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Mosaics in the Basilica di San Vitale in Ravenna, Italy.

Ravenna with Kids – Mosaics, the Fish Church, and Piadine!

Ravenna is visited by a few million tourists each year, but many of them only spend a few hours gazing up at its UNESCO World Heritage site Byzantine mosaics.  Then, necks sore, they take their train, car, or cruise ship to their next destination.

If you’re visiting Italy with your family, it’s worth stopping in Ravenna with your children for more than a few hours.  While Ravenna’s historic mosaics may not be at the top of your four-year-old’s wish list, they’re actually interesting for all ages.  Our family loves the city’s green spaces, playgrounds, and pedestrian city center and we’re sure yours will too!

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Why Visit Ravenna with Kids

I haven’t convinced you yet?  Ravenna is an excellent stop on your Italy itinerary with kids for its:

  • Colorful and sparkling mosaics – kids will enjoy ‘reading’ the stories on the walls of churches, mausoleums, and more.
  • Wealth of nearby activities, from theme parks to salt flats, from car museums to kid-friendly villages
  • Link to history – From its stint as the capital of the Western Roman Empire to its part in WW2, the small city has been a part of many historic eras and moments.
  • Typical Italian life – Yes, it’s visited by tourists, but it’s still possible to see Italians living their daily lives.  Our kids loved seeing the local children go to school and playing with them in the afternoon at the playgrounds.
  • Well-organized city center – easy parking, shopping for basics, pedestrian areas, space
  • Delicious food – this is the home of piadine, lasagne, and other classic Emilia-Romagna dishes
  • Small touches, like the colorful mosaics used on some of Ravenna’s street signs

When to Visit Ravenna with Kids

A sunny day in an uncrowded Piazza del Popolo in Ravenna, Italy.  People are dining at a cafe on the piazza and a few people are walking in the square.
Piazza del Popolo on a gorgeous November day

Ravenna is a small city, but it often overflows with cruise passengers (April through October) and school field trip groups (March through early June). 

July and August tend to be very hot.

May and September are probably the most pleasant times to visit temperature-wise, but that means the town will also be very crowded.

Even if it’s crowded, know that you’ll see the crowds at the mosaics, but you can still find plenty of space and uncrowded places in other parts of the city.

I like visiting in quieter months like March, October, and November.    

Trying to decide when to visit Italy? Check out our monthly guides:
Italy in January
Italy in February

Italy in March
Italy in April
Italy in May
Italy in June
Italy in October

Italy in November
Italy in December

Best Things to Do in Ravenna with Kids

Ravenna is all about mosaics, and kids will enjoy seeing a few of them, especially if they have an idea of what they’re looking at.  They’ll also enjoy strolling (or cycling) around town, seeing a church with fish, and checking out one or two of Ravenna’s playgrounds.  Here are our family’s favorite things to do in Ravenna:

Visit the Museo TAMO (Mosaic Museum)

Before heading to the UNESCO World Heritage Mosaics around town, I brought my kids to the TAMO Mosaic Museum.  I highly recommend a stop here at the beginning of your visit to Ravenna.

Kids love seeing the mosaics up close and learning how they’re made.  They can see the tools used, the large pieces of material that were cut into fingernail-size pieces, and how mosaics are recovered and restored.  As a bonus, the museum is absolutely gorgeous – it’s set in the medieval San Nicolò church.

After you learn about traditional mosaics, you can walk out to the cloister and see a colorful exhibit on modern mosaics.

The TAMO museum is stroller-friendly and our visit with kids only took about 30-40 minutes (although you could spend longer). 

Good To Know:  There’s a bathroom with changing tables in the cloister area. 

Visit Ravenna’s Incredible Mosaics

After you’ve visited the TAMO museum, it’s time to see Ravenna’s world-famous mosaics. 

Hire a Guide

You can either see them on your own or hire a guide. If you have elementary-age kids or older, I highly recommend hiring a guide.

Otherwise, make sure your kids have some background on what they’ll be seeing.  Yes, the mosaics are colorful, sparkly, and beautiful, but that’s not enough! 

Learn About Ravenna and its Mosaics

Before your visit, you can read, watch videos, or work on crafts together:

Books:

Videos:

YouTube video
YouTube video

Arts and Crafts:

Buy Tickets to See the Mosaics

Buying tickets to see the mosaics is simple.  You can either buy them online through the official Ravenna Mosaics Website LINK or in person at either the Basilica of St. Apollinare Nuovo (Via di Roma, 53) or the Archiepiscopal Museum (Piazza Arcivescovado, 1).

