of Ravenna. It is famous for its mosaics commissioned by Archbishop Maximian (546/556 AD), and has the most colorful apse of mosaics. There is a mosaic at the focal point of the apse that exhibits Christ in the center with archangels, Michael and Gabriel by his side. The basilica and the mosaics inside are truly glorious.

Basilica of Sant’Apollinare Nuovo

The Basilica of Sant’Apollinare Nuovo is an Arian church that was originally dedicated in 504 AD to “Christ the Redeemer”. The basilica has a walkway in the center with archways on both sides. On both sides are three sections of mosaics: the upper brand, middle brand and lower brand. The mosaics on the left of the upper brand depicts Jesus’ miracles and parables, while the mosaics on the right depict the Passion and Resurrection. The middle brand contains sixteen prophets on both sides in celebration of the Book to confirm the importance of Prophets. The lower brand on the left has a procession of twenty-two Virgins of the Byzantine period, led by the Three Magi, while the right has a procession of twenty-six Martyrs, led by Saint Martin.

Neonian Baptistery

The Leonian Baptistery is famous for its three banded mosaic in the cupola, which was commissioned by Bishop Neonius. The first band (center), showcases the baptism of Christ. The second band (and largest), represents the twelve apostles led by their respective leaders, Peter and Paul. The third band represents the heavenly garden, the Kingdom of god and destiny for the neophytes baptised in the Neonian Baptistery.

Archiepiscopal Museum and the Chapel of St. Andrew

The Archiepiscopal Museum contains relics and fragments of mosaics that were preserved from the first cathedral church and the Chapel of St. Andrew. The relics and fragments of mosaics were unlike the colorful and vibrant mosaics we had seen in Ravenna all day long. They were more ancient looking, which should come to no surprise since they were constructed around AD 500. The Archbishop’s Chapel inside the museum is the oldest surviving private Christian oratory, thus making it a UNESCO World Cultural Heritage site. Unfortunately, the museum does not allow pictures inside to preserve the relics.

Dante’s Tomb

Besides the mosaics, Ravenna has one more remarkable site, Dante’s Tomb. The famous Italian poet lived his last years in Ravenna since he was exiled from his hometown in Florence, therefore he was buried in Ravenna. It was also near the Archiepiscopal Museum and the Chapel of St. Andrew, so we took the opportunity to see the well known tomb.

Overall, we enjoyed our day walking through Ravenna, learning the city’s culture and history through their marvelous mosaics.




  • Medha Verma

    Discover five UNESCO World Heritage Sites for €8.50 per person? Sounds inexpensive! And the coffee and lime sorbet sounds yummy 😀

    • oursweetadventures

      It most certainly was yummy! Yes, it was an inexpensive city in general.

  • wow every place you went to was so beautiful. It’s always so nice to be able to marvel at art that is so intricate. I feel like if I went I could’ve just stared at each mosaic for hours. also nutella is always a good choice to start the day off with

    • oursweetadventures

      The mosaics were so beautiful! I used to do mosaic art as a kid in school and always enjoyed it, so to see it in Ravenna was really cool. I too could have stared at the mosaics for hours. And ah yes, you can never go wrong with nutella !

  • Megan

    These are just gorgeous! This is completely worth a visit, I would love to bring my camera and spend a day browsing these. Beautiful.

    • oursweetadventures

      You totally should! It sounds like you would really enjoy it here. All you need is a day too. If your in the Emilia Romagna region you could do this as a nice day trip.

  • Clare

    I have never heard of Ravenna before but it looks like a stunning place to visit. The mosaics look amazing and I would love to visit these places. The churches look stunning. I was in a monastery the other day in Montenegro with stunning mosaics too, they can look so stunning.

    • oursweetadventures

      In your Montenegro, thats awesome! Be sure to stop in Kotor and hike the fortress, its amazing!

  • Ragini Puri

    Wow! Ravenna sure is a history and architecture lover’s delight! Had never heard about Ravenna before but after seeing the photos of the heritage treasure trove this place boasts of, I’m sure digging up more details about this place.
    Thank you much for writing in such detail about Ravenna, Christina!

