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Published: December 9th 2015
Hello my fellow travellers!
I began the day with a lovely breakfast together with Antonina before she went to work and I went on to explore Ravenna. My first stop of the day was at the Adriana Gate, which to be honest wasn't as impressive as I had expected without seeing pictures of it. Based on the name I would have guessed it to be a gate dedicate to Emperor Hadrian but it was rather named by being to road to the city of Adrian. So, in my head I saw something similar to the Hadrian Gate in Gerasa but instead found something more along the line of a 17th century thing. And it was in a bit of disrepair as well with almost no decorations. The rectangular bastions at the sides of it was cool but they didn't really fit with the gate itself so it felt very mismatched.
Just a short walk from the Adriana Gate is the first of the eight UNESCO World Heritage Sites of Ravenna, the spectacular Basilica of Saint Vitalis! There is an entrance fee to go in here but you can buy a combination ticket that also gives you access to the
Mausoleum of Galla Placidia, the Archiepiscopal Museum, the Baptistery of Neon and the New Basilica of Saint Apollinaris. This combination ticket costs 9,5 EUR and is valid for one visit to each location within a period of seven days. I thought that was a fair price, five of the eight UNESCO World Heritage sites for 9,5 EUR so I bought the combination ticket since I was planning on visiting them all any way.
Any way, as I was saying the Basilica of Saint Vitalis is absolutely spectacular, a masterpiece on a grand scale. The mosaics here are truly breathtaking but I must admit that the entire feeling was a little bit spoiled by the throng of tourists waddling around there. I would have loved to be able to walk around here on my own and really seep in all the splendour! Even so, it is so definitely worth a visit. It is hard to really grasp that these mosaics can still be so vivid even after hundreds of years. The atmosphere inside is also a bit weird, both positive and negative in a way. because it is quite dark and almost a bit rugged inside and while it obscures
the mosaics in a way and detracts from the vivid view it does allow you to retreat to the outskirts of the Basilica to wander a bit on your own away from the crowds.
From the basilica you just step out a door in the back to get to the Mausoleum of Galla Placidia. There has been a lot of dispute over the years as to if this was ever used as a mausoleum at all and if Galla Placidia was ever buried here. Most historians today seem to agree that she was never buried here but that the intention might have been for it to be a family mausoleum, it might also have been intended as an oratory or as a chapel.
We might never know for sure since the content of her sarcophagus was burned by accident in 1577. What is known is that this building that is now a separate building used to be connected to the Church of the Holy Cross that was built by Galla Placidia. There are three sarcophagus inside that are attributed to Galla Placidia, her brother Emperor Honorius and her husband, the emperor Constantius III. There is also an attribution
to her son Emperor Valatian III but since all four of them can't be buried there it's obvious that something that has been distorted over the years.
Regardless of who is buried there (if anyone) the mausoleum is very beautiful and the mosaics inside are truly amazing! What is great as well is that you get very close to them, standing just a few feet away from these spectacular sights! What is less great is that you're clamped in there like herrings in a box along with a throng of other tourists. Even if they only let you in in "smaller" groups it's still far to many at once for such a small place. Even worse is that the line to get in is long and quite disorganized, and after all of that you are only allowed to stay inside for five minutes!
From the Basilica of Saint Vitalis I went across the street to take a look at the Church of the Holy Cross (or rather what remains of it) it used to be connected to the Mausoleum of Galla Placidia but several demolishes over the years have turned them into separate buildings. It's free to enter
but it's not as impressive as one would think considering it's age and origins. From there I took a stroll down to the Church of Saint Euphemia to check out the mosaics in the House of the Stone Carpets. I didn't really have any information about the mosaics nor did they really provide any at the location, just one image of the same mosaic. Since it had a fairly steep entrance cost I decided against going in since I didn't know what I would be paying for (checking it up afterwards I think it was a mistake not to go in and I certainly think it would have been worth it, but it's easy to have a 20/20 hindsight).
Any way, from there I made my way over to the Basilica of Ursus again to see it more properly, and it is absolutely magnificent! It's a very grand basilica and my pictures of it doesn't do it justice by far. On the second floor of it is the Archiepiscopal Museum and within the museum is the second of the UNESCO sites, the Chapel of Saint Andrew. It's a beautiful little chapel built in the end of 5th century as
the private chapel of the Archbishop. It's not allowed to photograph neither the chapel nor the museum as a whole but of course I shot a few concealed photos any way. I tried to time it between the guards that patrolled the place and glanced at me with suspicious eyes. I also took a picture of the Throne of Maximian which is seriously cool, a genuine masterpiece from the 6th century!
Once I'd taking my covert pictures I walked back down the stairs and out into the basilica's garden where I entered into the third UNESCO site, the Baptistery of Neon. This place is not small (although larger than the Chapel of Saint Andrew) but it is a very worthy bearer of the UNESCO mark! The entire baptistery is covered in astonishing mosaics, I mean truly breathtaking ones! And since the baptistery isn't very large you come very close to them. And unlike in the Mausoleum of Galla Placidia there is no time limit here and it's nowhere near as crowded so I got to enjoy it quite well, at least until a bunch of kids entered in tow with their parents who had absolutely no discipline on them
whatsoever, my ears are still ringing from all that noise!