You are buying a combined ticket to 5 mosaic sites:

  1. Mausoleo di Galla Placidia (Mausoleum of Galla Placidia)
  2. Basilica di San Vitale (Basilica of Saint Vitale)
  3. Basilica di Sant’Apollinare Nuovo
  4. Battistero Neoniano (Neonian Baptistery)
  5. Museo Arcivescovile (Archiepiscopal Museum, which includes St. Andrew’s Chapel and the Ivory Throne)

Important:  When you buy your combined ticket, you must also reserve entry times for two of the sites:  the Mausoleum of Galla Placidia and the Neonian Baptistery.  They’re only 800 meters (10-minute walk) from each other, but don’t book them too close together.

Good To Know:  The best time of day to avoid crowds at the mosaic sites is just before they close.  Otherwise, expect school field trip groups and cruise ship tours.  The quietest month of the year is January.

Visit the Mosaics

If it seems like seeing 5 sites of mosaics with kids is too much, then it probably is.  I chose to take my kids to see the most popular sites – Galla Placidia’s Mausoleum and the Basilica of San Vitale.  They loved finding the animals (especially the peacocks in the Basilica of San Vitale), seeing some of the Biblical references, and finding things like the halo and crown of Emporer Justinian (representing rule over church and state).

See Fish in the Basilica di San Francesco

Boy looking at the fish in the crypt of the Basilica di San Francesco in Ravenna, Italy.
Looking at the fish in the crypt of the Basilica di San Francesco

I have to drag my kids away from the ‘fish church!’    The Basilica di San Francesco (Basilica of St. Francis) was originally built in the 5th century and was dedicated to the Saints Peter and Paul. After some 10th-century renovations, it was eventually dedicated to St. Francis of Assisi (San Francesco). Dante’s 14th-century funeral took place here.

When you enter, before you head down to the unique crypt, stop by the statue of San Francesco in the front right.  St. Francis is the patron saint of animals and the environment.

How fitting that his church is home to fish!  Walk down the steps to the crypt, have your kids insert a €1 coin, and the lights turn on to reveal a gorgeous mosaic floor covered in a pool of water!  The colorful fish live in this pool that’s below sea level.

Good To Know: The piazza is a perfect place to stop for a snack before or after you visit the inside.

Fun Fact:  Ravenna was once full of canals (like Venice) that connected the city to the Adriatic Sea.  The railroad took over and the canals have gradually disappeared.

 

Visit a Playground in Ravenna

If your kids are like mine, they’re always on the hunt for a playground!  Ravenna has quite a few playgrounds for little (and big) ones.  I’ve listed some below, you’ll probably run into a few others as you walk around town.

Our family’s favorites are Parco Teodorico (where the local kids go, but about a 10-minute walk from the train station), Giardini Pubblici di Ravenna (another park full of locals and a nice playground), and the Parco Rocca Brancaleone (nice because it’s enclosed).

Giardini Pubblici di Ravenna – Close to the Basilica di Sant’Apollinare Nuovo (mosaics!), so you can see the mosaics and then let your kids run around at the park and in the huge green space. 

Giardino della Rocca Brancaleone – The Rocca is a fortress, and kids will delight in playing in the middle of it.  The Rocca is now just the walls, and inside, there’s a large space with toys spread out – swings, climbing toys, a see saw, a rope climbing structure, and more.  My boys love all of the space for running around, and there are a few trees to climb. 

Depending on the season, you’ll find a bar open, and plenty of seating throughout the park.  If the bar is closed, you can use the public pay toilet (€0.50).

As a parent, this is my favorite park in Ravenna because it’s fenced in (by the rocca’s walls), so I feel a little more relaxed letting the kids run around.

Parco Teodorico – This is where the parents of Ravenna take their kids.  It’s a large green space with plenty of space to run around.  Shady places, perfect for a picnic in warm weather.  Playground, exercise course (for older kids), ducks and nutrie (river rodents).

Giardino Speyer – This isn’t much of a park, but there are a couple of swings, a slide, and a small play structure.  Use this as a last resort or if you need something to do for a few minutes before catching a train.

Parco della Pace – About 2 kilometers from the center, this park is scattered with mosaics and art.  There’s a small play area, but if that’s what you’re looking for, visit one of the parks above – come here to see the art.  The Parco della Pace is also close to the Parco Baronio, Ravenna’s relatively new park (including its pond and ducks).

