Italy: The beautiful little city named ‘hidden gem’

Rome: A beautiful coastal town in Italy is one of Europe’s most underrated – but its enviable location to beaches and other more famous cities makes it a perfect place to visit.

Dubbed a “hidden gem”, Ravenna, on the northwest coast of Italy, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site known for its colourful mosaic buildings. But it doesn’t get as many tourists as more famous holiday hotspots such as Rome or Florence.

DanFlyingSolo featured the town on its list of Europe’s most underrated cities and said it was one of the country’s “unsung stars”. The website also made some recommendations for anyone keen to visit, citing the Mosaic Museum, the local cuisine and the Emilia Romagna Riviera, a popular beach, as must dos.

While the city is not as well known as others, it makes a name for itself because of the sheer amount of mosaics people can view.

Byzantine mosaics which can be seen in the octagonal Basilica di San Vitale, the cross-shaped Mausoleo di Galla Placidia and the 6th-century Basilica di Sant’Apollinare Nuovo.

The mosaics have been called “justifiably world-renowned” and a “really important historical treasure” by reviewers on Tripadvisor.

And for anyone wanting to delve deep into its heritage, there are a number of museums, churches and mausoleums to explore in Ravenna, with the city centre called “unassuming” by Lonely Planet.

In its streets and beautiful piazzas, Ravenna has small shops, cafes, restaurants, beauty spots and parks – with people urged to explore the areas “off the beaten track” – to sample the area away from day-trippers.

One visitor called the an “outstanding experience” describing it as “breathtaking, absolutely gorgeous” and that photos “do not do it justice”. Another called it “gentler” than other, more popular destinations.

In the area surrounding the city are beaches such as Singita Miracle and Pineta, the marina, national parks and other cities like Forli and Cesena.

Ravenna was the historic seat of the Roman Empire and then the Byzantine Empire which is what gave it its early Christian mosaics and monuments which are protected sites which blend Graeco-Roman tradition, Christian iconography and both oriental and Western styles.

The city has many places to stay including hotels, bed and breakfasts, hostels and holiday lets.

Tourists can get to Ravenna via plane from London and Manchester to Bologna, 50 miles away, and Florence, 80 miles away. From there, there are shuttle buses, trains and rental cars which can get you to the city.

Also among DanFlyingSolo’s list of underrated European cities were Tbilisi in Georgia, Cordoba in Spain, Gdansk in Poland and Sarajevo in Bosnia and Herzegovina.