36 Photos - May 30, 2016
Photo: Soccer game in the PIazza del Populo, seen while heading to the famous churches in RavennaPhoto: You see piadina all over Italy now but it originated in Romagna, which is the region Ravenna is located in. So Ravenna is loaded with places to get them. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/PiadinaPhoto: Famous crypt in the Basilica of San Francesco. It's famous mostly because it's flooded and they have goldfish swimming in it ...Photo: ... and it has mosaic tiles on its floor.Photo: Very old directional sign in Ravenna.Photo: We found this caffe (Caffe Corte Cavour) on the way to see the famous stuff. It was a really pleasant place, comfortably shady on a hot day, with great coffee, and we stayed a while.Photo: We shared a delicious piece of lemon torta, very coarse grained with raisins in it. Never had anything like it anywhere else.Photo: Random piadineria sign.Photo: So, as you get closer to the famous monuments, you start seeing all sorts of souvenirs covered in mosaic tiles, like this dachshund.Photo: Going into the Basilica of San Vitale ...Photo: ... in itself, a pretty church/campanile complex ...Photo: ... but what everyone goes to see are the famous mosaics. This Byzantine church dates from 547 AD and the mosaic art in it is the original work from way back then.

Ravenna was the capital of the Western Roman Empire for about 70 years in the 400 ADs and was an important city for a period after that. So, lots of amazing artwork dating back from really ancient Byzantine times. You don't see a lot of extant work from that far back in such good condition in Italy; there are a lot of Roman ruins. St. Mark's Cathedral is another example but the amount of Byzantine art in Ravenna in my opinion far surpasses what's in Venice.

So, very cool pace to visit.Photo: The mosaics in the dome are just remarkable.Photo: Triumphal arch and the story of IsraelPhoto: Maximilian, East Roman Emperor, with court officialsPhoto: The back of the basilica. Very peaceful space.Photo: Behind the Basilica of San Vitale is the Mausoleum of Galla Placida. More incredible mosaics there.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mausoleum_of_Galla_PlacidiaPhoto: Mausoleum of Galla PlacidaPhoto: Decorative tiles, Mausoleum of Galla PlacidaPhoto: Detail, Mausoleum of Galla PlacidaPhoto: Mausoleum of Galla PlacidaPhoto: Mausoleum of Galla PlacidaPhoto: Mausoleum of Galla PlacidaPhoto: We then walked over to the bishop's palace, which hosts a museum containing the beautiful chapel of St. Andrew and the emperor's ivory throne, both phenomenal. No photos allowed, though.Photo: Bike-unfriendly Ravenna "Don't prop your damn bicycles here"Photo: We stopped at Dante's tomb, which is the other major site to see in Ravenna besides the Byzantine Churches. Dante Alighieri was Florentine but spent his last few years in Ravenna.

His body was fought over for many years. Read about it at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dante_Alighieri (see "Legacy") if that's of interest.Photo: Entrance to Dante's tombPhoto: The tombPhoto: Courtyard of the monastery of the Basilica of San Francesco (the place with the flooded crypt). The monks played a big role in the story of the fate of Dante's body after he died.Photo: A mound where Dante's bones were hidden from the Nazis during World War II.Photo: Historical marker on the mound where the bones were hiddenPhoto: We walked over to the Basilica of Sant'Apollinare Nuovo, the last Byzantine church on our itinerary.Photo: Mosaics in the Basilica of Sant'Apollinare NuovoPhoto: Basilica of Sant'Apollinare NuovoPhoto: Basilica of Sant'Apollinare Nuovo - the palatium (house) of Theodorico (one of the emperors)Photo: The side chapels of the Basilica of Sant'Apollinare Nuovo are more modern, not Byzantine, so the overall church has kind of a weird vibe. This painting in one of the side chapels makes the vibe still weirder.