Last February, I had the opportunity to visit Ravenna, Italy, a small city in the Emilia-Romagna region known for its stunning collection of Byzantine-era mosaics. You can read more about my adventures in my article for New York Times Travel, but the trip was so visually memorable, I wanted to share some of my photos. The Basilica di San Vitale, pictured above, is Ravenna’s most visited site.
Built in 525, San Vitale allegedly inspired the Hagia Sophia in Istanbul.
Mosaics lavishly decorate the apse.
Basilica di Sant’Apollinare Nuovo.
The three Magi at Sant’Apollinare Nuovo wearing outfits that inspired Roberto Cavalli.
The buildings—like the Arian Baptistry—so humble from the outside, revealed glittering artistry within.
Like this water wrought in mosaic.
The Basilica di Sant’Apollinare in Classe is two miles from Ravenna.
At the Mausoleo di Galla Placidia, these leaping flames inspired Dante’s “Inferno.”
The starry sky and trompe l’oeil border date to 425. NBD.
Ravenna is a well-heeled town with a very accessible (and adorable) historic center.
After finishing his masterpiece, “The Divine Comedy,” Dante died here in exile in 1321. Locals say his unhappy spirit still wanders the streets. His tomb, pictured above, resembles a pepper pot.
A lamp burns continuously in Dante’s tomb, the oil a gift from his guilt-ridden hometown, Florence.
The Romagna region is famous for piadina, a type of griddle-coked flat bread. Here, a sandwich filled with proscuitto, arugula, and squacquerone cheese.
I also loved the handwritten menu at Osteria dei Battibecchi, a small restaurant near the Piazza del Popoplo dripping with Old World charm.
I usually don’t like eating out alone, but the food here was so good—rustic and honest—it was company in and of itself, like these handmade spinach-filled tortolloni, tossed in sage butter sauce.
I had never seen peas and meatballs together, but this plate of polpette e piselli were a meal unto themselves, no spaghetti necessary.
The Piazza del Popolo is truly the heart of the town.
It rained during nearly my entire visit, but when the sun emerged, it gleamed in bright slivers. I left Ravenna clutching a hunk of Parmagiano-Reggiano (produced in the neighboring Emilia region, but fresher than what we’ve got at home), and dreaming of ancient glass tiles.