For a city with such a large collection of astonishing churches and mausoleums, Ravenna lacks the equivalent in non-religious architecture. Walking around the city one rarely sees grand richly-decorated palazzi as in other Italian cities. Instead, most of the architecture is in the form of small, unadorned (albeit cute) townhouses, many of which were built in the last century. The reason is probably because Ravenna remained mostly dormant after its golden age in the 5th - 7th centuries AD. Attached are a few photos of the streets of Ravenna and its architecture.
I must have led a charmed life up to this particular venture to Italy, because in all the other countries I visited, English was either one of the standard languages or, in the case of France, I spoke the ambient tongue. I suppose I expected that many, if not most, of the hoteliers and shop keepers and transport personnel in Italy would speak at least a modicum of English. I didn't invest in a phrase-book (although it turned out my companion had brought one along). What arrogance! I have only myself to blame for the multiple times when language barriers led to absurd or disappointing results. (It is hard to ask for directions when you can't articulate where you want to go -- and can't understand when someone tries to help out.)
Probably no one reading this tip would make such a foolish mistake, but just in case...either learn enough Italian to get by, or keep a phrase-book or English-Italian dictionary close at hand. I promise you'll have a more enjoyable visit.
(And as one VT'er says in a very funny motto which I will badly paraphrase, speaking English slowly and very loudly does NOT make it more comprehensible!)
Not just inRavenna...many (perhaps most) Italian museums are closed on Mondays. This can be a spirit-killer if you're only in a city or town for a single day and the museums are unavailable, which is why the Spirit moves me to suggest that much of Italy's great art is found in its churches, virtually all of which are open every day of the week (and are generally free, to boot). So enjoy the splendid mosaics in the local duomo, and soak in the notion that people have been hallowing with their prayers the place where they are situated for many hundreds of years.
When you are seated at an Italian restaurant, you should anticipate paying "coperto" or a cover charge, assessed on a per person basis. This ranges from something minimal to several euros, presumably depending upon the restaurant although I never analyzed this during our trip. Since the cover charge is intended to compensate the restaurant for the cost of doing business, including the employment of the wait staff, I was told not to apply the American standard of tipping 15% or more of the bill. Rather, the tradition seemed to be to put one's excess change on top of the credit card slip or cash to cover the meal. That sometimes resulted in several euros' "tip" but it would still be a fraction of what I'd pay at home, even if one included the coperto.
Not limited to Ravenna...it seems that Italians take seriously the admonition that one is to keep the sabbath day holy, at least the Italians who are involved in the restaurant trade. We had a very difficult time finding anything other than coffee shop or pizza meals (admittedly, Italian pizza is fabulous). So think ahead, and get the supplies for a wonderful picnic en plein air, or call ahead before you drive out for that four-star recommendation in Frommer's, and avoid an unpleasant shock.
There's one thing you'll notice in Ravenna. Bikes. Lots and lots of bikes. It is, without doubt, the number one form of transport around these parts.
Locals shop with them, take their children to school with them, visit friends with them or just go for a ride.
Usualy when walking around italian cities you have to be careful not to be run over by a moped. In Ravenna, to my surprise, people seem to prefere bicycles. Very untypical if you ask me. Totally contrary to the picture in my head of Italians rushing around on their mopeds. Call it a stereotype. But that doesn't meen you are less endangered in Ravenna. Still watch your step as you never know when somebody on two wheels will rush around the corner.
Piadina or Piada is a traditional bread (I wouldn't call it bread, it's more like french crepes, just different taste, or a long lean pancake made of fat, water and flour) very tasty one, culinary tradition of many centuries here. You won't find it in most of other regions outside Romagna.
You can eat piadina without anything else, you can it with cheeses and/or vegetables, such as spicnaci, you can even eat it with nutela!
Crescione - if we are talking about piadina here, crescione would be a bended piadina, closed, stuffed inside (with anything you choose).
Piadina could be brought to you in any traditinal cuisine restaurant at the begining while you are waiting for a meal as an appetitizer, in this case it will be sliced. Or you can buy it in special places as a main meal, kind of kiosks , white ones with green vertical lines, choosing it as you prefer.
1. Many people use bicycles for getting around the center
2. There are many lovely things happening in summer on Friday nights, such as concerts, shows, etc.
3. Check the time of "mercati" (markets) , there're different kind of these from antique to crafts and clothes.
4. People are really nice in Ravenna and during the day time center is really a calm place to be in.
I found that knowing a little bit of Italian was a huge help. In general I think that american tourists tend to 'float' through an area - not really meeting people, but just taking some pictures, pointing to their menu choices, and carrying on from there. Spend a few months learning Italian - and you'll have a much differnt (and in my opinion much better) experience. I used a three CD set that i ordered from amazon - i listed to the CD's on the way to work each day for 5 months - but the time i got to Italy i could at least be polite and ask for food recommendations from the waiters.