The City of Mosaics
The main reason for visiting Ravenna, a few kilometres inland from the Adriatic coast, on your MSC Mediterranean cruise, is simple – it holds a set of mosaics generally acknowledged to be the crowning achievement of Byzantine art.
No fewer than eight of Ravenna’s buildings have been designated UNESCO World Heritage sites. They date from a strange interlude in the city’s history during the late Roman–early Byzantine period when this otherwise unremarkable provincial centre briefly became one of the most important cities in all of Europe. The centre of Ravenna is the Piazza del Popolo, an elegant open space, arcaded on two sides, laid out by the Venetians in the fifteenth century and now bordered by cafés. A group of buildings around Piazza del Duomo shelter the Duomo itself, with its cylindrical tower. Originally a fifth-century building, it was completely destroyed by an earthquake in 1733 and rebuilt in unexceptional style soon after.
A holiday to Ravenna is unthinkable without a visit to Basilica di Sant’Apollinare Nuovo. Built by Theodoric in the sixth century, it contains some of Ravenna’s most impressive mosaics, running the length of both sides of the nave. Each shows a line of martyrs processing through avenues of date palms and bearing gifts for Christ and the Virgin enthroned. Around 130km west of Ravenna in Maranello you can enjoy another unforgettable MSC excursion: Museo Ferrari, an exhibition centre dedicated to the racing dynasty.
On display are the cups and trophies won by the Ferrari team over the years and an assortment of Ferrari engines, along with vintage and contemporary examples of the cars themselves. There’s also a shop stocking all manner of merchandise, from baseball caps to surf boards.