Port of Ravenna
Review and History

The Port of Ravenna is located on northeast Italy’s coast on the Adriatic Sea. About half way between Florence and Venice, the Port of Ravenna is connected to the Adriatic by a canal. Ravenna was at one time the capital of Rome’s Western Empire and the Kingdom of the Ostrogoths.

The Port of Ravenna is world-famous for its wonderful 5th and 6th Century mosaics and its mausoleums, all of which led it to be listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1996. Today, the Port of Ravenna is both agricultural and industrial, including busy petroleum- and natural gas-refining plants. Ravenna is one of Italy’s most important port cities, and it leads other Italian ports in handling flour, cereals, and fertilizers as well as general cargoes and containers. In 2006, almost 150 thousand people called the Port of Ravenna home.

Port History

Ancient Ravenna was closer to the Adriatic Sea than it is today. It covered coastal lagoons that silted up over time, bringing the Port of Ravenna inland. The first inhabitants moved to the area from Aquileia around 1400 BC. Local legends tell of Etruscans and Gauls in the area.

The Port of Ravenna came under the control of Rome at the end of the 2nd Century BC. Having an excellent natural harbor, it soon became an important Roman port. By the end of the 1st Century BC, it was the base for Rome’s Adriatic navy.

In 402 AD, Emperor Honorius moved his court to Ravenna from Rome to avoid increasing invasions. Until the empire was dissolved in 476, the Port of Ravenna was the capital of Rome’s western empire. As the capital, it gained many impressive monuments fitting with its status. In 438 AD, it was made an archbishopric.

The Port of Ravenna was capital of Italy’s first barbarian ruler, Odoacer from 476 to 493 AD. Then the Ostrogoth king Theuderic ruled until 526, making Ravenna the capital of his kingdom.

In 540, the Byzantine Empire (Rome’s eastern empire) conquered the Port of Ravenna, making it an imperial provincial capital and bishopric, the administrative center of Byzantine Italy. By the early 7th Century, the Exarchate of Ravenna included the area from north of Ravenna to south of Rome.

Invasions and revolts in the 8th Century disintegrated the Exarchate. In 751, the Port of Ravenna was taken by the Lombards and then the Franks in 754. In 757, the Franks gave the Port of Ravenna to the Pope, although the local archbishops retained much of their power.

The da Polenta family ruled the Port of Ravenna in the 14th Century, and Venice took control of the Port of Ravenna in the early 15th Century. It was returned to the Papal States in 1509. French troops took the Port of Ravenna briefly in the early 16th Century after the Battle of Ravenna. After being reclaimed by the Pope, the Port of Ravenna was held by the Vatican almost continuously until the middle 19th Century.

In 1859, the Port of Ravenna joined with the Kingdom of Sardinia which soon became the Kingdom of Italy.

Little remains of ancient Rome in the Port of Ravenna. However, it does still contain many Paleo-Christian monuments from the 5th to 8th Centuries AD. Having been the capital of Rome’s western empire for 250 years and an important center for Rome’s eastern empire, its buildings and atmosphere reflect a blending of the two Roman forms – classical Roman architecture and Byzantine mosaics and intricate decoration.

The Port of Ravenna was established in the 1st Century BC when Emperor Augustus decided to base one of his imperial fleets there. Even after the decline of the Western Empire, the Port of Ravenna continued to be a busy port. It entered a golden age during Byzantine dominance, as shown in the mosaics of S. Apollinare Nuovo.

By the early 18th Century, the old Port of Ravenna was completed silted over. To remedy this situation, the Corsini Port, an 11-kilometer canal from the town to the Adriatic Sea, was opened.

After World War II, the Port of Ravenna became an important international port when large gas fields were discovered offshore from Ravenna. New refineries and petrochemical plants soon appeared. The oil crisis of the 1970s further enhanced the Port of Ravenna’s position in the world market. New terminals have been added to handle bulk and general cargoes and containers.

Today, the Port of Ravenna is an industrial and agricultural city. Its main industries include refining of petroleum and natural gas, processing oilseed, and producing synthetic rubber and fertilizers. The Port of Ravenna has a large and effective infrastructure to offer a variety of marine-related services. It continues to invest in expansions and additional specialized facilities to assure the highest level of support to ocean-going commerce.

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