Ravenna and Aquileia, cities full of the churches and residences so typical of the time replete with unparalleled mosaics. While Italy struggled at the hands of barbarian invaders, the great walled cities, seemingly secure behind their defences, enjoyed a golden age of creation. Marvel at the artistry and explore the stories behind the shimmering tiles.
The mists, lagoons and beautiful historic cities of the Po Valley make Ravenna a wonderful choice for a Christmas tour. We enjoy a traditional Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve, a very authentic Italian celebration.
- Immerse yourself into a traditional Italian Christmas
- Out-of-hours access to the Church of San Vitale
- Tour Pomposa Abbey
- Explore the great Cathedral of Aquileia
We arrive in Bologna and drive to Concordia Sagittaria. Here we will visit the excavations of the Apostolic Basilica before travelling onwards to our hotel in Grado.
Aquileia was one of the greatest cities of the Roman world, sometimes known as the ‘gatekeeper of Italy’ due to its strategic position. Its fame was the reason for its fall as it was sacked by Atilla the Hun during his invasion of Italy. We explore the Cathedral and mosaics found under the campanile and walk along the ruins of the riverine port to the early Christian museum at Monastero. We spend the afternoon viewing the superb collections in the National Archaeological Museum.
Following a quick exploration of Grado we drive to the abbey of Pomposa, founded in the 7th century in marshes and lagoons, with an arm of the River Po running on each side; it has a fine 12th century mosaic floor and frescoes. Driving on the Ravenna we visit Sant’ Apollinare in Classe, the ancient port of Ravenna. The great Church of Sant’ Apollinare is found here, with its glorious apse mosaics and array of great marble sarcophagi of 6th century bishops and notables. Before heading to our hotel we visit the ponderous stone Tomb of King Theoderic the Great on the outskirts of Ravenna.
Ravenna was the last imperial capital of the Western Roman Empire. We explore this final royal bolt-hole and its remarkable collection of churches and monuments. We will take in both the Arian and Neonian Baptisteries, the Cathedral and the Bishop’s Palace, which houses extraordinary early Christian artefacts from the city’s golden age. We end the day at the Domus dei Tappeti di Pietra, an innovatively excavated aristocratic house with its own mosaic floors. You will have a chance to explore the National Archaeological Museum.
Today it is time to visit the greatest monuments in Ravenna. San Vitale is an imperial sized church with its famous mosaic cycle depicting Emperor Justinian and Empress Theodora, followed by the mausoleum of the Empress Galla Placidia. The Imperial and Royal residence in Ravenna had its own church and this was elaborated by Theoderic the Ostrogoth with beautiful mosaics which were themselves carefully edited for political meaning by Justinian. In the afternoon we will visit the basilicas of San Giovanni Evangelista and San Francesco.
Christmas Day! Following a leisurely start we will take a trip down the coast to Rimini, ancient Ariminium. This was the terminus of the Via Flaminia which connected the Adriatic coast with the Tyrhennian. In in Rome’s later days the highway was the delicate jugular vein that kept the empire in being and permitted a governor in Ravenna to control the Duchy of Rome over the mountains. We shall visit the Arch of Augustus, the Bridge of Tiberius and the excavated House of the Surgeon.
We transfer to Bologna airport for our return flights to London.
- Expert Guide Lecturer
- Tour Manager
- Local Travel - Private a/c coach
- Meals - All meals included with wine at dinner
- Entries & Tips - Entry to all sites in programme; tips included
- Field Notes
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