GREETING FROM ABOVE
When we enter this city, we can realise that its religious buildings, palaces, temples, tombs, constructions are more than hundreds of years old and were built during the time of the Roman Empire.
From the IV to the VI century, Ravenna was known as the little Rome, capital of the Western Empire. Then, the old Roman Empire fell, and a new Byzantine Empire arose.
It is also known as the city of mosaics. The mausoleum of Galla Placidia, built around the year 430, is the building that has preserved the oldest and colourful mosaics in town. Due to their low height, we can look at them closer.
Galla Placidia was the sister of Emperor Honorius, daughter of Emperor Theodosius.
It is not for nothing that this Byzantine and Paleochristian work of art has been declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.
When we enter this mausoleum and look up, we see that its ceilings remind us of a starry sky, with its intense blue colour, deep blue. We realise that we are in front of a work of great importance as it is the oldest and best-preserved monument.
A ceiling covered with more than 800 golden stars!
Here, daylight enters through its windows and makes us connect with the divine, a heavenly communion.
Looking upwards at the vault and dome, we can see a whole symbolism through its mosaics, symbolic figures such as doves, apostles, and the image of a young shepherd with his golden halo, surrounded by his sheep, representing Jesus Christ.
It is worth going inside and carrying a memory of these ancient mosaics that greet us from above!!!
The Mausoleum of Gala Placidia is located in Via degli Ariani, in the city´s historical centre, very close to Baracca square.
On the eastern side of the Adriatic Sea lies this unique Romagnol town. Ravenna, the Ravennati, are proud of their gastronomy thanks to its location.
You can´t leave without tasting one of the most popular dishes among the Italians, who even travel to the area to eat this delicious plate which will make their mouth water as soon as they smell it.
Let yourself be surprised by the name of this dish: "Uomini Nudi" which translation would be "naked men". Although it is a strange name, we refer to one of the most famous and eaten meals in the area: "seafood meatballs".
It is made with fish from the Adriatic Sea, mixed with potatoes eggs and fried with a good oil, creating an exquisite meatball.
They are a piece of minced meat or fish ball, and the term comes from the Arabic word "al-bunduqa", meaning "the ball". We inherited this tradition from the Arabs, spreading throughout Europe and Asia.
But if we have to go back to its origin, it seems that the Romans were the fathers of this millenary recipe.
Already in Rome, they were eaten in the streets or cooked in the houses of the Romans who had kitchens, those who belonged to the upper social class.
It was trendy. People ate it in the streets as it was sold in traditional stalls for passers-by.
Did you know that it was the favourite dish of the Jews?
You should try these fishballs!!!
We know that meatballs are usually made of meat, so these "naked men", so beloved in the homes of the Romans, are a challenge.
LOOKING FOR SOMETHING SPECIAL TO BUY?
There is no better place to shop than on the main street of this city. We are referring to the pedestrian street Cavour in Ravenna. You can always find sales. It is, indeed, the city of sales.
Every time we go there, women leave this city with lots and lots of shopping bags, and the men are a bit tired of waiting for their wives to make up their minds.
This cobbled shopping street starts at one of the city´s entrances: PORTA ADRIANA. Starting here along 180 metros towards the covered market, is where this great temptation is concentrated, with shops and brands such as "Sephora" "Zara" "Pandora" "Stradivarius". Their origins are a little unclear, although they already appeared in some documents in the XI century.
You will find a great variety of products, from clothes for adults, babies, cosmetic shops, lingerie, opticians, household items, accessories, decoration, food shops, shoes, among other things.
This street will lead you to the jewellers´ area, just in front of the market, via Giacomo Matteotti, where you will find shops where prices are higher, and there are no sales.
Even if you are not planning to, there is always something to buy in this lively street where we can see couriers, bikers and tourists along with the Romagnolians offering the remaining stock.
The most important thing about these establishments is that they are in an unbeatable location, surrounded by critical PaleoChristian constructions, right in the city´s centre.
Along these streets, the quiet pace of life of Ravenna mixes with the curious visitors who want to make the most of their time.
You will find that locals use bicycles to go through Ravenna´s historic centre.
Exhausted from so much shopping, you can enjoy one of the most visited places in the quiet and peaceful town, the XIII century Piazza del Popolo, with its beautiful Venetian architecture, where you can stop to enjoy the view from one of its terraces.
