Many Great Examples Can Be Found In Ravenna The Mosaic Town
Renowned for its ancient mosaics, Ravenna was one of the towns on our list to visit from Igea Marina. By train it was an easy 45 minute, in second class, milk run trip. Rick Steves travel guides suggest that you could do Ravenna The Mosaic Town in 3 hours, but we factored in a little more time to make sure we could regularly stop for food and gelato!
The train dropped us off and we got pointed in the right direction for the major sites that were on our list. We stopped at the famous “yellow bikes” – free to use if you are a tourist. We saw a few more points to pick up the bikes but thought we would not be wandering too far afield to need bike transport. It was amazing to see how many local people of all sizes and ages were biking throughout all of this part of Italy.
I was silly enough to let David lead. For some unknown reason he had lost his navigational sense when we hit Italy and always seemed to be going in the wrong direction – and adamant that he was right. Good thing my offline maps with location info was always accurate! I let him walk us along Via Roma until we hit the old town gate and then we diverted back to our first target location. We did wonder why each town seemed to have a Via Roma – maybe the Italian equivalent of Main Street?
The advantage of wandering off the main paths was the opportunity to find small local cafe spots. The one we found was quite empty when we got there, but quickly filled with locals and what looked like the local literary crowd scribbling away in journals. We sat in the sun and felt Italian for our break.
Back on the main path we easily found the Basilica of San Vitale and got combined tickets that would cover the main sites in Ravenna. San Vitale is one of the remaining locations in Italy that clearly shows the Byzantine past. Built in an octagon shape, each alcove is different.
The main church altar area is decorated on all sides and the ceiling with intricate mosaic scenes, vivid and colourful representations of the landscape, plants and birds.
The centre dome rises high, equally resplendent in art. From the centre of the dome you can see the eight sides of the octagon and the unique decorations in each alcove.
Don’t forget to look down and admire the mosaic tiled floors and admire the onyx windows and marble pillars.
Before leaving the property we wandered back to the Mausoleum. It was limited to a 5 minute visit to protect the mosaics in the small enclosed space. This dark building was lighted indirectly to try to display the colours and intricate mosaics in each alcove.Before leaving the property we wandered back to the Mausoleum. It was limited to a 5 minute visit to protect the mosaics in the small enclosed space. This dark building was lighted indirectly to try to display the colours and intricate mosaics in each alcove.
Stopping for a brief glimpse in the shop across the street, we found modern themed mosaics designed to attract those less interested in ancient biblical mosaics.
Strolling a meandering path we arrived in Piazelle Picole, the busy centre square. We found a spot off to the side that still allowed people watching but even this spot was not safe from the sometimes pushy hawkers. A polite “no grazie” simply was not enough for some. Even this tourist town was gearing down for off season. The restaurant only had about half what was on the menu and our waitress apologetically explained they were working down the supplies. Had we chosen to eat in the main piazza it looked like we might have eaten better but we definitely would have had a better ice cream desert!
Starting to drag we headed for our last planned stop at the Basilica of Saint Apollinaire, dedicated to St. Apollinaris, patron saint of Ravenna. While the outside of the building is quite simple, it hides the remnants of yet another amazing example of the mosaics of Ravenna.
The mosaics along the hall of 24 marble columns topped with Byzantine carved capitals are marvellous examples of Byzantine art that have been well preserved.
We started to walk towards the large gardens and finally ran out of steam. We passed the ruins of Palazzo di Teodorico and took our last pics. The outside front facade is in remarkably good shape, although the back and inside have not survived as well. The gates were closed so we could not go in. In doing a little research, it appears that there are but fragments remaining of the mosaics that once adorned this palazzo. Most of the floors and walls were removed by Charlemagne to adorn his villa in Germany.
Managing to catch a train just before it departed, we said goodbye to this beautiful mosaic town and headed back to Igea Marina. It would be a good reminder to us of the long history of Italy and its heritage from many other cultures over the years.
Did you find the mosaics of Ravenna to be amazing? Did we miss a major site in our trip to Ravenna?