Basilica di Sant'Apollinare in Classe

Top choice in Ravenna

RAVENNA, ITALY - JULY 22, 2014: interior of the medieval church of Sant'Apollinare in Classe, built from 6th century.

©Claudio Giovanni Colombo/Shutterstock

This signature early Christian basilica, lighter than Ravenna's other churches, is situated 5km southeast of town in the former Roman port of Classe. Its magnificent central apse mosaic, featuring Ravenna's patron Sant'Apollinare flanked by sheep and juxtaposed against a stunningly green landscape, is surmounted by a brilliant star-spangled triumphal arch displaying symbols of the four evangelists.

Other mosaics in the apse depict Byzantine Emperor Constantine IV (652–685) and biblical figures such as Abel and Abraham. The basilica – architecturally the city's most 'perfect' – was built in the early 6th century on the burial site of Ravenna's patron saint, who converted the city to Christianity in the 2nd century.

To get here, take a local train to Classe (€1.50, five minutes), one stop in the direction of Rimini, or catch bus 4 opposite the train station. There's free admission on the first Sunday of the month.