¡Do not give up and keep exploring!
CATHOLIC PLACE FROM IX CENTURY
If you are visiting Dante´s city, you must see the Basilica of Saint Francis, a Catholic place of worship dating back to the IX and X centuries and a place of pilgrimage for those who want to be close to the poet.
It is known as the Dantesque area, where the burial took place, and next to it is the chapel where the poet is buried.
It has the appearance of a simple church, without ostentation or luxury, with its tower and rectangular Square. But you should know that it is the most important place of worship in the city, known as the church of the apostles´ Peter and Paul, as this Basilica was built on an older church, from the V century.
The interior is divided into three naves with semi-circular arches supported by 12 columns.
The work of Pietro da Rimini called "Crucifixion", or the mosaics from the VIII century, are striking.
The main altar is in the centre, and behind it is a carved wooden choir.
Are you ready?
Get your camera ready when you go down into the crypt and see water as if it were a swimming pool. It is a flooded cistern. In the background, we see the floor covered with green-toned Roman mosaics.
Tourists throw coins in and discreetly capture this image with their cameras. Orange-coloured fish are watching the cistern as if they were guardians, contrasting with the greenish background.
And so the clear water flows on the floor of these three naves supported by beautiful pillars and that remind us that Ravenna is a maritime and marshy city.
Have you taken your photo? DON´T FORGET TO SHARE IT WITH US!!!
Saint Francis Square, 3
CLASSENSE LIBRARY. A hidden treasure
A unique place not to be missed is this library of the monks of Classe, who boast about their site for study.
This remarkable place impresses us with its monumental architectural beauty. It is most interesting because its walls have witnessed many stories and events.
The first thing we should know is that in this place is the first copy of the first book that was printed in this country: "de Oratore de Ciceron" being one of the most important relics of this library that is carefully kept together with manuscripts of incredible value, engravings, maps, photographs and works of art.
There are more than 800,000 works in this library!
This library was created to store the works of art confiscated during the Napoleonic period, a period in which many monasteries and religious institutions were destroyed.
It is here that Dante´s new publications are added every year, which are mixed with the old writings of this great poet.
Here you will also find the glass coffin, where Dante was laid to rest once his skeletons were recomposed and paraded around the city to be seen.
Another reason to visit this place is the forbidden books kept under lock and key in the room built by the same architect of Dante´s tomb, Camillo Morigia. The "bible cupboard" is guarded by the Abbot in the impressive Aula Magna.
This building was constructed from 1512 onwards. And the library, or Aula Magna, was built at the end of the XVII and XVIII centuries.
We know about libraries because they are places for reading and studying in silence. But this was not the case for the monks of Classe as they could not talk in the monastery but could do it in the library. Here, they discussed, exchanged, compared and checked their knowledge.
With so many works to see and discover, it isn´t easy to concentrate on studying, because wherever you look, something attracts you. You want to get close and touch. You may even come across the love letters of the poet Lord Byron to his lover Countess Teresa Guiccioli from 1819.
Since 2004, chamber music and cultural events have been held in the cloisters.
More than a thousand visitors a day visit this emblematic place!
It is located just a few metres from the Basilica of St. Francis.
We encourage you to come and enjoy this place and then share it with us!
A real artistic jewel!
3 Alfredo Baccarini Street, 48121 Ravenna RA, Italia
KISSING THE SOLDIER WHO WAS BORN IN THE MIDDLE XVI CENTURY!
You should know that this soldier has been kissed by five million women....yes! You heard right.
Do you want to know his story? Do you want to see it? Do you want to know where it is?
It is in a glass urn in the Museum of Fine Arts. This sculpture has been kissed for years. Proof of this, if you look closely at his lips, there is a different tone: the lipstick of those women who left their kisses there.
His name, Guidarello Guidarelli. This handsome, attractive young soldier was in the service of Ravenna, which at that time was part of the Republic of Venice. This romantic character has been a source of inspiration for many poets and writers. Even his name softly caresses our ears: Guidarello Guidarelli.
