If you like mosaics or early Christian monuments, consider including the the 2000+ year old city of Ravenna in your Italy itinerary. The city has eight early Christian monuments that are included as UNESCO World Heritage sites. The mosaics in Ravenna are all of a religious nature, unlike for example, the mosaics in the Sicilian Villa Romana del Casale.
Why are there so many incredible byzantine mosaics in this small town? Ravenna isn’t currently a significant city in Italy from a political standpoint, but in the year 402 it became the capital of the Western Roman Empire so it’s had a pretty interesting past.
The reason mosaics are so vibrant and spectacular even after 2,000 years is because they are made of pieces of glass, so the color doesn’t fade over time. It’s impressive to think that the artist had to figure out exactly how many pieces of each color of glass were needed to create the (gigantic!) image, and then each color of glass had to be made (or in the case of gold, layered with gold leaf), then cut, and then carefully stuck to the wall.
Although Ravenna is definitely an off the beaten path destination for foreign tourists, it’s very popular with Italians, so expect lines and crowds at the sites. In theory you could visit all the sites in one day, although it depends on how many hours in a row you can stand to absorb art. If you can pay attention for about two hours at a time, spread your visit out over a couple of days.
Getting to Ravenna
You can get to Ravenna by train, although the city is not on a fast train route so you’ll probably have to change trains and get a slower one for the Ravenna leg. If you’re comfortable driving in Italy, it’s a good idea to get a rental car to visit Ravenna.
Getting around Ravenna
The sites are somewhat spread out, so if you’ve rented a car, you’ll need to use it to get around the sites. If you’ve arrived by train, you can get around Ravenna by taxi, or use Italian public buses. In high season, there are shuttle buses that run between the sites. It’s a pretty major tourist attraction for Italians so you can definitely get around to the sites easily.
Opening hours of the Mosaics in Ravenna
As you would with anywhere in Italy, check that places are open on the day of the week you’re planning to be there, but Ravenna is very visitor-friendly. most of the monuments are open 7 days a week until 7 pm, and entry tickets are not expensive.
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