Wheelchair Travel to Ravenna, Italy

by Mark & Margaret Edwards  © 2007

 

Mark & Margaret Edwards, of the United Kingdom. generously shared a host of European reports that detail the access that wheelchair users can expect to encounter. Mark is able-bodied and Margaret, who can walk a little with a cane, uses a traditional folding wheelchair to facilitate traveling.

 

Ravenna, Italy is world famous for their early Christian art, Byzantine architecture and one-of-a-kind mosaics that date from the 6th century. Travel with the Edwards as they experience this city so rich in history, medieval art and icons.

This makes a very manageable day out from Bologna (where we were based and which will have a report of its own) trains take around 90 minutes and there are frequent services, passing through some attractive countryside between the two towns. Ravenna itself is easy to get around – limited cobbled areas and generally flat with some pedestrianised areas. Most of the sights are well concentrated into a limited area and are about 10-15 minutes walk apart. While things were fairly busy, there was no need to book in advance and the numbers of people about were no problem at all. Our only drawback was that it was 34 degrees on the day we visited in late May – lovely but just a little warm for the pusher. I suspect it became even warmer for the participants in a cycle race who we watched all trying to pass through a narrow archway at the same time.

 

There is a vast quantity of information about opening hours and costs on the site http://www.turismo.ravenna.it/contenuti/index.php?t=arte_monumenti which does have an English version.

 

STATION

 

Getting around the station is easy but does require the assistance of staff if you need to cross railway lines. There is a subway but it is only stepped and there are no lifts. The platforms which are low in the first place have lowered crossing points leading to paths across the track but it is an offence to cross the tracks without permission and while this is not exactly a busy railway line, it’s best to follow the rules. Returning to the station, seek help from the assistance office which is to your left as you enter the foyer. They were very helpful – escorting us to the train, helping me on board and contacting Bologna to let them know that the lift on the arrival platform should be attended for us.

 

BASILICA DI S APOLLINARE NUOVO

Via di Roma

 

The mosaics in this church dating from the C.6th are a stunning introduction to the incredible quality of the church decorations in the city. And it’s about ten minutes walk from the station, which makes it a good place to start.

Access to this is on the flat with ramps – collect your (free disabled) ticket first at the ticket office at the right hand side of the building and note that it will let you into other sights. This is the “biglietto cumulative,” which covers either four or five locations depending on which you go for – as access is free for disabled patrons and their companions, go for the “5” ticket.

The book/gift shop is fully accessible and the cloister beyond it not only is peaceful and gives another view of the main building but has a disabled WC.

 

NATIONAL MUSEUM

BASILICA DI S VITALE

MAUSOLEUM OF GALLA PLACIDIA

Via Fiandrini Benedetto

 

These three buildings sit next to each other. The Museum holds a beautiful collection of icons, a restoration of the frescoes of Santa Chiara, which decorated the church of the Poor Clare Sisters in Ravenna together with a collection of weapons amongst a wide and well displayed collection.

 

The Basilica di S Vitale to quote UNESCO “is a unique example of Byzantine art; firstly because it blends in a most original way eastern and western styles into its architecture and secondly because its mosaics are complete and express with great clarity the ideology and religiosity of the Justinian era, which has been defined by the historians as the First Golden Age of Byzantine Art”. Dating from the 6th C, it is probably the most impressive building in Ravenna.

 

The Mausoleum – again to quote UNESCO – is “one of the most extraordinary monuments of Late Antiquity which have come down to us, both for its architecture and decoration”. The starry ceiling alone is enough to warrant a visit.

There is currently a small problem with this area. The general idea is that you visit the museum and then go around a cloister and down some steps to the church and mausoleum. To enable this, there is a stair lift down from the National museum side of the complex down to the church. However, it is out of order and looks as if it has been out of order for some time. This is not an insurmountable problem – just takes a bit of extra exercise and thought.

 

Essentially there are two areas here – the museum and then the church together with the mausoleum.

Decide what you want to see first: if you have one of the tickets with a list of sights down the side and don’t want to visit the Museum, there should be an attendant at the exit to the church/mausoleum side of the property who will let you in and down a slight slope to access those two buildings.

 

If you want to visit the museum and/or haven’t got a ticket for the church, follow the signs round to the museum entrance – there is a ramp up to the foyer and the ticket sales desk is on your right. There are two guichets – one for the museum and another for the church. If you already have one of the general tickets, you don’t need to collect another for the church but you will require one for the museum.

 

So far as the museum is concerned, staff will direct you into the chapel display on the ground floor and then will take you through a back area to the lift, which serves the upper floors. From the museum entrance, retrace your steps back to the church and enter the grounds by the exit as described above.

 

NEONIAN BAPTISTRY

Next to the Cathedral

According to UNESCO, “the Orthodox Baptistery is the only one of its kind in the ambit of Early Christian art because no other baptismal building of Late Antiquity has conserved so perfectly its architectonic form and internal decoration in marble, stucco and mosaic.” Appearing to be rather plain from the outside, the inside is a riot of colour and imagination.

The baptistery is alongside the cathedral and is accessible by a ramp – flat inside.

 

COMPLESSO DI SAN NICOLO

Via Rondinelli

This is a museum space where the exhibition “FELIX RAVENNA” runs until 7th October 2007. Details are available at http://www.felixravenna.com/index.php?option=com_frontpage&Itemid=1

 

The displays cover a range of mosaics and artefacts described as being from the upper classes of Ravenna and the surrounding area. An eclectic collection, but very well laid out with some positive gems. Access is on the flat – the exhibition is sign posted from around the area – and there is a WC (non-disabled) in the former cloister on the right as you go in.

 

Don't miss Mark & Margaret Edward's other journeys to these destinations:

 

Madrid '07
 

Amsterdam '07

 

Bologna '07

Milan '06

 

Venice '06

 

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