Boys walking over the bridge to enter the playground at the Rocca Brancaleone in Ravenna, Italy.

See Dante’s Tomb in Ravenna

Older kids and teens may want to stop by Dante’s tomb.  Dante Alighieri’s famous poem ‘The Divine Comedy’ (La Commedia) is not a children’s story, but older kids may have studied it in school. 

Even if your kids aren’t interested, as a parent you may want to check it out.  It’s right next to the Basilica di San Francesco (with the fish in the crypt), so you can combine the visits.

You can see where his bones were hidden during WW2 (see the plaque under ivy), and if you’re there at 6:00pm, you’ll hear the bells toll 13 times (he died on September 13th), and you can listen to a reading from La Commedia.

Stop in a Ravenna Book Shop

Inside Momo children's bookshop in Ravenna, Italy.
Momo Children’s Bookshop

I’m always amazed at how many bookstores Ravenna has, and many of them have excellent kid sections.  Our favorite kid’s book shop is Momo Libreria per Ragazzi, at Via Giuseppe Mazzini, 36.  The books are only in Italian, but they’re still fun to look at and there are also small gifts and a little wooden toy play area.

Stroll Ravenna’s Pedestrian Streets

Pedestrian street in Ravenna, Italy.

Our favorite streets for strolling include Via Farini / Via Armando Diaz and Via Cairoli.  Ravenna has international chains like Zara (mostly on Via Cavour), Italian companies, and local Ravenna boutiques.

You’ll find clothing, books, stationery, mosaics and art, and food products.  LEGO fans can stop into the small store off of Via Farini (although if you’re heading to Bologna, the LEGO store there is larger).

A few more things you could do if you have more time:

  • MAR Museum – Ravenna’s art museum.  If you have kids who are loving the mosaics, stop in here to see some more!  Unfortunately, the kids’ workshops are only in Italian.  Guided visits are also in Italian, but there are panels inside the museum with English explanations.
  • Museo La Casa delle Marionette – A tiny puppet museum worth a visit if your kids are interested in them.  Colorful displays and friendly people.  Be sure to call ahead as they may be out performing.
  • Giardino Rasponi (Garden of the Forgotten Herbs) – a quiet, small herb garden with a café near the Neonian Baptistery and Archiepiscopal Museum. 

Good To Know:  The Museum of Dolls and Toys is permanently closed.

Things to Do Near Ravenna with Kids

Boy tasting balsamic vinegar in Modena, Italy.
Tasting balsamic vinegar in Modena

Ravenna makes an excellent base for exploring other destinations in Emilia Romagna and Italy.  Always check opening days and hours – many destinations in the area close up for the winter (or have reduced hours).

Mirabilandia – one of Italy’s best theme parks; rides for all ages; includes a water park 

Safari Ravenna – drive-through wildlife park

Cervia Salt Flats – gorgeous scenery and learn about the famous Cervia salt – the salt of the Popes!

Italia in Miniatura – theme park with mini versions of Italy’s most famous monuments

Italian Car Museums – visit some of Italy’s best car museums with your kids, including the Ferrari Museums and the Lamborghini Museum MUDETEC

Dozza – small village decorated with murals; castle with a dragon in the tower

Bologna – a fun stop for a couple of days; there are plenty of things to do in Bologna with kids

Modena – balsamic vinegar, towers, and a lively market wait for you and your kids in Modena

Parma – colorful city to visit with your kids, home to Parmigiano Reggiano and Prosciutto di Parma

Pineta di Classe – walk or cycle in this large umbrella pine forest; you can even make your way to the Adriatic Sea and the small sand dunes (Dune Costiera della Foce del Torrente Bevano)

Casa delle Farfalle – perfect for a quick stop to see butterflies

Minigolf Centrale – we love minigolf and this one in Milano Marittima is one of Italy’s best

Labirinto della Masone Mason’s bamboo labyrinth is a fun active stop for all ages

Brisighella – small village great for kids who love to climb – walk up to the top of the clock tower or the Rocca (fortress)

Verona ­– look for Juliet’s balcony; see an outdoor opera

Venice – take a train for a day trip to Venice; Venice with kids is worth a longer trip if you have more time

Florence – like Venice, Florence warrants more than a day trip, but you can Florence by train from Ravenna, and it’s an excellent city to visit with kids of all ages, from babies and toddlers to teens

You may want to read about visiting Emilia-Romagna with Kids!

