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If Ravenna were a Man surely its heart, in the broadest sense of the term, would be to the height of Piazza del Popolo (People’s Square). The name speaks clearly about the spirit of the city: Ravenna belongs to the people, and certainly its color is the bright bloody red of the poppies that color its country in summer.
Unfortunately this spirit in recent years has gone hiding a bit (maybe in those dirt roads outside of the city) but fortunately it has never disappeared: it hovers in our streets and buildings and our eyes still inflame with passion talking about certain subjects.
Sometimes I get lost into myself and I just need to ride my bike towards Piazza del Popolo to start seeing the world into the right light. Usually I stop in the center of the square leaning on my bike and I close my eyes and hear. I hear the old men under Palazzo Merlato, as we call the Venetian building located in the northwest corner, talking in the local dialect, they could stay there all day long cursing the government and the rain.
And I hear the voices of the tourists that stand between the columns over which Saint Apollinaris and Saint Vitale oversee the square and try to decide where to get lost in the streets of the center of my beautiful city.
Years ago on the benches at the foot of the clock tower and the gates of the Prefecture, you could only meet locals, now I hear the aspirated and windy accents of the East mixed with thecold and hard ones of Eastern Europe in a tasty multiethnic and multicultural soup that makes me love even more Ravenna.
And I hear the children screaming and running and playing and filling the air with their laughter louder than the sound of the hurried footsteps of employees entering the bank whose headquarter is the renovated Palazzo Rasponi del Sale.
Even the smells tell something about Ravenna, like the warm aroma of coffee that slips out of the new bars which have arosen at the sides of Palazzo Comunale and glitter like jewels adorning these old hands. Personally I can't imagine the square without the old Bar Roma with its yellow sign on, which was less modern and stylish than the new ones that put it out to pasture, but kept the authentic air of a real bar of province in Federico Fellini style.
And just before opening my eyes, I see the Christmas tree which is taken here and decorated by the municipality every year for the holidays, with its lights it instills the joy in the youngsters and perhaps it moves the grownups too. Yes, because in the middle of the square the 15th February of the 1849 was planted the freedom tree (symbol of the French Revolution and the liberal and republican ideology) in honor of the Roman Republic founded in those days and forerunner of the younger - of almost a hundred years - Italian Republic. Now the tree (which was actually nothing more than a pole topped by the red Phrygian cap, a symbol of the revolution) has been replaced by a plaque at the center of the square to remind that Ravenna is free and belongs to the people likewise its main square.
How to get there
On foot: 10 minutes from the railway station
By bus: all the lines that stop at the railway station and Piazza dei Caduti per la Libertà
By car: the closes parking lots are in Largo Firenze and Via Guidarelli