The city of Ravenna does not have the polished, shiny look, but you more likely than not to come here for the early Christina mosaics spread across a handful of location in the city center. Walking between the sites will not leave you with any negative impressions; it is just that Ravenna does not necessarily compare with other destinations on the overall impression, despite some attractive pockets, the foremost of which is Piazza del Popolo ♥ and the surrounding streets.
But mosaics are something else, unique, magnificent and of the definite must-see variety.
Five sights can be seen on a combined access ticket. All are interesting in their own right, providing different facets of mosaics created in 5th-6th century.
Basilica di San Vitale ♥♥♥ is beyond impressive, spacious, vibrant and – unfortunately – crowded. The nearby Mausoleo Galla Placidia ♥♥ is the smallest of all, with rationed access inside. Basilica di San Appolinare Nuovo ♥ is probably the least impressive – and also the most cathedral-like – but is still worth a visit. Battisterio Neoniano ♥♥♥ provides the middle ground between space and vibrance. Finally, Capella Sant’Andrea ♥♥♥ is comparatively small but entirely breathtaking; it is reached via Museo Arcivescovile, which may provide some interesting diversion to archaeology aficionados (we mostly ignored it, focusing on the chapel).
Another of the locations bundled on the World Heritage list with the five above that is located in the town center, Battistero degli Ariani, is not included on the access ticket, so we did not visit it.
Duomo is not especially impressive compared to many others that can be seen in the Western world.
There are a couple of other minor attractions in town that we did not have time or inclination to include in our itinerary.
Places to [not] Eat
A lunch at La Tazza d’Oro in summer of 2014 reinforced all of our prejudices against taking a meal on a major square. It is on Piazza del Popolo, and we decided that people-watching opportunities would outweigh any potential dissatisfaction with the actual meal. The place looked very busy as we sat down and the waitresses looked harried. The pictures of the main dishes on the menu were a dead giveaway that any hot selection would be of re-heated variety. True to form, the hot dish that we ordered came in cold. We also ordered the cold cuts plate, which was quite ok. Our damage: €55 for two with a bottle of wine, with an obvious location premium built into the prices.
Public parks in the town center are always very busy. However, there are a few “private” lots at the edges of central area. We left our car for €3 daily fee on Via Porta Aurea off Piazza Duomo.