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There are certainly many reasons to spend a weekend or a week in Ravenna: a beach among the liveliest in the world, an excellent cuisine, a pine forest that have given suggestions to great writers, including Dante who rests in our city. Of course in this list can't miss the 8 monuments declared World Heritage sites by UNESCO. Many of these are embellished with mosaics that have no equal in the world and tell the story of a city that was a capital in ancient times, and a bridge between Eastern and Western world.
If you were my guest for a weekend in Ravenna looking for art and history, this is the tour I would recommend (with gastronomic tips which are a must of course! :))
Mausoleum of Galla Placidia
Basilica of Sant'Apollinare in Classe
Mausoleum of Thodoric
Basilica of San Vitale
A good day to be such must begin with a good breakfast.
Between traditional and American pastry spacialties in a delicate and dreamy atmmosphere Caffé Letterario is certainly a good place to get into the right mood for the weekend.
Did you leave early? In this case you have time for a little unplanned walkabout: a few kilometers from the basilica has been recently opened the archaeological park of the Ancient Port of Classe. A dive into the past when the sea flew through Ravenna and Classe had the most important fleet in the Adriatic sea.
Now it 's time to move beyond the Darsena (bus lines n. 5 and 90) to see the famous Mausoleum of Theodoric, king of the Goths who governed Ravenna in peace. The mausoleum, clear and solid in its forms, is framed by the green of a large park. If you like walking or lying in the sunshine this may be the opportunity for a relaxing break.
Hungry? It 's time to go to the old town for refreshment!
Street food: for a quick and cheap lunch in Ravenna there is always piadina.
There are many good ones in Ravenna, today I suggest the one made by Cupido, in a court of the central Via Cavour. If you want to take home some homemade piadina, they also sell it vacuum-packed.
The slow lunch break: the restaurant Rustichello and its Mitici (cappelletti with asparagus) are a fixture. It's simple and delicious dishes certainly will not disappoint you.
In the afternoon we visit two famous UNESCO monuments which are located one next to each other: the Basilica of San Vitale and the Mausoleum of Galla Placida.
Their mosaics are among the finest in the history of art, their colors and the special light reflections inspired poets and musicians, fascinate travelers from all over the world.
If you have loved the mosaics of San Vitale and Galla Placidia and you want to take them with you, the best reproductions can be found at EmmeDiMosaici. In this workshop you can find identical copies made with great skill and using the same type of materials and technique as the original. The mosaic artist Roberta also produces small flowers in mosaic sold at good prices.
On display you will also find the artworks of master Marco De Luca, one of the greatest mosaicists in the world.
For a dinner in the city center reserve a table at Osteria del Tempo Perso: refined cuisine of meat and seafood in an intimate and welcoming environment.
Baptistery of Neon
Archbishop or Sant'Andrea Chapel
Basilica of Sant'Apollinare Nuovo
The second day is dedicated to the discovery of other 4 UNESCO monuments. But not before having tasted the excellent pastry of Pasticceria al Duomo (personally I love the one with zabaglione stuffing!)
At a short distance from the bakery there is Piazza Duomo, where it stands the Baptistery of Neon decorated with blue and gold mosaics.
Very close to the baptistery there is the Archbishop's Museum, the Chapel of St. Andrew also fully adorned with mosaics is inside it.
Do not leave the museum without having admired the Throne of Maximian, a splendid example of early Christian sculpture in wood and ivory.
Then we move in Dante's zone, a place full of charm with is not a UNESCO sites but is worth a visit. Here lies the great poet Dante Alighieri, next to the church of San Francesco.
How to leave Ravenna without having stoppped at the temple of local cuisine? The Ca'de Vèn will amaze your eyes and satisfy your taste buds with cold cuts and cheese dishes served with piadina, its famous calzone with herbs and percorino cheese, and excellent traditional dishes.
Looking for an alternative lunch break? The bar and pastry shop Palumbo will cheer you up with simple dishes, overflowing sandwiches and an excellent Sicilian pastry.
Our tour ends with the visit of the last 2 Unesco monuments: Basilica of Sant'Apollinare Nuovo - which peeps out in Via di Roma and contains the largest antic mosaic cycle - and the Arian Baptistery, a small gem set in the streets of the old town.