Posted by: Debra Kolkka | September 27, 2020

Things to see and do in Ravenna

My first visit to Ravenna was more than 10 years ago. I don’t know why I waited so long to go back. The city is famous for its 5th and 6th century mosaics, but is it also a lively, vibrant place to spend some time.

Piazza del Popolo was our fitting introduction to the historical centre. The piazza was built by the Venetians between 1470 and 1480. In 1483 two columns were added, the Lion of St Mark beside the palace and St Apollinaris, patron saint of the city, on the other. In 1509 Pope Julius II conquered the city and replaced the lion with St Apollinaris and the other with St Vitalis.

Today the saints keep watch over the shops, cafes and streets leading away from the busy piazza.


It was lunchtime and we found the Mercato Centrale nearby where there were lots of delicious things to tempt us.

We settled on crescione, a filled bread, almost as popular as the piadina, a flat bread famous in the region of Emilia Romagna.

The Basilica di San Vitale, built in 547, was our first historical visit. We presented our tickets at the ticket office and headed outside the property to the entrance of the church. Covid has complicated entrances and exits.

We discovered why we had seen roosters all over town. The golden rooster on top of a roof is clearly the inspiration.

We passed another church and campanile on the way.

The outside of San Vitale has interesting angles.


San Vitale is an important example of early Christian Byzantine art and architecture. It is most famous for the Byzantine mosaics, the largest and best preserved outside Constantinople and the only church from the period of Emperor Justinian to survive virtually intact.

Emperor Justinian and his entourage.

Empress Theodora with a group of court women and eunuchs.

The floors are stunning as well.

Beside San Vitale is the exquisite Galla Placidia, built between 425 and 450. It was my favourite place in Ravenna.

The likely patron of the building, Aelia Galla Placidia, was not buried in the mausoleum. She died in Rome and was buried there. It is said that Cole Porter was taken by the beautiful night sky mosaic, with its glittering stars, on a visit in the late 1920s. He was inspired to write “Night and Day”.

The mausoleum is tiny and the ceiling quite low as the original floor was much lower, so it is possible to be close to the gorgeous mosaics which seem to be lit from within. The indigo blue ceiling sparkles with light.

In 1908 Vittorio Emanuele II, king of Italy, gave alabaster glass for each of the 14 little windows. They bring a beautiful glow to the interior, bringing  the stunning mosaics to life.

We wandered past the Duomo di Ravenna to the Battistero Neoniano, the oldest monument remaining in Ravenna.

It was partly erected on the site of a Roman bath. The octagonal structure was built during the late Western Roman Empire at the end of the 4th or the beginning of the 5th century. The mosaic decorations were added at the end of the 5th century. The original floor is now about 3 metres underground.

The ceiling mosaic represents John the Baptist baptising Jesus standing waist high in the Jordan River.

There is more to see from our Ravenna visit…to be continued.

Thank you Raffaela and Steven for the excellent planning and organisation of our fun trip!



  1. Deb, congratulations on this post – it is fabulous. How lovely you went with your three friends, who obviously enjoy, the stunning architecture, history and those glorious mosaics as much as you do. Lunch looked good too.

    • It was great to do this trip with friends. Ravenna is lovely…wait until you see where we had dinner, it was fabulous.

  2. Looking forward to the next post Deb. Great photos.

    • Ravenna is a great place to visit. It was fun to return with friends.

  3. Amazing, Beautiful and Artistic.. just love this.

    • The Galla Placidia is reason enough to visit Ravenna.

  4. Thank you Debra for the walk through most beautiful Ravenna. I remember from childhood my parents would take us there several times, well that’s over half of a century ago.

    • There is certainly a lot to see in Ravenna.

  5. Unbelievable! Makes Australia look awfully plain, doesn’t it.

    • I am always inspired to decorate my home when I return from these visits. We are lucky that these stunning places have survived.

  6. Ravenna is one of my favorites. We have been there several times and enjoyed each visit, but Gala Placidia’s Mausoleum is stunning.

    • The little mausoleum was my favourite thing in Ravenna. It is exquisite. I can see how it would inspire people to create beauty.

  7. Ravenna on my bucket list. Lovely. You should write a book, you have so much material in your blogs. Thank you Debra. From Isobel

    • Ravenna is a lovely city to visit. I don’t know why I waited 10 years to return.

  8. Such beauty! Thank you for posting!

    • The mosaics are incredible, such skill to creat something this beautiful to last for centuries.

  9. Gorgeous! Thank you for posting!

    • Ravenna is a beautiful city. The mosaics are stunning.

  10. Deb we so much enjoyed your visit to Ravenna & can hardly wait for the next post. The mosaics are magnificent & to think they were done so long ago (the artists then were unbelievable). Your post has given us so much pleasure but would love to see it in person.

    • Ravenna is gorgeous. The mosaics alone are a great reason to visit, but it has more to offer in the form of a vibrant community.

  11. Great post! Ravenna has been on my “must visit” list for a while-thanks for the info and wonderful photos.

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