Sant’ Apollinare in Classe: giddy with Byzantine mosaics and too much bread

A few years ago I was browsing for cheap airfares (okay, so I do that everyday) when I found a remarkably cheap flight into Northern Italy.  People, these tickets were under $400, in late May!!!  Obviously I  snapped up the tickets in a hot second.   Almost as quickly, I drafted an itinerary since I already knew where I wanted to go: RAVENNA.

Our visit to Ravenna was like an art history-saturated hazy dream where we floated around from one staggering Byzantine masterpiece to the next, emerging into the warm air utterly blissed out.  The only thing we lacked was a decent camera, so use your imagination with these photos–the real deal is ever so much more enchanting.


Sant’ Apollinare in Classe is a 6th century early Christian basilica hiding by a field a short bus ride outside Ravenna.


The round bell tower is 10th century.


Looking towards the apse—mosaics from 533-49.  The dude in the center with all the lambs facing him is Sant’Apollinare.


Again, I wish our photos weren’t so craptastic, because there are so many delightful details to consider.  For example: the parade of lambs in the upper right (on the flat area above the apse) are emerging from a green and gold building complex with multicolored clouds floating above their heads.  Also, the trees in the lower part of the apse, which you may think of as stylized are actually quite similar to the trees still growing around the basilica.

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I have an Italian friend from this area and when I asked him what we should eat in Ravenna he said “piadina”.  So we went to a local restaurant and ordered three varieties of piadini.  As it turns out, piadina is flat bread.  Yeah, we ate a three course dinner of flat bread. ( I may be cute and have great taste in Byzantine mosaics, but occasionally I’m not all that bright…)


How we got to Classe: train from Ferrara to Ravenna, local bus from Ravenna to Classe.

Where we slept: Argentario Hotel.  Price: €60 for a double.  Recommended: yes.




  1. Oh yes! The mosaics in Ravenna are wonderful. I was there in 1966. It was a spectacular experience and the city was lovely too. I continue to tell people to be sure to visit, but it seems to not be on the must see list. Too bad. I hope to get back in the next year or so. Thanks for continuing to create a blog with passion and good humor. As always, great traveling with you. Bruce


    1. Thanks for reading Bruce. I agree that Ravenna should be on everyone’s must see list–actually, I think it should be “must see more than once”. Like you, I hope to be back soon.


  2. I’d like to go back there….time after time…


    1. This trip led to a Byzantine travel orgy: to Istanbul and Sicily and the mosaics of Venice and Rome. Will need to go to Greece soon!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Every time I think I’m a hot shot for my travels, here you come to stomp my traveller balls right back down to earth. I need to go to many more places.


    1. Note to self: consider changing name of blog to “Stomping Balls at the Cathedral”.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. We took a trip to Ravenna as part of our art history class when I was studying abroad in Florence. I think it finally solidified my love of Byzantine art. Glorious!

    I see in another comment that you’ve also been to Istanbul – how did you like it? My husband has mentioned his interest in visiting there a few times, but I am fairly ambivalent…


    1. Oh man–I wish I had been in your art history class! What a perfect way to turn a student into being an arts lover for life!

      The best parts of Istanbul were the vitality of the street life and the beautiful architecture and of course the history. The worst part was being constantly harassed by people trying to get us to buy stuff or eat in their restaurant.


  5. isobel02 · · Reply

    This place looks beautiful….
    Have you ever been to Bruge? Trying to plan a long weekend there


    1. Thank you isobel02. Yes, I have been to Bruges. It is also a really beautiful city, but I found it to be overwhelmed with tourists.


      1. I feel like Bruges: Ghent :: Venice: Ravenna.

        Shame your pictures didn’t turn out spot-on. I guess this doesn’t qualify as super Early Christian art, but it seems like there’s a lot of Agnes Dei happening during that particular epoch. Or maybe it’s just me?


  6. You’re right, there are so many Lambs of God in this era. I especially enjoyed the lambs in Santa Maria in Trastevere in Rome.


  7. I love Ravenna too. A good place to go when it rains (did that sound a bit Philistine?). You may be interested to know that the mosaic in the apse is actually shaped like a giant eye. The cross in the circle is the pupil. They eat piadine a lot too in the northern Marche, where I live, but I must admit i haven’t eaten 3 in one meal! Have you been to Urbino – just the place for lovers of art & culture. Raphael was born here and Piero della Francesca worked here.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’ll have to go back to Ravenna, rain or shine, and look up into the mosaic in the apse to see the eye—thanks for the tip. I have been to Urbino and really enjoyed the art there.

      Is that Urbino in your profile picture?

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Indeed it is! Loved your photos. There is no longer a ban on photography in the art gallery. I’m sorry the recital was so terrible. We went to a beautiful free choral performance of early music in a church in Urbino. The Louvre has lent Urbino the rest of the studiolo’s portraits of illustrious men and the gallery has created quite a good little exhibition around them.

        Liked by 1 person

  8. PS There is a good bookshop in Urbino but it is hidden away in the courtyard behind the Caffe in the Collegio Raffaelle in the Piazza Bramante, the big piazza where all the students hang out waiting for their buses.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ah, thanks. Too bad I missed it–I love browsing bookstores!

      Liked by 1 person

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