1. Ravenna: Small-Group Tour of the Best Mosaics and Highlights
Ravenna was the capital city of the Western Roman Empire from 402 until the empire collapsed in 476. After this era, the city served as the capital for two other empires of the Ostrogothic Kingdom and Byzantine Exarchate of Ravenna until the invasion of the Lombards, a Germanic people. The uniqueness of the three empire rules wonderfully influenced the old town with architecture and art expression, including the Orthodox Baptistry dated to the V century, Arian Baptistry erected at the beginning of the VI century and Basilica of San Vitale, with triumphal arch mosaics dated to the VI century. Notably, the Garden of Eden mosaic in the mausoleum of Galla Placidia forms the beauty of the Roman building, which was recognized in the World Heritage List in 1996 with UNESCO experts describing it as ‘the earliest and best-preserved of all mosaic monuments …the most artistically perfect’. Adding to the beauty of this city is the subdued, calm and serene atmosphere. Far away from the hurried, overcrowded and busy usual tourist spots, guests on this tour can revel in a pleasant stroll at ease and your own pace. The notable landmarks include the Romanic Basilica di San Vitale, Piazza del Popolo, Archiepiscopal Museum, Rocca Barancaleone and the covered market, Mercato Coperata. Alongside, the stunning buildings and sites, Ravenna holds history of Dante, the National Poet Father of the Italian Language who moved to the town after being banished from Florence and later passed away here. During the tour, you can visit the Father of Italian Language’s Tomb, the Quadraraco courtyard and Franciscan Cloister, where Dante’s Museum has been set, all situated in the quietest place in the city, known as the Area of the Silence.