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Roman tour

Ravenna and its Lidos

In 402 Onorio, Teodosio I’s son, decided to transfer the Western Roman Emperor seat from Milan to Ravenna, since the previous one was over exposed to the barbaric attacks.

Ravenna was chosen as the new capitol city because of its strategic position, closer to the East. Moreover, it was easier to defend as coastal city.

Bringing as model the luxury of Costantinopoli, to whom it was strictly connected with commercial bonds, Ravenna turned out to look like a Bizantine Imperial residence. Many marvellous civil and religious buildings were constructed, in line with the one present in the Eastern capitol.


The site where Civitas Classic has been founded was located in one of the lagoons sorrounding Ravenna.

In around 27 b.C. the emperor Augustus built a military harbour there, meant to host the fleet that would have watched over the Eastern part of the Mediterranean Sea.

The suburb of Classe developed around the warehouses and camps of “classiari”, the navy soldiers.

Due to the subsidence of the Ravenna area, the land lowered and became marshland. It was such an evident phenomenon that wharfs, yards and the access streets to the harbour could not be used anymore.

The harbour has been reopened around the 5th Century. This led to a renewed development of the residential part of Classe, also during the Century after, when it became a proper city.


The wall of Ravenna has been raised several times. The Roman part of the wall is noticeable by the presence of the characteristic large thin bricks, glued with a small layer of white mortar. Its foundation is 3 to 6 meters deep, and the elevation above ground is limited.

The ring of wall remained unbroken until 1863, when it was partly demolished in order to build the railway.


It is a permanent exhibition entirely dedicated to the mosaic art, and it is located inside the old churc of Saint Niccolò in Ravenna.

The exhibition has several tematic itineraries: the light, the context where mosaics have been realized (the “domus”, the “palatium”, the “ecclesia”); the techniques and tool used by mosaicists and, lastly, the materials adopted to realize the mosaics.

The exhibition hosts also some original pieces of arts, from the 1st to the 13th Century. They testify the great artistic heritage of Ravenna and its sorrounding.

It is possible to admire also some pieces of mosaic art from the archeological sites of the Domus of Stone Carpets, of the former Saint Severo Basilica, and of the two Domus located in Faenza.


The museum was founded to collect the pieces of art located in the Ursus Basilica, that has been demolished in the first part of the 18th Century.

The exposition itinerary is located along four different rooms and it is full of charm, as history, archeology and art are combined together.

Of importance and relevance are:

  • Fragment of “ambone”, coming from Sain John and Paul’s Church;
  • A bizantine statue “acefala”, probably of Giustiniano (6 th Century) in porphyry;
  • A plate with the Eastern Calendar (6 th Century) in marble;
  • The Cross of Agnello’s archibishop (6 th Century) in silver;
  • The mosaics (12 th Century) from the apse of the ancient Ursus basilica, with the image of the Madonna in pray;
  • Texile fragments;
  • A 10th Century and 12 th Century map


At the beginning of 6 th Century a Bizantine mansion has been discovered, with fourteen rooms and three courtyards, completely decorated with wonderful mosaics and marble inserts. The fourteen mosaic pavements are composed by geometric elements, as well as vegetation and different figues, as a total of 700 m2 surface. The most important ones are the Good Shepherd, differing from the traditional Christian rapresentation, and the Dance of Season’s Geniuses, a unique case of geniuses dancing in a circle.


The oldest artistic collection present in the area comes from the Classe’s Camaldolesian Monks.

After the dissolution of all the religious orders, many pieces of arts, antiques and of naturalistic interest became of the municipality’s property. For this reason, in 1804 the Municipal Classenses Museum has been founded. Inside the National Museum many pieces of arts are exposed:

  • Lapidary. The lapidary exhibits form a huge collection of statues not only from the Roman Age, both also from the Paleochristian, Bizantine, Romanic, Gotic, Renaissance and Baroque Ages. The most significative pieces of arts are: the Paleochristian sarcophagus, from the “traditio legis”, some Bizantine capitals, a basso-rilievo representing the “Augustus apotheosis” and Publio Longidieno’s funerary stele, representing the dead man, who was the fleet’s shipwright, working with an axe.
  • Archeologic material . A part from some objects from the Bronze Age (ceramic pieces and weapons), the museum shows ceramic pieces from the Etruscan Age, as well as some other objects (glass, lanterns and ceramics) from the Late-Roman and Bizantine Ages. Upon the statues present, the head of a Tyche towered and a baby sarcophagus, decorated with basso-rilievos from Rome.
  • Coins . The collection comprehends some Roman coins (both from the Repubblican Age and the Imperial Age), Late-Roman and Bizantine ones (among them a Teodosio solid and many pieces from the Giustinian period), as well as Medieval ones.


The Church of Santa Croce has been built in Ravenna from the Roman Emperoress Galla Placidia, between the late 4th and the early 7th century. The Galla Placidia Mausoleum was initially meant to be part of the church, as a chapel accessible from the narthex. However, later on the demolishions let it be an independent building.

The church has been built in the West-East direction, made with recycled bricks. The external wall presented pilasters and probably blind arcades too.

The building plant was a latin cross, a unique case for the constructions in Ravenna at that time. In fact, it was a symbolic choice, since the Basilica Apostolorum and the Basilica Virginum in Milan had the same characteristic, decided by the Milan bishop Ambrogio.

Another particular feature of this church was the presence of two porches, with a corrispondence again in Basilica Virginum lateral development. These were 4 meters wide and were positioned along the main nave, and built upon two lines of columns from each transept to the narthex.

The pavement had some decorations in “opus sectile”, as well as circular elements in porphyry, where probably Galla Placidia used to lay in pray. The walls were decorated with blach, white and multicolor marbles. One of the representations present inside the church was most probably the figure of triumph Chirst, while is walking over a snake and a lion, as an apocalyptic image, already present in other building in Ravenna between the 4th and the 6th Century.



The Roman Villa of Russi is an archaeological site where the remains of one of the best preserved country villas in Northern Italy are safeguarded; it is about 20 km west of Ravenna.

The Villa was built at the centre of a large farm, whose products were adressed to the men of the military Roman fleet stationed in Classe, the ancient port of Ravenna.

The floorings, well preserved and mostly made of black and white mosaics, represent a good repertoire of the geometric mosaics usually employed in Italy in the I and II century A.D., while the other floorings, made of “opus signinum”, belong to the Villa's most ancient phase.

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