These two cities may be an hour away from one another but they are united by centuries of history.
9 Jul 2020
From the Riviera to its villages nestled in the hills, Romagna is a land rich in extraordinary landscapes, stunning architecture , excellent regional cuisine and a rich heritage of tradition, history and even mystery.
If you are planning a getaway break to discover what Romagna has to offer, we suggest focusing on Cesena and Ravenna. Two of the most historic towns in the region, they are packed with sites of historical and cultural interest. Let’s discover what pearls to look forward to along the way.
Cesena is a city rich in monuments, places of interest and stunning views. As soon as you arrive, plunge into the old town and walk the main streets, viewing the ancient city walls that surround the city and the towering Malatesta Fortress.
Make sure you don’t miss the Historical Museum of Antiquity and the Malatesta Library, both situated inside Cesena’s former Franciscan monastery. The Malatesta Library, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, was Italy’s first ever civic library, and is the country’s only perfectly-preserved medieval monastic library. On its shelves you’ll find many ancient books, some still in their original counter-stitched bindings, as well as tomes from the private collection of Pope Pius VII, who hailed from Cesena. The Historical Museum hosts a number of exhibits that range from prehistory to Roman times.
The next site to see is Palazzo del Ridoto, an evocative example of 15th-century architecture. We soon come to Piazza del Popolo, dominated by the Palazzo Municipale. Built in 1359, it houses stunning 18th-century frescoes. The symbol of the city, Masini Fountain, reigns supreme in the centre of the square.
For the most breathtaking views over Cesena, head upwards, to the Rocca; take advantage of the trip to visit the Museum of the History of Agriculture. Once at the top of the Garampo Hill, stop and admire the view.
Gatteo a Mare - Sea Meets Culture.
Far from the hubbub of the Riviera Romagnola’s most famous resorts are some hidden gems to discover.
They may be less well-known, but they are full of surprises. Gatteo Mare is one such gem. Situated between Rimini and Ravenna, a little more than 5 kilometres from Cesenatico, Gatteo Mare is one of the four hamlets that make up the Municipality of Gatteo, a stretch of flat land bordered by the Rubicon and the Rissosa rivers as they wend their way seawards.
Be sure not to skip a visit to the Coastal Marine Oasis, a unique naturalistic park with 1,500 different plants on three hectares of thick Mediterranean vegetation where peacocks, swans and ducks take to the skies alongside inbound seagulls.
The town of Gatteo, ten kilometers from Gatteo Mare, is a lovely old town featuring the beautiful Malatesta Castle and the Oratory of San Rocco, which boasts glorious seventeenth-century frescoes. Not far from Gatteo is the bridge over the Rubicon: a bust of Julius Caesar celebrates the fact that it was here Caesar pronounced his famous phrase, “Alea iacta est” - the die is cast.
Ravenna is some forty minutes from Gatteo Mare and Cesena. It is an absolute must on your weekend away in Romagna. Split into East and West, the “City of Mosaics” is a truly important place not just for Italian history but for the Christian religion.
Three times in its history has this city been a capital: capital of the Western Roman Empire, of the Ostrogoth Kingdom, and of the Byzantine Exacratus, the area of the Byzantine Empire consisting of Byzantine’s Italian territories.
There are so many things to see in Ravenna that it’s hard to do it justice in a short space of time. Nevertheless, some places are musts. High on the list is the Basilica of San Vitale, one of the most important early Christian art monuments in all of Italy. A visit here is memorable, packed with curiosities to discover inside. On the floor next to the altar is a labyrinth in which, by following the small arrows, you reach the centre of the Basilica. The labyrinth was meant to symbolize man’s sinful life and the path to take to achieve purification and grace. Finding the way out of the maze was considered akin to an act of rebirth.
The Mausoleum of Galla Placidia, located just outside the Basilica of San Vitale, is another must-see sight. Galla Placida, the sister of Emperor Honorius, was responsible for transfering the capital of the Western Roman Empire from Milan to Ravenna. One of Ravenna’s most stunning and enthralling monuments, the mausoleum’s beautiful mosaics celebrate the victory of eternal life over death.
There’s also the Aryan Baptistery, bearing vital witness to the origins of Catholic worship and the key doctrines of the Christian religion. The baptistery offers an opportunity to go back to the dawn of Christianity and learn about the hard times it had to traverse.
A city on a human scale, Ravenna is perfect to tour round on a bicycle. In fact, a bike is an excellent way to optimize your visit and reach other places of interest such as the Mausoleum of Theoderic, made entirely out of blocks of Istria stone, and the Sant’Apollinare in Classe Basilica, which was built around the sixth century AD.
Last but not least, we suggest a visit to the Tomb of Dante, a small temple built in 1780 by architect Camillo Morigia. It’s a well-worthwhile detour for anyone who wishes to pay homage to the man who wrote the “Divine Comedy”, spawning Italian literature and the modern-day language.
Where can I stay?
Less than 10 minutes from Cesena is Pievesestina di Cesena, a town that enjoys a strategic position for visiting Cesena and its surroundings. Gruppo UNA UNAWAY Hotel Cesena Nord is a modern hotel perfectly connected to major transport routes, and surrounded by excellent restaurants.