74km (46 miles) E of Bologna, 145km (90 miles) S of Venice, 130km (81 miles) NE of Florence, 365km (226 miles) N of Rome

It’s hard to believe that little, off-the-beaten track Ravenna was once the center of the Western World for a brief spell, capital of the Western Roman Empire from a.d. 402 to a.d. 476. Those rulers and the fathers of the early Christian church, and then the Goths and Byzantines who followed them, carpeted Ravenna’s churches and monuments in glittering mosaics to create an artistic legacy that rivals the splendors of Venice and Istanbul. Seeing the mosaics that the great poet Dante, who’s buried here, called “the sweet color of Oriental sapphires” is what will bring you across the marshy landscapes of Emilia-Romagna’s coastal plain to this once glamorous and powerful city, and it’s worth the trip.