    • oursweetadventures

      Aww it is my pleasure! I am glad to hear you enjoyed it. We had not heard of Ravenna either, but are glad our cruise had this as a port of call. It was a nice hidden treasure.

  • Flo

    Why have I never heard of Ravenna before? The basilica looks amazing and I’d love to visit the tomb of Dante. Thanks for sharing this hidden gem!

    • oursweetadventures

      Do not worry – we had not heard of it either! We are so glad it was a port of call for our cruise because it was such a beautiful city. Glad you enjoyed our post and hope you get the chance to visit one day.

  • Michelle D

    Wow these sites are beautiful! Insane that a UNESCO was only 8.50, great deal!! P.S. Nutella is my undoing ughh!

    • oursweetadventures

      Yes, and not just one UNESCO, but five! Even the nutella was inexpensive 😉

  • Anne

    I’d never heard of this place but the murals are incredible. Will have to check it out on my next trip

    • oursweetadventures

      All you need is a day here. If your in the Emilia Romagna region you could do this as a nice day trip.

  • Elena

    As a traveler I am ashamed to admit that I have never heard of Ravenna before. I guess I will add another place to my bucket list 🙂

    • oursweetadventures

      Do not worry, a lot of people have not heard about Ravenna! I guess it is Italy’s best kept secret 🙂

  • Utkarsh

    This is the first time I’ve heard of Ravenna and oh boy! it is already on my wishlist!
    The mosaic art is hard to believe. Looks like a beautifully detailed painting. Keep showing us such hidden gems!

    • oursweetadventures

      Aww we are delighted to hear that! I know – we could not believe it was mosaic art either because of the fine details, truly incredible. We will do our best! Thanks for reading and following along our adventures.

  • John

    Wow! This place is incredible! The buildings are unbelievably gorgeous, and Dante’s tomb?! I gotta see this place one day! Definitely adding Ravenna to my list of places to go.

    • oursweetadventures

      That is excellent news! It was really a cool city to visit.

  • Lindsay M

    I haven’t heard much about Ravenna before, but it looks absolutely stunning! I’ll be moving to the Balkans this autumn and plan to take a trip or two it Italy while I am living there. I’m gonna have to get my butt to Ravenna to see the mosaics for myself – they are gorgeous!

    • oursweetadventures

      Oh it is definitely a short distance from your then. You will really enjoy it here. Also, since you are going to the Balkans region soon, be sure to check out Kotor, Montenegro. It is a beautiful city. We have a post about it here and if you have any questions please do not hesitate to contact us.

  • Halley Wright

    Why is Italy so amazing! I would love to visit this cute little town! It seems like y’all had so much fun!

    • oursweetadventures

      Italians do it better! We love Italy – every city is wonderful! We definitely enjoyed our day here in Ravenna.

  • Divyakshi Gupta

    In awe. really. was gaping at all the pictures! Such stunning architecture, I am short of words and to witness it in person in real wold be such a surreal experience. Loved the ceiling of the basilica and the Mausoleum of Galla Placidia <3 Thanks for sharing this with us!

    • oursweetadventures

      Aww we are delighted to hear you enjoyed our post so much. It sounds like you need to make a trip to Ravenna! You would absolutely love it!

  • Becca Talbot

    Like others that have commented, I too had never heard of Ravenna – but it looks like a beautiful city and some of the mosaics are amazing! Maybe one day I’ll get there too 🙂 x

    • oursweetadventures

      Haha yes, that seems to be the common theme, but we love that we are able to share something new to everyone!

  • Sally

    Sounds like a great place. I have never heard of it before. The pictures are beautiful as well. I love visiting ancient building and churches.

    • oursweetadventures

      Ravenna is definitely a beautiful hidden gem in Italy. It sounds like you would enjoy it here.

  • Agness of aTukTuk

    I love mosaics and these ones are really stunning! Excellent post!

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