We're off to Italy for a running tour of Ravenna! Our local guides are Andrea Panzavolta and Andrea Bassi.
Tell us a little about yourself and your relationship with running?
Andrea Panzavolta: I began running as an adult after mostly participating in team sports as a boy (football, volleyball, beach tennis...). Specifically, I started running after I had discovered the beauty of cycling, the pleasure of battling fatigue and overcoming my limits on two wheels whilst climbing our mountains. I have run several marathons and many half marathons in Italy but I am still a lone runner. I love running as a means to exercise but also as an opportunity to test yourself and to develop personal discipline. The many local races across all distances are also wonderful opportunities to meet together with friends.
Andrea Bassi: I have always preferred the sofa to exercise. I am not inclined to discipline, even less if I have to impose it on myself. Mine would certainly be a story with a comfortable ending if my curiosity for the world and it's people hadn't got in the way. Out of curiosity I started walking, I continued running, I will end up flying. I shy away from circular routes and run straight in the same direction to get away from home on routes I have never travelled before, then return using public transport or makeshift vehicles. I like to run toward what I don't know and I like to do it in solitude. Right now I'm in the middle of a walk that will take me from Ravenna to Rome and then back to Ravenna. I admit, it is a ring, but it is a thousand kilometers long.
For the two of us, running together was also an opportunity to conceive and write a novel. In fact, it was precisely at the arrival of a race in the city that we collected the ideas that were translated into the novel “Di corsa”. Published at the end of 2020, it tells stories of runners who converge on the Ravenna Marathon in a thriller intertwined with a storyline of the poet Dante Alighieri and his remains resting in the city.
Andrea Bassi (L) and Andrea Panzavolta (R)
Describe the running culture in Ravenna?
Running in Ravenna has a long history. It began to establish itself as a popular sport in the 70's and since then, sports clubs have been born in Ravenna and throughout Romagna. These clubs attract runners of all ages and are dedicated to organising a calendar of varied events, from short-distance opportunities suitable for all abilities up to events of the highest level and history such as the 100 km del Passatore, ultra hilly trails and above all the splendid Ravenna Marathon. Especially striking is the huge popularity of this simple sporting activity, which sees participants of all ages and from all backgrounds united by the pleasure of running.
Where are the best places to run in Ravenna?
In Ravenna, inspiration is waiting for you wherever you choose to run. Starting conveniently from the city centre, you can choose urban routes, rich in history and culture, or venture into splendid nature not far from the city and no less rich in history.
Among those routes in the historic centre, the urban park surrounding the mausoleum of Theodoric, the funerary building of Theodoric the Great (now a UNESCO World Heritage Site), is highly recommended. From the centre, it is then possible to run to the sea, choosing a route of about ten kilometres that reaches coastal pine forests, or you can follow the cart tracks on the banks of the rivers.
(Video © RAVENNA TOURISM)
Those who prefer more adventurous running can run the cycle path that leads to the early Christian basilica of Classe, also a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the most visited monument in the entire region. From the basilica, you can quickly reach the Pineta di Classe, a pine forest of which there is documentary evidence dating back to the fifth century. The more daring can then continue through woods, lagoons and reclaimed lands to the ancient town of Cervia.
Pineta di Classe (photo credit: Nicola Strocchi)
One of Ravenna's many famous mosiacs at the Basilica di San Vitale
Are you a member of a running club in Ravenna?
We are proud members of the smallest informal sports club in Ravenna, and possibly the world! We have been friends since childhood. Some love running and others biking, so as not to upset anyone, when we are all together, we go trekking.
Where is the best place to buy running gear in Ravenna?
Tell us about the best local races in Ravenna?
Maratona di Ravenna
In Ravenna there are many local races, but only one of these has international relevance: the Ravenna Marathon. It runs in November, gathers almost 20,000 runners from all over the world and is divided into 5 distances: marathon, half marathon, 10k, family run, dogs & run, running without barriers.
The beauty of this race is in three simple ingredients: the first is that the route touches all the early Christian monuments of the sixth century in the city. Of course you can run anywhere, but it is more exciting to do it under the green mosaics of San Vitale, listening to the powerful breath of the beautiful Teodora and her perfect ambition, and then feel the no less powerful breath of another woman, very different from Teodora , but equally large: the noble Galla with its blue mosaics.
The second ingredient is the participation medal. A small, unique, hand-made mosaic work of art that faithfully reproduces the detail of one of the many Byzantine mosaics in the city, each year a different detail.
The third is free admission to the city museums. An opportunity for all runners and their families to combine the pleasure of running with the pleasure of seeing precious testimonies of the city's past.
Actually, there is also a fourth ingredient: Ravenna itself, the only city in the world with eight Unesco World Heritage monuments collected in the space of a race and the only city in the world to have been three times the capital city of three different empires.
Urban Trail Ravenna City of Water
Another interesting race held in the city is the 'City of Water' Urban Trail. This race takes place at dawn in August. The characteristic of this route is to cross and revive the ancient waterways of Ravenna, a lagoon city that has a deep bond with water, of which it shares the quality of a fluid and changing destiny.
Can you recommend a local dish/venue to eat after a long run or race in Ravenna?
Romagna cuisine is very varied, rich and tasty. Dishes are based on fish, sheep or pork, but in particular the many types of handmade egg pasta stand out and above all the piadina, a IGP specialty known throughout the world. There are many kiosks on the streets of the centre and places where you can find an excellent piadina, but the most traditional place in Ravenna is the Cà de Vèn (House of wine). Here it is prepared instantly and served in combination with traditional cured meats and cheeses, necessarily accompanied by the typical wines of the area (Sangiovese, Albana, Trebbiano, Bursòn, Pagadèbit).
Thanks to the two Andreas for taking us for a run (and piadina) in Ravenna!
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