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“San vitale”

Basilica San Vitale
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Ravenna 3-Hour Private Walking Tour
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Private Day Tour of Ravenna and Ferrara
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Mosaics Guided Tour and Cooking Lesson at a Restaurant
Ranked #1 of 92 things to do in Ravenna
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Recommended length of visit: <1 hour
Owner description: History As a symbol of the Archiepiscopal Chancellery of Ravenna, San Vitale is one of the greatest works of late Roman art. Famous for its mosaics commissioned by Archbishop Maximian (546/556 AD), the basilica is a place of contemplation. While the body descends its steps the spirit rises to the Truth. A masterpiece to be admired for its evident beauty and its hidden, precise, evocative theological argument.
Reviewed December 9, 2012

Nice little basilica, small town lots of little restaurants, but hard to find. It takes about 1/2 hr to go through it, December is a good time to go no one was there but us.

2  Thank Nabeel M
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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Reviewed November 27, 2012

The primary reason for a tourist to visit Ravenna is to view the incredible Byzantine-era mosaics. Through learning about the history & meaning of the mosaics, you also learn a lot about the era in history when the Roman rule of the Western world gave way to Barbarians and the Byzantine empire. But even if you aren't interested in the history lesson...there is no better city in Europe with which to become acquainted with mosaics. There are about 5 must-see locations in Ravenna for taking in this artwork. I was never a deep appreciator of mosaics, having mostly seen them in art books. The artwork looked simplistic, and of course, not very "believable" due to the lack of perspective.

Seeing this work in person adds a whole new understanding, and I'm certainly appreciating this important art now. Seeing these magnificent creations in person is simply amazing. The incredible planning, detail and colors are wonderful.

The Basilica of San Vitale is the “if you can only see one site, see this one.” While I personally liked some of the other key mosaic sites better from a personal perspective, San Vitale is the most famous, the most important historically and certainly the best known overall (along with the Mausoleum which is literally 50 yards from the Basilica, and thus should really be part of your visit anyway). Much of the church was redone much later in history, and there is an overall clash of artistic styles. But if you simply approach the altar of the church, this is where you will find the incredible mosaics. Be prepared to spend a lot of time looking up! Over the altar is the depiction of a beardless Christ ruling over the universe. This is an attractive piece, but in my view, it pales in comparison to the depiction of Emperor Justinian and his entourage on the left side (as you face the altar) and his wife Theodor and HER entourage on the right. This colorful, rich, golden mosaics practically leap out at the viewer. If you think (as I admit that I did) that these early representations of people are flat, lifeless beings…you will rethink this. Yes, the style is “crude” by our standards, but you’ll be amazed at the depth of personalities and types you see. Especially the somewhat disreputable men standing behind Justinian. They are probably somewhat realistic depictions of these men who were important in the ruling of the nation.
Also, while you are viewing these large, and very famous mosaics, make sure you take time to look higher. A good zoom lens is recommended, because there are some great mosaics of many “creatures of the earth” all over the ceiling, and you’ll want to snap some of these. They are quite delightful.

I realize a trip to Ravenna is somewhat off the beaten path for most travelers to Europe. We were there because it was actually on our cruise-ship itinerary. Most of the folks on the ship decided to either stay on board, or perhaps hit the nearby beach. We took a bus into town and were able to see all the major sites, do some shopping and grab a great lunch in relative quiet...and this was in late August, at the height of European vacations. Certainly, this world heritage site is known, but it appears to be somewhat ignored. But if your travels take you nearby to Ravenna...do yourself (and the art lover in you) a favor and stop by. Admission to the sites is VERY reasonable (you buy a one price for all ticket...except the Arian Baptistry, which is free), the city center is EASILY walkable, and the weather was generally mild. It's also a bicycle friendly town, with many old streets striped down the middle just for bikes!

4  Thank RMurray847
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed November 17, 2012

I promised myself in college art history that I would see the mosaics in Ravenna. I finally did it 57 years later.

I was so amazed by the brilliance of the gold and colored tiny mosaics. I read that Gustave Klimt was inspired to his famous gold/mosaic paintings by his visit to San Vitale in the early 20th century, perhaps 1904, it really came together for me.
It is important to take binoculars because the lighting is dim and the mosaics are at a distance and high.
If you are a great fan of these mosaic treasures,
I strongly recommend going to St. Appollaire en classe which is about 4 km from Ravenna. Just be certain to know the bus schedule because they are perhaps one hour apart and it is difficult to find the bus stop nearby. I ended up taking a taxi which cost 17 euros one way b/c I missed the bus which was about 2 euros.

3  Thank rigoletto57
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed November 17, 2012

Admittedly I hadn't done my homework so could be that I wasn't especting such breathtaking art! This is byzantine mosaics at its VERY VERY best.... You may need o go back at least twice, too much to absorb in just one visit!

2  Thank Giacomina63
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed November 15, 2012

The basilica is structured so that the eight sides each have unique aspects, the altar is flanked by circular spaces. The mosaics are fantastic, and the basilica is the only major church from Emperor Justinian I's era to survive mostly intact. The summertime opening of the basilica called "Mosaici a Notte" is definitely a must-see; the evocative lighting of the exterior arches is magical.

1  Thank savoystudio
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

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