Ravenna is an easy city to love. This was my first time in Emilia-Romagna and our furthest point North on this trip. Being so close to the Adriatic Sea, you are bound to find some amazing seafood, not to mention the tasty local wine. This graceful town will make you feel like life is easy, spent eating gelato, gazing at beautiful mosaics, sipping fine Sangiovese and snacking at cafes. This isn't entirely accurate, I am sure, but it is fun to stroll or ride about, carefree and content, and imagine what it might be lIke to stay here forever! After spending time in peaceful Umbria, this will feel super metropolitan. This is an ancient city, though, accepted it into the Roman Republic in 89 BC. Set foot in any of the eight UNESCO heritage sites and you are going to feel the age.
About 10€ will grant you admission to most of these sights. As difficult as it is to imagine making even the tiniest of mosaics in this manner, let alone cover the walls of several buildings, prepare to be amazed when you gaze up at these incomprehensible works of Byzantine art. Made with millions of tiny tiles, or tesserae, it is pretty remarkable to witness their intricacy in person. It is hard to describe and even harder to capture on film. The amount of time and number of people needed to complete these stunning works would be unthinkable today and it is amazing these have been so well preserved.
We spent several days in this beautiful city and on our first day purchased the combined ticket (valid one week) to five sights. If you have the time to try for a quiet portion of the day, you will be rewarded with solitude. If, for example, there is a large group of screaming school kids ahead of you, you might want to keep strolling and return at a more mellow hour.
Ravenna is also the city where Dante spent his last years while in exile from his beloved Florence. It wasn't until 2008, several hundred short years after his banishment, Florence rescinded his sentence. You know they still feel guilty, however, as the city of Florence continues to supply the oil used to burn the eternal flame in his tomb.
I actually wouldn't have taken any photo's inside Dante's tomb were it not for the folks seen above noisily taking up the entire small room. I thought, incorrectly, they'd be embarrassed and wrap it up. I watched as they took around 50 photo's of themselves with these (wrong) period hats. I know none of you would behave in such a way. A bit of a bummer, though, for myself and other fans of Dante to not have a quiet moment at the tomb, uninterrupted my men in feathery hats. Here and always be respectful, OK?
So, after your fistfight at Dante's tomb, you are going to be hungry! We had a big dinner in store which I will recap in the following post, but there are many, many attractive sidewalk cafés where wine is thoughtfully accompanied by light snacks (apertivi). Keep an eye out for one that looks lively and inviting and order up a glass of the region's finest.
If you want to try a glass of the rightly famous Sangiovese, head to Caffe Fricandó, just outside the main gates to the city. We spotted this charming wine bar on our first night in town mainly due to the full patio of happy people having fun.
We ordered a glass each of a very fine Sangiovese for about 4€ and were presented this wonderful snack plate. Potato chips are such a common drink accompaniment in Italy, who knew! I am more of an olive girl, but there is something nice about crunchy chips with fine wine, though they really are at their best alongside a Campari Soda. The bag of grilled bread came with an amazing tomato/olive oil dip.
In Ravenna we stayed (suprise!) a little bit outside of the city center, about 15 minutes walking or 5 minutes on the bicycles so kindly loaned to us by our hosts. We stayed in many rooms at varying levels of quality on this trip and Michele and Laura's sweet and private apartment was our favorite by far.
With a private entrance to the 1 bedroom apartment, we came and went with ease. Our hosts were so kind and generous, leaving a stocked fridge, Illy coffee, wine and chocolates. Plus, we were able to use their two bikes at no cost, were served an afternoon espresso and a latenight limoncello. What could be better?
Oh, it does get better! Voglia di Gelato, this bustling gelato shop, was a mere two blocks from our apartment and offered some really fun and inventive choices. Being the (boring) purist I am, I had pistachio and amerena cherry, which became my preferred combo on this trip. I am pretty critical in the gelato department after spinning and sampling it daily at Mozza, so I would only tell you about a place if I think it is great. You're welcome!