Seeing as how I'm in Ravenna I also decided to visit a spot that might not be a UNESCO sight, but in my opinion is no less significant, the Tomb of Dante Alighieri. He was after all one of the greatest poets of all time and his Divine Comedy is still considered to be the greatest work of Italian literature in history. His tomb is located near the theatre that bears his name.
Even though it's a beautiful little tomb I would actually have expected that the man who is called the father of the Italian language to have a grander resting place, this one is quite modest to be honest. Still, it's nicely tucked away from the main streets and there weren't all to many visitors there, some of course, but not the throng of tourists that I've come to expect here in Ravenna.
I also took a quick peek at the impressive Basilica of Saint Francis located next to the tomb, unfortunately it wasn't open, otherwise it would have been cool to see it's submerged crypt! After that I took a short stroll down the
road to the So-called Theoderic's Palace. It's a quite impressive ruin although there's not much in terms of details around. It's free to enter though so it's certainly worth a visit for that reason alone. There are a few nice mosaics inside but the ruin building itself is the main attraction. It's possible to go straight through it and exit on the other side to get a good view of it's round tower.
Right next to the palace is the fifth UNESCO instalment for the day, the New Basilica of Saint Appolinaris, this one is quite magnificent! It's very large and spacious and it's walls are filled to the brim with vivid mosaics. This is one to check out for sure, especially check out the mosaic depicting Theoderic's Palace, it's astonishing!
The next UNESCO site, the Arian Baptistery, was a bit harder to find. It's nestled half below ground and is perched in between several other buildings. It's worth the effort to find though despite it's small stature. It's very beautiful and a worthy entrance on the UNESCO list and it's also free to enter. It's actually the only UNESCO site in Ravenna that has a free entrance!
The ceiling mosaic is amazing, it depicts the baptism of Jesus and it has such a vivid palette of colours.
What waited next was a trek to the outskirts of Ravenna to visit the seventh UNESCO site, the Mausoleum of Theoderic. On the way there I passed by the Brancaleone Castle which is now a large public park, or at least the most part of it is, part of it is a cinema and a theatre. It's impressive to look at from the outside but the inside doesn't really hold any fancy revelations.
Here I did hit a slight snag in the road. While photographing the castle I ran out of battery, my last battery, of the three batteries I'm toting! This has never happened before! And this at a time where I'm closing in on my goal to visit all UNESCO sites but also start to run low on time! Needless to say a slight feeling of panic started to emerge!
I pushed on towards the mausoleum anyway, keeping my eyes peeled for anything that might contain a power source! The choice fell on a small bar that was opened so I bought a drink and
some ice-cream and the owner kindly directed me to a power outlet situated nearby the window. So I could sit there enjoying my drink and ice-cream, looking at the mausoleum across the street while my battery was charging. Not a bad state of affair to be honest, it was nice to wind down for a moment after a rather hectic day.
The entrance fee to the mausoleum was 4 EUR and there was some combination tickets available here as well but since I knew I wouldn't be able to visit the other entrances on the ticket I settled for a single visit. Theoderic is unfortunately no longer buried here because his remains was scattered as the mausoleum was converted to a church when the city fell to Belisarius in 540 AD. Even so, it's quite a special feeling to stand at the site that was once the final resting place of Theoderic the Great, the king of the Ostrogoths.
The final stop of the day as well as the eighth and final of the UNESCO sites was the Basilica of Saint Appolinaris in Classe. This one is actually quite a bit outside of Ravenna, but there is a
good bus that takes you to it so I jumped on the bus to go there. It's supposed to take around 10 minutes but it felt closer to 20 to be honest and I was starting to cut it close now to when my train bound for Rimini was about to leave. So just in case I sent a message to my host there that I might be late to which he responded, take your time, the basilica you're going to visit is beautiful!
He was right, it is absolutely stunning, very much like the New Basilica of Saint Appolinaris, it has the same style of construction and decoration. Entrance was 4 EUR here as well and it's well worth it in my opinion! The most amazing part was the mosaic of Saint Appolinaris himself, do yourself a favour and check it out even if it's a bit inaccessible. What made it even better in my opinion is that it's almost empty, no crowding here! There was maybe 4-5 people there beside myself, nice and calm!
After having finally sealed the last of the UNESCO sights and thereby completing my goal for the day I boarded the train
bound for Rimini where I switched for a train to Riccione, the train was a bit delayed but I kept in touch with my host Peppe and finally we met up that the train station in Riccione. He then gave me a lift to his lovely apartment in the small village of Morciano di Romagna where we ate a light salad before going to bed.
Tomorrow I will leave early to take a bus to Rimini where I will then switch for a bus to San Marino, the oldest republic in the world! I wish I had the time to check out the small village I'm living in as well, but I doubt I'll have the time to do so, San Marino is bound to take every wake our of my time tomorrow!
Until tomorrow I wish you all peace and happy travels!
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