This beautiful sculpture, a masterpiece, was sculpted by Tullio Lombardo at the end of the XVI century. We see the sensual expression and how his hands rest on his sword, melancholically defeated as we approach it. Tullio knew how to capture his sad face that moves us when we are close to him as if life and death were dancing on this white marble sculpture that has been enchanting millions of people for centuries. And when you look at it, there is something inside you that makes you feel sad, as if you were blaming life for such an unjust loss.
He was already attracted to weapons from a very young age, and no one would have guessed that he would become a legend.
But let us learn more about his life: he was knighted by Emperor Frederick of Austria. He was mortally wounded during a disagreement near Lake Bientina. The reason for this quarrel was a silk shirt that this handsome knight lent to a colleague, Virgilio del Romano, for a costume party. Cesar Borgia, the son of Pope Alexander VI, amused himself by creating tournaments, masked festivals, horse races and parties that always ended in orgies. Guidarello served in combat under the orders of Cesar Borgia. We have to remember that "silk" was a luxury item brought from China at that time, and it was given, by far, more value than gold. Virgilio refused to return the borrowed garment to its owner. They fought a duel. He was wounded to death in an undignified manner, by treachery, and not on a battlefield worthy of a knight.
After having disarmed his rival and having spared his life by handing him his sword, our romantic knight turned his back on him, and Virgilio took advantage of this gesture and struck him with his thrust. His agony lasted three days, and his last wish was to be buried near Dante´s tomb.
The traitor was publicly executed.
It matters little. Once dead, there have been many legends about how he died. His sculptor decided to portray him as if he were 33 years old, the age of Christ, although he was maybe around forty years old.
As fate would have it, he became a myth. Love stories have developed around him, awakening passions. We could imagine that those hands that now embrace his sword could have caressed beautiful ladies, and now it is the image of eternal life.
Its sculptor wanted to capture an admirable sensuality by giving it a melancholic look. It was so well done that over centuries, women from all over the world have placed their lips on his marble lips, and kiss after kiss, they left a stain on them.
In the XVIII century, the legend began. If a lady kissed the lips of this gentleman, she would marry a handsome gentleman within a year. If she were married, she would have a son as beautiful as Guidarello Guidarelli.
THE MOST BEAUTIFUL MALE SCULPTURE OF HIS TIME!!!!
Dante, this great poet and considered the father of the Italian language, ended his days in this city. As a Florentine, he was banished from his hometown for taking part in some revolts. Polenta family took him in. In Ravenna, there is the pantheon of Dante, a monument made in his honour, in neoclassical style, full of intrigues and mysteries.
When Dante died, the friars of the Basilica of Saint Francis feared that his coffin would be stolen by the Florentines and did not hesitate to open a hole in it to remove Dante´s remains bone by bone. Hence, they kept him in a wooden box and hid it in a place near his tomb. It was not the first time the Florentines had asked for the coffin, and finally, they decided to steal it, but his remains were not inside. They put his bones back together again to be shown to the city. It was not until centuries later that they found his rests in a wall near his tomb. Today, he rests in peace in his grave very close to the Basilica of St. Francis in Ravenna, where his funeral took place.
Florence is still present every second Sunday in September, the date on which this beloved poet died, with the offering of oil, as if the olive groves of Tuscany wanted to be present in some way to welcome their poet. The City Council of Florence provided the oil to light the eternal flame placed inside his tomb.
The whole Italy loves this great poet, thinker and committed politician, who created an Italian linguistic unification, because at that time Italy was very diverse. In Florence there were no less than 12 dialects spoken, and because of this, it was necessary to create the Tuscan language, the basis of Italian, in order to unify and form a vital state. And in this way, the Florentines affectionately feel closer to him.
He is known as the "Divine Comedy" writer, and the city theatre is dedicated to him and was named Alighieri after him.
The Italians owe much to Durante Alighieri, known as DANTE.
The tomb is open to visitors and is located in the Dantesque area, next to the Basilica of Saint Francis.
It was designed by the famous architect Camillo Morigia.
In this small and straightforward mausoleum rests the remains of Dante. The people of Ravenna wanted to give it a humble, simple place so as not to distract attention and give importance to the body that lies, cradled by the flames of the lamp, which are always lit under the responsibility of his hometown Florence.
In this city located in the northeast of Italy, it is common to see tourist coaches taking a detour to Ravenna from Florence to Venice or Rome as it is close to important cities such as Bologna, Ferrara, Padua, Verona, also tourists with their cameras looking for the tomb of Dante, the most critical, illustrious poet of Latinity, to show reverence. Thank you, DANTE, for your dedication and wisdom.
