Ask a local: what should I do, see, and eat in Ravenna, Italy?

by Gigi Griffis

Welcome back to Ask a Local, a series of posts in which I interview locals all over the world about what to see, where to go, what to eat, and how to fit in in their city or town. The following interview was originally published in my Italy guide.

Today I’m happy to introduce you to Francesca Manzoni, a cyclist, reader, humanitarian, and hiker, here to tell us all about Ravenna – with its eight UNESCO World Heritage Sites, a world-class opera, and a top Italian music festival.

First, tell us about you.

I was born and lived in Ravenna for 20 years. Then I moved away, but I kept on coming and going. In my free time, I love walking along the sea or in pine forests and villages nearby, cycling, reading, and going to the theater.

If someone is visiting Ravenna for the first time, what do you recommend they see or do?

Basilica di San Vitale and Mausoleo di Galla Placidia are a must. Also, I would suggest visiting Mausoleo degli Ariani and Mausoleo Neoniano. A stroll in the city center is worthwhile.

What neighborhoods or parts of town are best to stay in?

Ravenna city center is really pretty; I think would be lovely to stay in a B&B in the center to have a real taste of the town itself.

Let’s talk about day trips…what nearby places should everyone make sure to visit?

On the artistic side, the Basilica di Sant’ Appollinare in Classe should be visited. I think would be also nice to arrange a trip to Delta del Po where is possible to walk, ride a bike, or take a boat trip. I also recommend Cesenatico or Cervia, which are both full of little canals and lovely, narrow roads.

Tell us about the local dishes. What should people try here?

In Ravenna, people should try piadina; there are two lovely places for it: Ca’ de’ Ven (located in a beautiful old building at Via Corrado Ricci 24) and Piadineria Magnani (a small, family-run place at Via Romolo Ricci 13). For those who love cheese, squacquerone is a must-taste, while meat-lovers should have ciccioli. Another very traditional dish is cappelletti al ragout (traditional, local pasta with meat sauce) or, for the vegetarians, burro e salvia (local spinach ravioli).

What are your top three favorite bars and restaurants?

My favorite bars in the area are Caffe’ Alighieri (located at Via Gordini 29), which has a lovely and friendly atmosphere (the owner sometimes entertains people by playing his guitar), Caffe’ Corte Cavour, located in a beautiful square along Via Cavour (address: Via Cavour Camillo Benso 51), and La Casa del Caffe (located at Via Gioacchino Rasponi 14), which is not a bar, but has must-taste, fantastic coffee at the counter.

My favorite restaurants are L’Osteria dei Battibecchi (a little, hidden place near Teatro Alighieri, address: Via della Tesoreria Vecchia 16), Pizzeria La Mia Patria (located at Filippo Lanciani 6/B, near the Duomo; the place itself is a bit rough, but the pizza is wonderful and the atmosphere very friendly), and Ristorante /Pizzeria Babaleus (located at Vicolo Gabbiani 7).

Is there anything tourists do that locals find rude or strange? What can we do to better fit in with the culture?

Shouting and screaming. Spitting on the road.

What is the best way to meet locals and make friends?

Alighieri Caffe’ (located at Via Gordini 29) is a nice place where people tend to gather.

Why should people make sure to visit Ravenna?

Ravenna is peculiar. In some aspects, it is similar to other small, narrow-roaded Italian towns, but its Bizantine styles and mosaics give it a unique image.

What is the best place to go take beautiful photos of the city?

Just behind the Basilica di San Vitale, there is a little square where there are concerts in summertime. From there, you can take beautiful pictures of the church from outside.

Anything else you want us to know?

Generally speaking, Emilia Romagna is a very friendly region, especially in summer, where you can enjoy the beach and get a great welcome during your stay. Moreover, it offers a variety of activities from cultural heritage to sports to natural environment and, last but not least, tasty food!

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