The marvelously quaint Italian city of Ravenna is a popular stop for travelers visiting neighboring cities of Venice and Bologna. The city boasts a number of family and kid-friendly activities including everything from music festivals, museums, United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) World Heritage Sites, and nature parks. Opportunities for fun and excitement abound in this charming corner of Italy and should earn it a place on your travel itinerary.


The Ravenna Festival is one of the events the city is best known for. Each year, typically during the months of June and July, the festival takes over the city streets, squares, and churches. It is a celebration of multiple genres of music including chamber, jazz, symphonic and opera, as well as forms of dance and musical theater. The event has such a wide scope of activities that it is celebrated at multiple places throughout the city, including the Basilica of Sant’Apollinare, the Basilica of San Vitale, and the Palazzo Mauro de André.

The Festival Internazionale di Musica d’Organo, or International Festival of Organ Music, focuses primarily on the beauty of organ music and is generally celebrated in the Basilica of San Vitale. Additionally, the Bella di Sera is an open-air theater festival held in the streets of Ravenna during the summer months, while in May the city hosts Ravenna Jazz, an annual jazz festival.

For literary and history buffs, The Dante Festival, sometimes called Settembre Dantesco, is usually held in September and brings the life and legacy of renowned poet Dante Alighieri to life through amazing exhibits and theater. It is worth noting that much of the programming for this event is generally geared toward those who speak fluent Italian.


The city of Ravenna has a number of beautiful open air city squares. One of the most visited is the thirteenth century Piazza del Popolo, which is considered to be the heart of the city. The square features several important buildings of the city’s old historical center including local government buildings. The piazza can be a delightful place to stretch your legs and even let the children run and play a bit before sitting down to a fabulous al fresco meal at a family-owned eatery.

Another city square worth a visit is Piazza San Francesco, which dates back to the seventeenth century. The square is home to the simple, yet charming Church of San Francesco as well as a tenth century bell tower that measures just over 100 feet. Back in the fourteenth century, the Church of San Francesco was the site of legendary Italian poet Dante Alighieri’s funeral, and the church itself marks the beginning of Ravenna’s Dante zone, which is home to Dante’s tomb and a museum dedicated to the poet. Isolated from the traffic of the city, the Dante zone is a peaceful area and travelers should not miss Dante’s stately Neoclassical tomb that dates back to the eighteenth century.

While strolling through the city center, keep an eye out for Ravenna’s colorful mosaic benches. Numbering five in total, these unique benches were designed for the 2015 Mosaic Biennial (Biennale del Mosaico).

History buffs will not want to miss Ravenna’s centuries-old city gates, which were once the main entrances to the city. Porta Sisi and Porta San Mamante both originally date back to the Middle Ages, while Porta Nuova and Porta Ravegnana are newer constructions that can be traced to the sixteenth and eighteenth centuries, respectively.

Also worth a visit is the Brancaleone Fortress, called Rocca Brancaleone by the locals. Built during the fifteenth century by the Venetians, a visit to the imposing fortress is an excellent way to step back in time and relive part of Ravenna’s past.


The city of Ravenna’s claim to fame is the distinction of being home to eight early Christian monuments that collectively are a designated United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) World Heritage Site. These monuments, many of which are approximately fifteen hundred years old, contain magnificent samples of Byzantine and Christian mosaic art.

The World Heritage sites include the Mausoleum of Galla Placidia and Orthodox Baptistry from the fifth century, and the Archiepiscopal Chapel, Arian Baptistry, Basilica of Sant’Apollinare Nuovo, Mausoleum of Theoderic, Basilica of San Vitale, and Basilica of Sant’Apollinare in Classe from the sixth century. Most of these buildings are grouped somewhat close in proximity and are easily toured together. During a trip to Ravenna, travelers must visit these early Christian monuments in order to marvel at the truly breathtaking mosaic artwork.

The Ravenna National Museum, also known as Museo Nazionale di Ravenna, is located inside the World Heritage Site of the Basilica of San Vitale. The museum has a number of unique exhibits including bronze statues, ivory pieces, ceramics, ancient weaponry, ornate sarcophagi, and marble capitals. Not to be outdone by fascinating artifacts, a number of beautiful frescoes dating back to the fourteenth century can be observed here at the museum.

The Basilica di San Francesco may appear to be a plainer cousin to the UNESCO World Heritage Sites of Ravenna, but its real treasure can be found underneath the main floor of this ninth century structure. The church’s principal attraction for modern day visitors is found in the lower part of the building where a peculiar water-logged crypt can be observed, complete with fish.


After admiring Ravenna’s historic mosaics, take a moment to visit the city’s mosaic workshops where local artisans keep the city’s famed artistic tradition alive. There’s no better way to remember your trip to Ravenna than to bring back a small mosaic artwork to hang in your home.


Not far outside the city limits is Safari Ravenna. This unique wildlife park tucked into Northeastern Italy affords visitors exposure to an estimated 450 animals of at least 40 different species. The park is particularly popular because in many areas it provides an up close and unencumbered view of the animals that is difficult to experience at other parks. In some cases, guests may be able to touch and possibly hand feed some of the animals. The primary ways to observe the wildlife in the park are via vehicle, an electric car tour, or a safari train tour. Be sure to book this safari of fun well in advance of your visit.


After touring some of the most amazing World Heritage Sites in all of Europe, the children may be ready to burn off a little energy.

What better way to have some fun than visit a local amusement park? Just around the corner from Safari Ravenna is Mirabilandia, which features an inverted roller coaster, a Watercoaster, and what is said to be one of the tallest Ferris Wheels in Italy, just to name a few attractions. It is one of the largest parks in Italy and is typically a favorite of the city’s young visitors.


Although briefly touched on in the category of indoor activities, enough cannot be said of visiting the eight early Christian monuments recognized by UNESCO. All eight sites are unique in their own way, whether in architecture or the presentation of mosaics inside and are in many ways the main attraction for those visiting Ravenna.

The vibrant mosaic creations in most of these sites are simply stunning in their elaborate and intricate detail. The craftsmen used tile pieces typically no larger than a square inch to create stunning scenes from the Bible that are so well done, they almost pass for a painting if standing some distance away.

The complexity of the scenes depicting Bible stories are magnificent, however the mosaic art design that extends beyond the borders of these scenes is equally impressive. In some structures, the mosaics may nearly engulf the building from floor to ceiling with religious symbolism and decorative motifs, while others showcase mosaic artwork primarily on the upper half and ceiling of the building.

These Byzantine and Christian mosaics are among the best preserved in the world. In addition to the immense beauty, they add to historical structures, they are a testament to the city’s love of art in the form of mosaics. Every mosaic scene and pattern no doubt took years of planning and detail, as well as an intense amount of concentration to yield the masterpieces visitors can still enjoy today.

Step off the typical traveler routes and make a stop in the enchanting city of Ravenna. World-renowned for its astounding fifth and sixth century Byzantine mosaics, the cultural city of Ravenna offers plenty of unique sites to explore during a vacation to Northern Italy.

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