THE WHOLE CITY IS ABOUT DANTE
A BYZANTINE WALK
Starting from the PORTA ADRIANA, one of the ancient gates that gave access to the city, let´s walk along Via Cavour to get closer to the first stop: Mausoleum of Gala Placidia, which, even if it looks like an insignificant building, the value inside is unmentionable, as are the best-preserved and oldest mosaics, dating back to the V century. It is a sepulchral monument named after her, the Empress Placidia. Although there are many doubts that her remains ever rested there, she was buried in Rome, in the Mausoleum of Theodosius.
This work of Byzantine art is very close by, undoubtedly the most impressive and essential monument of Ravenna, the Basilica of San Vitale, where you will find the most crucial example of Paleochristian art, an authentic Byzantine church. Its Basilica leaves you open-mouthed for its colourfulness, magnitude, and beauty. It reminds us of the church´s power with the Empire. The figure of Christ giving a crown to San Vitale mosaics of Justiniano and Theodora are an authentic masterpiece.
Eight minutes away from this Basilica, we find the Baptistery Arriano, another of the eight Byzantine and Paleochristian monuments of the World Heritage. Although it is the smallest, it has a mosaic that represents the baptism of Jesus in the waters of the Jordan, together with St. John the Baptist, surrounded by the twelve apostles who carry a crown in their hands.
Nearby is the Church of San Apolinar el Nuevo, where the 26 scenes from the life of Christ are depicted. It was commissioned by Theodoric the Great.
Another 8-minute walk away, the Baptistery Neoniano, orthodox, from the V century, next to the cathedral. It is the oldest, and we can see the figure of Christ underwater being baptised by St. John the Baptist.
In this area, we find the Archbishop´s Chapel, where the figure of Christ the Warrior can be seen.
Further away from the historic centre of the city, you will reach the Mausoleum of Theodoric, the only one without mosaics in a green wooded setting, and the Basilica of Apollinar in Classe, from the VI century, inscribed on the Unesco list, located far from the centre, where the Roman port was.
A walk that will immerse you in the Paleo-Christian-Byzantine world!
OBSERVING THE LIFE OF ANCIENT TRADERS
The city of Ravenna invites you to walk and get lost in its cobbled streets, which take you back to its splendour, as you can notice in its buildings and its mosaics. Why not take a break along this walk to admire all this beauty?
As we go deeper into the old town, in its tiny streets, we arrive at this beautiful XIII century square, which can take us back to Venice due to the style of its buildings.
But let us first talk about the origins of Ravenna to understand the charm and the importance of this place.
This city is only 8 km from the Adriatic Sea. Today, it is a fertile agricultural land with solid commercial activity.
People´s Square has always been where traders gather to offer their best agricultural products. From the flower market to the good cheeses, fruits, and products this land provides.
Emperor Augustus had a naval port built thanks to its location, hence its commercial importance. It began to be known and gain reputation through its waters. It would become the capital of the Empire of this part of the West, becoming one of the most prosperous cities in this country during the Byzantine Empire.
Ravenna converted to Christianity, and its mosaics have an evident Roman influence contrasting with Byzantine motifs.
Before the Romans, there were the Etruscans, the Umbrians and the Celts. They populated and settled down in places near the water.
Influential personalities have left their mark on the life and development of Ravenna, such as Julius Caesar, who chose it as his headquarters; Emperor Honorius, who had his Imperial court here and his sister Galla Placidia who created an important cultural and art centre.
Vestiges of this vital past can be seen in this beautiful Square, with two columns erected by the Venetians in the XV century, which is why it reminds us of our beloved Venice. Above the columns, the statues of San Vitale and San Apollinaris, patron saints of the city.
If we observe with delight this Square, we realise the power and importance it had at that time, as is shown by its buildings. On one side, we have the Venetian Palazzeto with the figure of Emperor Theodoric the Great, one of the most powerful sovereigns of his time. And on the other side, Palazzo Comunale and the Banca Nazionale del Lavoro building by the same architect who built Dante´s pantheon.
And now, peacefully enjoying this past, we can rest on one of the terraces of this natural environment.
Take a break to keep moving forward!!!
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