Ravenna - S. Vitale
A city of fascinating Byzantine suggestions, starting point for an itinerary along the Adriatic coast through sand dunes and thick pine-wood.
Located in Emilia Romagna, the province of Ravenna extends from the hinterland up to the Adriatic coast. It is a variegated land from the inland mountain areas through the plains to the Adriatic Sea.
The river Reno and the Valleys of Comacchio to the north mark the border with the province of Ferrara, while to the south the border is with the provinces of Forlì-Cesena and Florence. The coast of Ravenna to the east is low and quite rectilinear, with wonderful pine-woods along it, such as for example that of San Vitale to the north of Ravenna and those of Classe and Cervia to the south.
The plains with Lugo, Bagnacavallo, Massa Lombarda, with their history and historical centres, extend to west. Colours of grain, orchards and the forages in these lands make the plains a contrast of strong sensations.
The country is full of different natural environments such as valleys and moist areas, one of the most important reserves in Italy.
The Regional Park of the Po Delta of Emilia Romagna comprises all these areas and is considered one of the richest for biodiversity with a luxuriant plant life and numerous species of fauna.
The city of Ravenna has been the centre of the world for several centuries, first as capital of the Western Roman Empire, with Theodosius King of the Goths, and then as centre of the Byzantine Empire, which considerably changed the architectural shape of the city, enriching it of monuments and mosaics.
Ravenna is considered to be one of the most interesting cities of Emilia Romagna, with an impressive complex of early Christian and Byzantine monuments. Piazza del Popolo is the focus of the historical centre of the city. On it is Palazzo del Governo, now the prefecture, which encompasses two thirds of the square. It is faced by Palazzo del Municipio which has two Venetian granite columns.
Ravenna also has one of the finest constructions of the early Christian period, the Cathedral of San Vitale. Its interior is lined with marble and mosaic decorations, such as for example the wonderful gold and bright green Byzantine mosaics of the apse. Nearby stands another masterpiece, the Mausoleum of Galla Placida, with a very simple exterior in contrast with the richness and harmony of the inner mosaics in vivid peacock blue, moss green, gold and orange. Also, in the monastic complex of San Vitale the National Museum complements the cultural and artistic heritage of Ravenna with Roman ruins, 14th century frescoes and collections of fabrics and ivories.
The Baptistery of Arians is an integral part of the early Christian Ravenna with its octagonal shape and splendid mosaic in the dome.
Coming back toward Piazza del Popolo, not too far away, is Dante’s Tomb, a little temple in neoclassical style which preserves the remains of the Italian poet par excellence, who died in Ravenna in 1321.
Very important is also the Cathedral of Sant’Apollinare Nuovo, with the beautiful cylindrical bell tower on the right side and the interior decorated by mosaics of great brightness, some in classical style, other in Byzantine style. Not to miss also the Neonian Baptistery, considered one of the most ancient and best preserved monuments of Ravenna together with its wonderful mosaics, and the Mausoleum of Theodosius, out of the historical centre, the only monument of Ravenna without mosaics. They have been attested as World Heritage by the Unesco.
An interesting itinerary out of the city leads us to the Cathedral of Sant’Apollinare in Classe, with a cylindrical bell tower and elegant columns surmounted by Byzantine capitals and mosaics. Not far from Sant’Apollinare in Classe extends itself the Pine-woods of Classe, which include also the Pine-woods of San Vitale and Cervia, integral parts of the Regional Park of the Po Delta.
Still on the coast, Cervia is among the most appreciated holiday resorts, which ,beyond its touristic vocation, is rich in shows and events. Northwards on the coast one reaches Milano Marittima, one of the most popular seaside resorts of the coast of Romagna, with a great number of clubs and restaurants. Towards the east there is the sea district where writer Grazia Deledda once resided; the city raised a monument in her honour. The hinterland surrounding Cervia and Milano Marittima is characterized by the waters of the very ancient salt-pan and by the famous Pine-wood of Cervia.
After Marina di Ravenna, going up along the Adriatic towards Venice, you will meet the characteristic fishing boat centre of Porto Garibaldi, a lovely holiday place.
The city of Faenza is famous all over the world for the ancient majolica tradition and traditional ceramic work. In 1908 the International Museum of Ceramics was dedicated to this art, and then rebuilt as consequence of the last world war.
In the town of Russi there is the archaeological area of the Augustan age Roman villa. In nearby Lugo we have a Pavaglione, recalling past eras when this huge four-sided portico held the silk-worm cocoon market.
A so varied land allows us to choose among different thematic itineraries, sports and amusements.
For those who love nature and excursions nothing can be more exciting than a stop in the oasis of Punte Alberete, in silent flooded woods, the shelter for rare species of birds and typical marsh plants. This may be followed by a visit to the Museum of Natural Sciences of Ravenna, in Sant’Alberto, and in the historical Palazzone in which an ornithological collection is exhibited. The famous pine-woods of San Vitale and of Classe, with their particularity as natural monuments, has been included in the reserved areas of the Po Delta Park. This area, of great naturalistic interest, is full of a great number of wildlife species and it is considered most important and one of the best in Europe for Bird-watching. Very suggestive can be an excursion by bicycle combined with Bird-watching activities, crossing the river Reno.
Those who are fond of diving can visit the sea-beds in front of the Porto Corsini, in which in 1965 an accident sank the platform Paguro. Thanks to the exceptional richness of life in that area, it has become a fascinating destination for diving.
On the coast there are also many possibilities for those who choose a holiday full of sport activities, with basketball and beach volley courts, sailing clubs with sailing and water-skiing schools, tennis courts and horse-riding circles.
The Thermal centres are another possibility for a visitor in the Spa resorts of Brisighella, Cervia, Punta Marina and Riolo Bagni. Well-being can be added here to one's holiday in centres equipped for personal care.
In Ravenna and its province, a land with a strong vocation for tourism, there are several events. Mosaico di Notte is one of the events which open art places to the public even by night, in the suggestion of seeing splendid mosaics take different colours with artificial lights and in the dark of the night.
Among the typical events, it is important to remember the Spring Festival which takes place in Ravenna where on Saturday night a mask depicting an old woman is taken in parade and then, after the procession, is burned as good omen for the new season. On Sunday the festival goes on with the parade of floats and masks. In Faenza takes place the Palio of the Niballo, in which a Saracen puppet must be hit by the representatives of the five historical districts of the city in order to gain the prize.
Ravenna recipes include the gastronomical tradition of Romagna with the piadina and home-made pasta, so loved by the people of Romagna.
Many typical recipes are in fact based on tortelli, tortelloni stuffed with ricotta cheese and herbs, and cappelletti stuffed with cheese or meat. It is impossible to forget the tagliatelle, pappardelle, tortellacci, and the tardura, pasta with egg and parsley to serve in broth.
The fish tradition is vivid along the Adriatic coast with the brodetto alla marinara, which uses different kinds of fish and the delicious sea fish-balls, made of fish pulp, scampi and seafood. Frogs are also very appreciated with the well-known soup or you may choose rice with wild duck meat and coot on the grill.
Among the desserts, typical of the province is the dessert of San Michele and the burling or migliaccio, a dessert with must, pork blood, almonds and candied fruits.
Among the typical products of the country, one must remember its extra-virgin olive oil, the Moretto of Brisighella artichoke, the sweet chestnuts, honey, berries, nectarines of Romagna and peaches, white or yellow in pulp. Among the wines there are Albana di Romagna, Cagnina di Romagna, Colli di Faenza, Sangiovese and Cabernet among the reds and Pignoletto and Trebbiano representing whites.
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