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Ravenna has been a capital three times: it was the capital of the Western Roman Empire, the seat of King Theodoric of the Goths and capital of the Byzantine Empire in Europe. It is because of the last of these that Ravenna's churches contain one of the world's finest collections of Byzantine mosaics — so fine a collection that it has been named a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The interior of the basilica is lined with fine mosaics in bright colors, while cobalt and gold designs decorate the ceiling of the small, but stunning Mausoleum Galle Placide next door. Intricate designs adorn the walls and ceiling of the 5th-century Neonian Baptistery. ...

Ravenna has been a capital three times: it was the capital of the Western Roman Empire, the seat of King Theodoric of the Goths and capital of the Byzantine Empire in Europe. It is because of the last of these that Ravenna's churches contain one of the world's finest collections of Byzantine mosaics — so fine a collection that it has been named a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The interior of the basilica is lined with fine mosaics in bright colors, while cobalt and gold designs decorate the ceiling of the small, but stunning Mausoleum Galle Placide next door. Intricate designs adorn the walls and ceiling of the 5th-century Neonian Baptistery. You will find even older mosaics at the Basilica di San Giovanni, many with idyllic pastoral themes. Nativity scenes and full-length portraits of saints cover the upper walls of S. Aploinare, while its cloister contains displays of original mosaic tools, materials, and techniques. The surfeit of spectacular and intricate mosaics is so overwhelming that it is difficult to absorb or even appreciate them in a single day. Visiting Ravenna in June and July offers a special treat, as the Ravenna Festival brings the city to life with dance, symphony, opera, and other performing arts, with its picturesque squares and churches as a romantic backdrop.

Barbara Rogers
About the Expert

Barbara Radcliffe Rogers has written or coauthored more than 30 guidebooks, including The Portugal Traveler, Drive Around Portugal, City Spots Munich, City Spots Helsinki, City Spots Stockholm, Eating New England, and the Maine section of Thomas Cook's Independent Traveller USA.

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Facts at a Glance

Climate

  • Best Time to Visit:

    June and July for the Ravenna Festival