Monday, November 29, 2010

Cruise Port Review: Ravenna

Princess provided a free shuttle into town (about a 20 minute ride) and I had been really looking forward to seeing the mosaics that the town was famous for. Here is the information I provided our tour group:


Known as the mosaic city because of the stunning 5th-6th century mosaics that adorn the walls of its churches and monuments and because it is still one of Italy's top producers of mosaics.

Basilica of San Vitale: This is THE place to visit to see the beautiful Byzantine mosaics. It takes a bit to orient yourself to the various buildings because the basilica is connected to the National Museum. It is through the National Museum that you gain entrance to the basilica by passing back outside through a pretty enclosed loggia.

Right next door is Tomb of Galla Placidia. It is known for its ancient and breathtaking mosaics. The small brick structure dates from around 430 AD, making it one of the oldest monuments in Ravenna.

Consider Enoteca Ca’ de’ Vén
on Via C. Ricci

Dante’s Tomb and The Church of San Francisco: Conveniently located just behind the restaurant, these are not major tourist stops. But the church of San Francisco has a strange lower church visible through narrow windows under the main altar that is completely covered in several inches of water – and there are gold fish swimming about!

A full day can be spent in this city seeing more mosaics such as:

The octagonal Neonian Bapistery, the oldest mosiacs, is supposedly a converted Roman bathhouse and contains further superb mosaics. You can get close to some of the mosaics giving a greater insight into the adept work of the artisans. A huge baptismal font big enough to swim in sits to one side.

With more a feeling of a traditional rectangular church with stylish columns, the Basilica di Sant'Apollinare Nuovo, contains two long walls of mosaics. One side shows a procession of martyrs and the other shows a procession of virgins led by the Three Wise Men carrying their gifts.

Map of Ravenna Town Center….Mosaics are at #2 and Dante’s Tomb is #14

Well, this stop didn't turn out anything like I thought it would. It started with me getting turned around when getting off the shuttle bus and walking away from town instead of toward the city center. That was easily corrected with the help of the compass that my husband always has in his pocket when we travel.

We made it to San Vitale where the fee was 7,50 Euros and included entrance into the Basilica, the museum and the Tomb of Galla Placidia, all on the same grounds, plus a couple of other places. We went into the Basilica and it was DARK inside. We could not take any photos, which didn't really matter as I could not find these wonderful mosaics that the city is so famous for. No where did we see the glorious colors I had expected, based upon photos I have seen. So where were they? A visit to the gift shop afterwards, and looking in a guide book, we noted that a good portion of them are within the roped off area of the alter. (If seeing specific mosaics is important to you, I strongly suggest getting a guide book showing exactly where to look.)

We next went into the Tomb and the mosaics in there were great and we were able to take pictures. Those were worth seeing. We then headed towards the city center, wandering through some narrow and quaint streets.

The main thoroughfare in Ravenna is loaded with one upscale shop after another. It is definitely not a place for bargain shopping. We even had trouble finding tourist-oriented shops.

We did find the restaurant, CA'de VEN. The restaurant is old and well worth a peak inside. It is very photogenic and we decided to have lunch there. We had a helpful and honest waiter who told us that a bottle of house wine would cost the same as the three glasses we had ordered so he delivered a bottle to the table. Most of us had some form of pasta. It was a pleasant break in what had been, so far, a not-what-I-had-expected day.

And adding to that was an attempt to visit the Church of San Francisco. Located on the street right next to the restaurant was Dante's tomb, which we went into, and the church. And the church was closed!

Time to head back to the shuttle bus and back to the ship. Where there is NOTHING except for the ship. Don't expect to shop by the port in Ravenna.

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