Most people I know don’t know what or where Ravenna is, and I myself can only say that I know it because, art historically speaking, it’s kind of a big deal.
Located an hour-and-a-half train ride away from Bologna, in the Emilia-Romagna region of Northern Italy, Ravenna was once the Western capital of the Byzantine Empire.
(Fun fact – that tiny building at the end of the street is Dante Alighieri’s tomb!)
Today, eight of its Early Christian Monuments are considered a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and grant Ravenna the nickname “City of Mosaics.”
The thing is, prior to visiting, I’d thought that Ravenna was that and only that, a tiny, out-of-the-way little town, interesting only because it held these mosaics that I’d been wanting to see since I first opened an art history book to the Byzantine section when I was still in high school. I was very, very wrong.
Ravenna is so cute. Seriously. It’s not the first impression one gets after arriving and leaving the train station, but the farther one wanders into its old quarter, the more apparent the city’s charm becomes.
So yes, the Byzantine monuments are gorgeous (they’ll get their own post – Update: here), but even if mosaics and Early Christian art hold absolutely no interest for you, go. Go because the cobbled streets, brick façades, and bikes parked everywhere will have you swooning for days. I know I still am.