Ravenna, located in-between San Marino and Bologna in the northern Italian province of Emilia Romagna is a diverse region of seaside towns and historic cities close to the Adriatic Riviera.
Base yourself in this suave city and spend some time exploring the historic squares, highly decorated churches and intricate mosaics. There are also plenty of day trip options, should you wish to venture out of the city.
Here’s my guide to how to spend 48 hours in Ravenna in Italy:
Visit Dante’s Tomb
Literature lovers simply must visit the burial place of an icon of the writing world. Author of The Divine Comedy has his final resting place in Ravenna after being the remains have been moved, hidden and fought over.
These bones have a rather off-beat history that includes a battle with Florence for the remains and a Pope intervention in 1519.
These days the understated mausoleum can be a tad tricky to find. It’s located down a small and unceremonious side street near the Basilica di San Francesco.
Explore the Basilica and Mosaics
There is a huge number of historical sites and beautifully preserved in Ravenna. Many delicate early Christian mosaics have also survived the ruins of history and can be found in buildings across the town.
Whilst overtly religious architecture perhaps isn’t the wildest holiday outing, magnificent sites such as Baptistery of Neon and the Basilica of San Vitale should help persuade you otherwise.
This extraordinary Basilica is a marvellous example of early Christian Byzantine art and architecture in Europe. Whilst the outside may appear a little drab, the interior is bursting with dazzling mosaics.
Ravenna is also laden with 5th and 6th-century mosaics, as well as new offerings by local artists. Several of the street signs are created by local artists using mosaics. It’s a lovely nod to the City’s heritage.
Three of the essential mosaic stops on a Ravenna trip are the Basilica di San Vitale, Galla Placidia Mausoleum and Basilica di Sant’Apollinare Nuovo. These are home to some of the best mosaics in Ravenna.
UNESCO has even weighed in and slapped on an official seal of approval for Ravenna’s mosaic art that is contained in early Christian buildings.
Visit a traditional seaside resort
You’re never too far from a sparkling shoreline in Ravenna with nine seaside resorts on the coast to explore. A traditional Italian seaside resort is truly something to behold. Across the beach, you’ll find rows and rows of uniformly lined sunbeds and parasols. They stretch out for miles across the sandy shores.
If you took a refreshing dip in the ocean how on earth would you ever relocate your sunbed? I seriously have no idea?
The beaches also come to life at night with many resorts having beach clubs and restaurants directly on the sand. You can have dinner on the beach at the seaside resort of Saretina at the Saretina 152 Restaurant.
There’s nothing quite like feasting upon fresh fish dishes with your toes in the sand and the soothing sounds of the ocean.
Other nearby seaside resorts include Marina di Ravenna, Lido di Dante and Lido di Classe.
Unwind with an Italian Aperitif
The Italian equivalent to ‘happy hour’ is an Aperitif. It’s a pre-dinner drink has evolved into a culinary highlight with local cocktails and a selection of delicious finger foods. With each bar trying to up the Aperitif stakes.
As aperitifs have become ever more elaborate, prices have risen to match. Whilst you might baulk at the price of a late afternoon Aperol
Spritz, at least it comes with a plate of snacks, or access to a buffet.
Piazza del Popolo in Ravenna is a lovely little square to indulge in an Aperitif and a spot of people watching. Who doesn’t love a languid late afternoon drink whilst casting one’s eye over a well-dressed Italian crowd?
Other recommended Aperitif joints include Casa Spadoni in Ravenna and any of the waterside bars at the canal port at Catalina in Cervia.
Spot wild flamingos at the Comacchio lagoons
At the Comacchio lagoons, you’ll find a range of bike paths, boat trips and footpaths where you can explore a truly unique eco-system that’s home to a large population of wild Flamingos
Pink Flamingos migrate to the wetland reserve salt flats to nest and can normally be spotted in Spring and late summer here.
You can take a boat trip around the Comacchio lagoon to catch a glimpse of these beautiful birds or try and spot them whilst biking around on bumpy trails. Whilst biking and bird spotting sound like a delightful hipster activity, it’s not without its difficulties.
The temperatures in summer are sweltering around the lagoon. Cycling in this kind of heat is not for the faint-hearted and certainly not for the easily sunburnt.
The trails also have uneven terrain which opens up the possibility of you biking straight into the lagoon. Make sure to keep your eyes on the trail and not on your phone, trying to take a flamingo selfie.
Discover the canals of Comacchio
Visit the floating town of Comacchio and explore the extensive maze of canals connected by a series of bridges. You would be forgiven if you thought you had wandered into a small-scale Venice, there are striking similarities.
The town is found on the eastern coast of Emilia Romagna region and is just north of Ravenna.
Inside the historic centre, there’s a range of museums that document the history of the area and the varying human settlements throughout the ages. The Ancient Delta Museum is particularly impressive as it houses the entire cargo of a Roman ship discovered near Comacchio.
Make sure to also wander along the Canale Maggiore and swing by the many important architectural monuments. Some of these include Cathedral of San Cassiano, the Loggia del Grano and the Ponte dei Trepponti.
The Ponte dei Trepponti, in particular, is a great spot for photography, or to simply bask in the impressive architecture around you.
Where to stay
The Residence La Reunion is a 4-star boutique hotel offering spacious suites with stylish furnishings, air conditioning and Wi-Fi. Other handy hotel amenities include laundry facilities, free newspapers and tours and ticket assistance.
It’s ideally located for exploring the historical centre as The UNESCO sites of San Vitale and Galla Placidia are just 350 yards away.
Getting to Bologna
Bologna is the closest airport for Ravenna and has daily flights from the UK and most major European airports. There’s a variety of airport transfers from Bologna airport to Ravenna including low-cost shuttle, taxi and train.