Day Trip to Ravenna, Italy

Ravenna has an incredibly rich collection of mosaics from the 5th and 6th centuries. The city has eight UNESCO World Heritage sites.  Ravenna was an easy train ride from our hub city, Bologna. We did our own walking tour, generally following Rick Steves suggestions.

DSC02098 C  DSC02096 C Arian Bapistery

The Arian Baptistery was built around 526.  The mosaic ceiling is a rare survivor.  Most Arian art was destroyed when Emperor Justinian and the Nicenes took control of the city in 540.  It was interesting to learn how the Arians saw Jesus’ humanity and divinity differently than the way the mainstream of the time did, hence the need for the council at Nicaea and the Nicene Creed.  Here’s a link if you’d like to learn more.  

Unlike other art forms, Mosaics do not fade as they age so the colors are as clear and bright as the day they were made.  It’s hard to believe they are 1500 years old!  Notice the dove spitting divinity on the head of Jesus at his baptism.

DSC02097 C

Piazza del Popolo was created by the Venetians in the 15th century.

DSC02099 C Piazza del Popolo

DSC02100 C  DSC02101 C

The Neonian Baptistery dates from around the year 400.

DSC02122 C  DSC02114 C

DSC02112 C  DSC02105 C Neonian Bapistery

The two baptisteries were beautiful but they were only the appetizer.  The main dish was the Basilica di San Vitale.

DSC02129 C San Vitale  DSC02154 C

DSC02142 -3 C Stitch

This basilica was built around 540, just after the fall of Rome.  It is astonishingly covered with tiny gold and glass mosaics.

DSC02138 C  DSC02146 C

DSC02136 C  DSC02147 C

DSC02149 C  DSC02137 C

Rick Steves’ Ravenna guide says the Viennese artist Gustav Klimt sat right here around 1900 and was inspired by the glint of the light on the gold leaf.

DSC02151 C Mausoleum of Galla Placidia

Across the courtyard from the Basilica is the Mausoleum of Galla Placidia.  Here are the oldest mosaics in Ravenna.  95% of these mosaics are originals.  Galla Placidia was the daughter, sister and mother of Roman emperors.  She died in Rome around 450 and her body was never returned to Ravenna.  

DSC02163 C  DSC02166 C

DSC02165 C  DSC02158 C

DSC02156 C  DSC02164 C

So much detail in such a small space leaves you in awe.

Other sites are also in walking distance through Ravenna’s attractive streets.

DSC02127 C  DSC02128 C

DSC02168 C  DSC02167 C

This is the tomb of Dante.  He was exiled from Florence and spent the rest of his life in Ravenna. 

DSC02172 C  DSC02171 C Dante's Tomb

In the garden next door is a mound where Dante’s bones were hidden during WW II.

DSC02173 C

DSC02180 C

The Basilica di Sant’Apollinare Nuovo was started around 500 as the Palace Church of King Theodoric of the Goths.  He decorated it with scenes of himself and his palace amid Christ and the saints.  Some of these scenes survive but most are Byzantine, from the mid-500s.    

DSC02183 C

The Baroque altar was added 1000 years later.

DSC02185 C  DSC02189 C

DSC02182 C  DSC02188 C

DSC02190 C

DSC02162 C1 

I’m afraid my pictures do not do justice to the mosaics of Ravenna.  It is definitely worth a trip if your travels take you nearby.  They are exquisite.

About graciamc

Gracia's Travels is a photo blog. I always take too many pictures on trips so I justify my compulsion with this blog! The blog is mostly photos - they tell the best part of the story. Please contact me if you would like to use any of my photos.
This entry was posted in Italy, Ravenna and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to Day Trip to Ravenna, Italy

  1. Mary Holm or Art Baldwin says:

    Your blog makes me want to go back to Ravenna even more than I already did! We had too little time there – only 1 night. Aren’t there some baths there, too? I seem to recall walking next to newly-excavated mosaics with more beautiful scenes.


    Date: Tue, 17 Feb 2015 21:34:37 +0000 To:

    • graciamc says:

      Hi Mary,
      I don’t remember any baths. There was a place called the House of Stone Carpets where mosaic floors were discovered more recently. We skipped that, not enough time to see everything!

  2. Janet Freeman says:

    The mosaics are stunningly beautiful, Gracia. It is hard to have words to describe these beautiful places.

  3. Kathy Tanner says:

    Gracia, I am in awe of your photos. The Basilicas in Italy are beyond words, Rome the most outstanding, that I have seen. But the one you posted. Di San Vitale captured so well. Now I am wondering what kind of camera you used.

    • graciamc says:

      Thanks, Kathy. I have a small Sony DSC-H20 camera that is several years old. Nothing fancy at all but I do know how to use most of it’s features. My husband/tour guide moves along quickly so I don’t get to spend time planning shots. I use a computer program after the trip to fix things I can’t control on site. And almost every photo can be improved with good cropping.

  4. ishitasood says:

    Beautiful post! 🙂 I can’t get enough of it. I blog on Italy at

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s