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Ravenna

It is approximately 12 kilometers from the cruise port to Ravenna.  Most cruise lines provide a shuttle bus (whether or not complimentary) to Viale Farini, a boulevard that leads to the train station.  This is a central location within walking distance of the town’s highlights.

You can also get to Ravenna on your own via public bus.  Bus #90 stops at the intersection of Via Po and Via Lamone, a 5-minute walk from the cruise port.  (Via Po is the street in front of the Guardia Costiera building.)  The bus runs once an hour and takes you into Ravenna for € 4; the trip is approximately 20 minutes; however, there are sometimes gaps in service.  In that case, buy a ferry ticket at the bus stop and cross to the other side of the canal (Marina di Ravenna), where you can take Bus #70 into town.  Tickets may be purchased on board.

Taxis are also available at the port.  A taxiride takes 15 minutes, and costs approximately € 25 (4 persons, one way).

No cars or buses are permitted in the city center, but Ravenna is a small city and it’s very easy to see all the points of interest by walking.

Ravenna is known for its mosaics, both ancient and modern.  The city boasts 8 UNESCO World Heritage Sites, all built between the years 430 and 549.  The two earliest of these date from the year 430, when Ravenna was the capital of the Western Roman Empire (402-476).  The Western Roman Empire fell in 476, when Germanic tribes invaded from the north.  Italy was reconquered by Theodoric the Ostragoth, who made Ravenna the capital of the new Ostragothic Kingdom, a nominal vassal of Byzantium.  Four of the UNESCO sites date from the Ostragothic period.  In 545, the Emperor Justinian I, an opponent of both Ostrogothic rule and Arian Christianity, had his general Belisarius reestablish Imperial control of Italy.  Belisarius took Ravenna in 550, and the city became the seat of Byzantine rule in Italy – the Exarchate of Ravenna.

Galla Placidia, the daughter, sister, wife and mother of emperors, ruled the Western Roman Empire as regent during her son Valentinian III’s childhood.   The Mausoleum of Galla Placidia (c. 430), probably built as the Oratory of the Church of Santa Croce, is considered the earliest and best-preserved monument in Ravenna.  Of special note are the two lunettes, one depicting Christ as the Good Shepherd and the other depicting St. Lawrence.  The central bay’s upper walls are decorated with four pairs of apostles, while the vault is decorated with stars against a deep blue sky.

Open 9:30 to 5.  A € 9.50 Combination Ticket grants admission to the Archiepiscopal Museum, Basilica of San Vitale, Mausoleum of Galla Placidia, Neonian Baptistery, and the New Basilica of Sant’Apollinare

For info on these Diocesan sites:  http://www.ravennamosaici.it/index.php?lang=en

The mosaics of the Neonian Baptistery (430) were commissioned by Bishop Neonius, although the building predates the transfer of the Western Empire’s capital from Milan.  The mosaics of the cupola are divided into three bands.  The central medallion depicts Christ’s baptism in the River Jordan; surrounding that is a second band representing the Apostles, led by Peter and Paul; the third band represents the Kingdom of God, which awaits those who have been baptized.  Open 10:00 to 5 – € 9.50 for Combination Ticket

The Arian Baptistery (c. 500), so named to distinguish it from the Orthodox Neonian Baptistery, was built to service the old Arian Cathedral of Hagia Anastasis (now the Church of Spirito Santo).  The mosaics inside – a central medallion showing the baptism of Christ, surrounded by a procession of apostles – are believed to be the work of Orthodox artists, since the Arians were known primarily as goldsmiths.  Following the condemnation of the Arian sect in 565, the Baptistery became a Catholic oratory; it passed into private hands in 1700, and was ultimately acquired by the Italian government in 1914.  Open 8:30 to 7:30 – Free

The Archiepiscopal Museum (c. 500) holds the Chapel of St. Andrew, the smallest of Ravenna’s mosaic sites.  This was the private chapel of the Trinitarian bishops, and was originally dedicated to the Saviour, as evidenced by the lunette above the vestibule door.  The Chapel’s vault retains the original mosaics, including portraits of the apostles, depictions of angels, and the symbols of the four evangelists.

Also of note in the Museum are a four-sided reliquary of Sts. Quiricus and Julietta; a marble rosette on the wall opposite the reliquary, which is a Paschal Calendar used to fix the date of Easter; and 12th century mosaics of the Madonna, Sant’Apollinare, the Resurrection and Sts. Peter and Paul.  The real gem in the Museum is the Ivory Cathedra, or Byzantine Bishop’s Seat; the Treasury holds many precious liturgical objects, while the Lapidary Room contains the remnants of the original marble floor.  Open 10:00 to 5 – € 9.50 for Combination Ticket

Erected by Theodoric the Great at his Palace Chapel, the Arian Basilica of Sant’Apollinare Nuovo (c. 500) was reconsecrated as an Orthodox church in 561.  Mosaics with overtly Arian themes (the Arians believed that Christ was subordinate to God the Father, while the Trinitarians held that Christ was the equal of the Father and the Holy Spirit) or which expressed Theodoric’s glory were destroyed at the order of Pope Gregory the Great.