Eating in Ravenna with Kids

Tables and chairs set up in Ravenna, Italy's Mercato Coperto.
Mercato Coperto

Ravenna has plenty of options for families. 

We’re not big on restaurants (it’s not that much fun with three small kids), but the food in Emilia Romagna is kid-friendly, and we found the restaurants in Ravenna to be very accommodating to children.  Dishes like lasagne, cappelletti in brood, and all of the local  cured meats and cheeses are usually hits with kids.

We recommend:

Osteria dei Battibecchi (Via della Teroreria Vecchia, 16) – This small osteria in the center of town cooks up traditional Emilia Romagna dishes in a cozy atmosphere.  Kids will love the piggy bank collection! 

Mercato Coperto (Piazza Andrea Costa, 6) – We like the simple (but delicious) dishes at the few restaurants inside the market.  There’s also a mini Coop grocery store if you want to grab supplies for a picnic.

Helpful Tip:  There’s a large, free bathroom inside the market (but no changing tables).

If you want something more casual and quicker, Ravenna is the place for piadine – a nice pizza alternative!  It’s kind of like a thick version of a tortilla, and you can get them filled with a variety of ingredients (even the pickiest of eaters will find something to their tastes!). 

Our favorite place in Ravenna for piadine:

Profumo di Piadina (Via Cairoli, 24) – Excellent selection of delicious piadine on a lively pedestrian street.  Order your piadina and sit on the benches that line the street.

Where to Stay in Ravenna with Kids

We recommend staying in the city center because it’s convenient to walk everywhere.  The city is quiet, and you have access to basics (like grocery stores and pharmacies) in the city center. 

If you’re using Ravenna as a base for exploring other places in Emilia Romagna, either stay near the train station (if you’ll be moving by train) or make sure you have free parking or a parking lot at your accommodation. 

Villa Noctis – B&B located near the Neonian Baptistery (one of the 5 main mosaic sites); spacious rooms; welcoming to families

Hotel Minerva – convenient, no-frills location next to the train station; bunk-bed (convertible) room available

Logistics in Ravenna with Kids

Strollers

Ravenna is very stroller friendly.  The streets are cobbled but smooth enough for stroller wheels.  There are large sidewalks, some porticoes, and plenty of pedestrian streets. 

Getting Around Ravenna

It’s easiest to walk everywhere.  The town is relatively small.  If you have small kids, you can use a stroller or baby carrier.  Know that the white stone ‘path’ you see in the center of many of Ravenna’s streets is the bike lane.  Keep out of it and make sure little kids don’t wander into it! 

Ravenna’s an extremely bike-friendly town.  Unfortunately, there aren’t many rental opportunities.  You can rent from the green kiosk just outside the train station (Ve.Ra).  They have child and adult bikes and will also rent helmets. 

Baby Supplies

There are a couple of grocery stores in the town center (Pam and Coop), and they both carry basics like diapers, wipes, and baby food.  You can also find supplies at pharmacies throughout town, and at the shops Tigotà and Aqua&Sapone.

Changing Diapers

It’s best to carry a portable changing pad for changes on the go.  Ravenna also seems to have more changing tables in bathrooms than what I’d consider the norm for an Italian city. 

Getting to Ravenna

Ravenna is easily reached by train or car. 

Arriving in Ravenna by Train

Ravenna isn’t a stop on the high-speed trains, but it’s still easily accessible from all directions.  If you’re visiting Emilia Romagna, you can reach Ravenna from Bologna in just over an hour.  If you’re traveling from other parts of the country, you’ll almost always change trains in Ferrara or Bologna. 

The train station is an easy and pleasant 5-10 minute walk to the center of Ravenna.   

Arriving in Ravenna by Car

Ravenna is easy to visit by car because it’s not a huge city and parking isn’t as stressful as it is in many other Italian cities. 

The center does have a ZTL (limited traffic zone), which you can’t enter unless you have permission (for example, you’re staying in a hotel within the ZTL).  It’s best to park your car in one of the designated lots around town, or use the blue pay & display parking spaces.

It’s nice to have a car if you’re planning on visiting any of the destinations near Ravenna (see above).

Read more about Driving in Italy!

And don’t forget to check out our 200+ Essential Italy Travel Tips!

FAQ

Can you visit Teodorico’s Palace? 
No, unfortunately, it’s not open for public visits.  You can walk by it and see it well from the outside.