Tag Archives: italian travel

Little-known Italy – RAVENNA

Coat of Arms of the City of Ravenna

Coat of Arms of Ravenna

A few miles south of Venice, in Emilia Romagna, the enterprising traveler will find the city of Ravenna. This city is easily bypassed, it is not on most tourist itineraries nor does it generally host internationally advertised events such La Biennale di Venezia or La Fiera di Milano. It is nevertheless a city of capital importance both artistically and historically. And it offers a glimpse of that urbanely unhurried Italian lifestyle that most people seek when they visit the country.

The beginnings of Ravenna are uncertain, though scholarly opinion inclines towards an Etruscan origin. The city was never conquered by the Romans, rather, it was accepted into the Republic as a federated town. Ravenna was an important outpost during the period of ascendancy of the Western Empire, becoming its capital in its twilight, just before the Empire’s fall to the German foederati chieftain, Odoacer. It was then the capital of the first Kingdom of Italy, and continued in this role after Theodoric slew Odoacer and took over his kingdom. Retaken eventually by the Byzantines, Ravenna became the seat of Byzantine power in Italy (the Exarchate of Ravenna), until the Byzantines’ final expulsion by the Longobards. Ravenna’s distinguished history continued under the popes, until its unification with the newly-minted Kingdom of Italy in 1861.

Little Known Italy

The Italian Flag

Bandiera Italiana

The canonical destinations for tourists traveling to Italy are well known: Florence, Venice, Rome, the Cinqueterre, Umbria. The slightly more experienced may have found the Amalfitan Coast, Sicily, the Lago di Como, the Italian Riviera. But there is much, much more to Italy than these well-known destinations. I would argue, in fact, that the true Italy, unspoiled by the tourist presence, is more readily found in little-known middle-sized cities and out-of-the-way places that have maintained their cultural and historic identity aloof from the tourist tide.

Examples abound. The Byzantine treasures of Ravenna, the Renaissance gems of Ferrara and Mantova, the liveliness of Padova, the casual gayety of Rimini, the transcendent serenity of Montecassino, the majesty of the Monastery of Padula, the timeless ruins of Paestum, the eclectic beauty of Monreale… the list is truly endless. Charming resort towns like Nettuno, Maratea, Gallipoli in the South, alpine beauties such as Cortina in the eastern Alps. And more and more. And everywhere you find art and history and the Italian lifestyle!

In the next few posts we will explore some of these little-known treasures. Perhaps on future trips, once Florence and Venice have begun to pall, you will want to venture further afield and get a taste of a more pristine Italy.

Some DO’s and DON’Ts of Italian travel

Map of Italy

Italy

1. DO fly a European carrier if possible.  You will have many more choices of final destinations if the second leg of your trip originates in Europe.

2. DO get some euro’s at the airport, as soon as you arrive.  Their exchange rates are competitive.

3. DON’T deal with banks if you can avoid it.  Generally you have to have an account at a bank to have them do anything for you at all.

4. DON’T take much cash with you, and DO use the ATM’s.  They are plentiful and the fees you incur are well worth the peace of mind.

5. In restaurants, forget the 15-to-20% tipping rule.  Ten percent is plenty, and then only if you think you have received good service.

6. DO tip your porter after he has taken your bags to your hotel room.  Figure one euro per bag.

7. DON’T, if you are over eight years old, order a glass of milk or a cappuccino with dinner.