Externally and internally, the Basilica illustrates the fusion of western and eastern styles characteristic of the late 5th and early 6th centuries, and is of crucial significance in European religious art.  The mosaics of the upper band (the older mosaics are the original Arian ones, while the newer, replacement mosaics are Byzantine) portray Christ’s miracles and parables (on the left) and the Passion and Resurrection (on the right).  The middle band is in the Hellenistic-Roman tradition and depicts the prophets, 16 to a side.  The lower band, executed in the Byzantine style, shows a procession of 22 saints, led by St. Euphemia; on the wall opposite is a procession of 26 martyrs in white robes.  Open 10:00 to 5 – € 9.50 for Combination Ticket

The Mausoleum of Theodoric (520) is the only surviving royal tomb of the period.  A ten-sided building of Istrian stone, the Mausoleum’s significance lies in its Gothic, rather than Roman or Byzantine, design.  The lower room was probably used as a funerary chapel; Theodoric himself was buried in the center of the upper room, under a round porphyry grave stone.  Theodoric’s remains were removed when the Mausoleum was converted into a chapel during the Byzantine era.

The Mausoleum is near Rocca Brancaleone, close to the city center, and is serviced by Bus #2 and Bus #5.  The site is not wheelchair accessible.  Open 8:30 to 7 – Admission € 4

The Basilica of San Vitale (548) is an architectural oddity due to its octagonal rather than rectangular shape.  The church is topped by a cupola resting on eight pilasters and arches; the apse is covered in glittering Byzantine mosaics, while the cupola is decorated with baroque frescoes by Barozzi, Gandolfi and Guarana.  On the floor in front of the altar is a labyrinth; in the early days of Christianity, finding one’s way out of such a maze represented a sinner’s journey from sin to rebirth through Christ.

The mosaics of San Vitale are the most extensive and best preserved outside of Constantinople.  They are executed in the vivid Hellenistic-Roman style, lively and imaginative, and steeped in rich colours.  The two most famous mosaic panels depict Justinian I and his wife, Theodora.  Open 10:00 to 5 – € 9.50 for Combination Ticket

The final UNESCO site is the Basilica of Sant’Apollinare in Classe (549), where the 2nd century saint was martyred (An altar in the middle of the nave marks the spot.)  The nave and aisles are divided by 24 marble columns.  The faded frescoes on the walls and spandrels date to the 18th century; however, the original Byzantine mosaics survive in the apse (6th and 7th centuries) and the triumphal arch (decorated in the 9th century).  The walls of the aisles are lined with sarcophagi dating from the 5th to 8th centuries, and are adorned with early Christian symbols.

The Basilica is located 4 KM from the city center.  Bus #44 leaves for Classe every 20 minutes from the front of the train station.  Open 8:30 to 7:30 – Admission € 5

Other Attractions

Spirito Santo – The original 6th century Arian Cathedral has been greatly altered over time.  The façade has a 16th century portico with five arcades.

St. John the Evangelist – Erected by Galla Placidia in 5th century, as thanks for surviving a storm at sea.  The church was restored after being bombed in WW II.

St. Francis Basilica – Built in the 10th-11th centuries on the site of an earlier church; mosaic fragments from the first church are still visible on the floor.  Dante’s funeral service was held here in 1321; his tomb is annexed to the church.

Santa Maria Maggiore – a 17th century Baroque church

San Giovanni Battista – another Baroque church (1683)

Santa Maria in Porto – This 16th century basilica houses the Greek Madonna, brought to Ravenna from Constantinople.

Rocca Brancaleone – This Venetian castle was built in 1457, and now serves as a public park.  It is divided into two parts, the Castle and the Citadel.

Palace of Theodoric – This is actually the entrance to the former church of San Salvatore.  Inside are mosaics from the actual Palace of Theodoric the Ostragoth.

Santa Eufemia – Beneath this 18th century church is the House of Stone Carpets, which holds Byzantine mosaics from the 6th and 7th centuries.  Enter through the church.

National Museum of Ravenna – Located in the former Benedictine Monastery of San Vitale.  Exhibits include a stone tablet collection, Roman and Byzantine artifacts, and 14th century frescoes.  Open Tuesday – Sunday, 8:30 to 7:30 – Admission € 5

M.A.R. – The Municipal Art Museum includes a collection of contemporary mosaics, medieval and modern art, and temporary art exhibits.  Open Tuesday, Thursday, Friday 9:00 to 1:30/3:00 to 6:00, Wednesday, Saturday 9:00 to 1:30, Sunday 3:00 to 6:00, Closed on Monday – Admission € 3

Classe Archaeological Park – an archaeological zone that was once part of the Port of Classe, the home of the Roman fleet during Imperial times.

To see a very brief video:  http://www.therichest.com/video/classe-archeological-park/

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