Among poets and musicians, we discover Ravenna: The Byzantine capital

Treat yourself to a holiday to discover a unique Italian city

The Christmas holidays provide an occasion for a brief holiday and the chance to discover an unusual City of Art: Ravenna. This city in Emilia-Romagna has been the capital of three empires; the Western Roman Empire, under Theodoric and the Goths and the European Byzantine Empire. A past that the basilicas and baptisteries bear witness to and which house the world’s richest legacy of mosaics dating to the 5th and 6th centuries. Thanks to the splendour of its mosaics, there are eight sites in Ravenna that have been recognised by UNESCO as World Heritage Sites. We propose a tour of monuments, venues and restaurants, which glitter with the gold of mosaics, and that will make you fall in love with the city that bewitched poets such as Dante and Lord Byron.

The incredible fascination of Byzantine gold

Visiting Ravenna is a fascinating journey back in time, during which the best-preserved masterpieces of Early Christian and Byzantine art in Italy can be admired. The Basilica of San Vitale, masterpiece of Early Christian art and architecture; the Galla Placidia mausoleum, “magic treasure chest” that houses within its small structure the most beautiful 5th century mosaics in the world; the baptistery of the Cathedral, an octagonal prism built at the dawn of the 5th century; these all are unique and spectacular monuments for their shapes and colours. Ravenna is also home to the majestic Mausoleum of Theoderic, an incredible monument. Built in 520 AD according to the wishes of Theodoric, it is made entirely in blocks of Istrian stone, making it stand out from all the other monuments in Ravenna. Apart from its imposing mass similar to those of the mighty mausoleums of the Roman era, the distinctive trait of the building is the roof formed of a single dome-shaped monolith weighing 300 tones and measuring 11 metres in diameter. Even today we still don’t know what technology was used to move a single piece of this size and weight. (

The Poet of Poets

For many it comes as a surprise to learn that Dante’s tomb is in Ravenna and not Florence. Dante died in Ravenna during his exile there. The Franciscans in the nearby convent spirited away and jealously conserved Dante’s bones for many centuries opposing the desires of sovereigns and popes to have the remains returned to Florence. It was they who saved them from the bombardments of the World War II. Today, in remembrance of Florence, in the small Dante Mausoleum, there is a votive lamp from the 1700s fuelled with olive oil from the Tuscan Apennines that is donated each year by the city of Florence.

Not just piadina

Visiting new cities will make you hungry! In Ravenna there are many venues where you can enjoy a good piadina or the famous passatelli. In the centre close by the central piazza and the Dante mausoleum, there is one of the most authentic restaurants for sampling cured meats, cheeses, piadina and excellent Sangiovese: the “Cà de Vin”. In the unique historic setting of the 15th century Palazzo Rasponi, you can sample genuine local piadina in an atmosphere rich in tradition ( Another restaurant where genuine Romagnolo cuisine can be enjoyed is “Passatelli 1962”. A one-of-a-kind venue set inside what was an old cinema where on Thursday’s and Friday’s there are also live jazz concerts. The passatelli in broth are, of course, the speciality. (

A night of enchantment

The following are two enchanting places to enjoy the historical town centre even by night. You will be charmed by “Cappello” hotel, a structure placed right in the centre of town, which in the past was the noble palace “Palazzo Bracci”. The hotel has just seven rooms with spectacular interior decoration as well as an intimate wine bar and an exclusive restaurant (
The B&B “Chez Papa” is also found in the town centre, it too is located within an ancient residence, there is a delightful small garden with an annex to a small well and enchanting ancient fireplaces you’ll fall in love with. (

A sweetly sweet break

For breakfast in the morning or for a bite during the day, we recommend a visit to La Veneziana patisserie included in the Gambero Rosso “Pasticceri & Pasticcerie” guide. Located between the main piazza and the Basilica of San Vitale, La Veneziana offers a vast selection of pastries among which the typical Ravennate cake (a type of doughnut cake with almonds). Recently renovated, the patisserie is now modern and filled with light as well as being beautifully designed down to the smallest detail. For the floors Heritage Exagona tiles have been selected from Ceramica Fioranese which make the venue exceptionally inviting while respectful of the cultural context surrounding it. The selection used by the architects ranges from the Exagona version in Grey, Ivory and Beige to the Heritage Deco Exagona in the five available textures, resulting in a truly unique and particular effect (