Tour of the Ancient Port

Let’s discover it!

The visitor can discover the archaeological site of the Ancient Port following two different ways:

  • free tour: the visitor pays the admission fee and enter the site by himself following the itinerary and the explicative panels
  • guided tour: the visitor can book a guided tour and visit the area with a qualified guide

10 stages to discover the Harbour

Many explicative panels are located along the itinerary: these panels explain the daily life of the Harbour of Classe but also its development and abandonment.


1. A lagoon landscape

Gli abitati di Ravenna e Classe in antico (VI secolo d. C.)

People of Ravenna and Classe during the VI century

Classe is really changed. The rivers brought sediments, which covered the lagoon, which was a characteristic of this territory.
During the Roman Age, the seashore was few meters far from the harbour, now it’s 9 kilometers far.

During the VI century AD this place was a little island which separated the entrance of the harbour.

On the other side, the visitor could have seen the breakwater which protected the entrance of the canal and the big lighthouse of Alessandria.
On the island, there were various buildings: we don’t know their function. Next to these buildings there was the street, probably a pedestrian area, because there aren’t the typical grooves left by the carts (wagons).

2. Classe’s roads

Caditoia che convogliava le acque piovane della strada nelle canalette di scolo

Drain for the rainwater

At the beginning, the streets of Classe are made by beaten earth and ruins.
In the V century AD, the urban development of the harbour brings to a new way to build the streets: they are paved over with a particular stone (in italian called trachite) from quarries Euganei’s Hills, near Padova (in the north of Italy). Next to the pavements raised sidewalks were located (crepidines), decorated with vertical stones (umbones) and somewhere covered by the porches of the warehouses.
The rainater reached little canals underground, which were also useful for buildings.
Vast range communications were possible thanks to the Pompilia Road, built in the 132 BC by the consul Publio Pompilio Lenate.
This street connected Ariminium (Rimini) to Hadria (Adria) passing through Ravenna and Classe.

3. The crossing of the canal

I resti delle strutture lignee di contenimento della sponda

Ruins of the woodden structures which contained the bank

The paved street brought to the bank of the canal. From here a connection is needed to cross the canal and to reach the street on the other side.
Surely, there were carpenters able to built such a long bridge but it’s more probably that a ferryboat connected a side with the other side. Ples and beams let think to a docking for a ferryboat and not to the structure of the bridge.
A bridge would have probably stopped the boats which crossed the canal.
The banks are provided with a dock for good’s loading and unloading.

4. A small treasure among the ruins

Il tesoretto viene portato alla luce durante la campagna di scavi del 2005

The excavation campaign in 2005 reveals the “tesoretto”

In the 2005 an excavation campaign in the Ancient Harbour revelead a little treasure: 7 silver spoons and one silver bowl, precious objects finelly decorated. The bowl is decorated with floral motifs: spoons are differents. One spoon is simple, without decoration but only an engraved name RUTA.
The other spoons are decorated with animals: ducks, an elephant’s head, doves and a cross. These kind of objects are usually used as offers for the foundation of a church.
This treasure remained to the church’s heritage and they could be used during cerimonies, like the Baptism.
So these objects could own to a church, which was nearby this place, for exemple the Petriana Cathedral.
Speaking about the style, these objects are about the V century and VII century; during the VIII century they were hidden: an earthquake and a Longbard attack ruined Classe.

5. A boat storage area

Stele-ossuario di Mont(ano) Capitone, classiario (marinaio) della flotta militare di Classe nell’epoca giulio-claudia (I secolo d. C.)

Stele – ossusry of Mont(ano) Capitone, a sailor of the military fleet of Classe (I century AD)

Inside the excavation, a big square made of potsherd and brick was found. The floor went down slowly until the canal; at the end there was a ramp which was used to host the boat.
In Classe, like in every harbour, the boat storage was one of the most important activity.
Building n. 11 was, maybe a laboratoy used for this activity.
During another excavation, a part of the docks of the August’s period was found, but now it’s not visible anymore.
Its different position expalins that the canal was becoming smaller.

6. The warehouses facing the canal

Il deposito delle anfore all’interno del magazzino 17

The storage of anphoras in the warehouse n.17

The main buildings are the warehouses for the storage of goods, which were brought by the boats and loaded on trucks.
A paved street guaranteed an easy access to the town, too.
The warehouses, made of brick, were separeted each others by paths: under these paths there were small canals used for the rainwater and the building’s drains.
They are square-shaped and very simple: in general they face the street and have a porch (sometimes if the warehouse has a back on another canal, they have two porches).
Big warehouse can have also two floors.
Inside, there could be a garden, where handcraft activities can be made.
These buildings are very functioning: firstly in the porch, products are divided; then, inside the warehouses they are better set. Now the products are ready for the market.

7. Warehouses and workshops

Scorie prodotte dalla forgiatura di oggetti in ferro

Scraps product by the forging of iron objects

On the other side of the street, there were others commercial buildings. Some were similar to the buildings facing the canal, around a central court.
Other were rectangular and with only one room.
On the back side, there were small closed courtyards.
These buildngs were warehouses, but they can hosted also handcraft activities: glass, bone, ceramic and iron manufacturing.

8. A warehouse from the time of Theodoric

La ricostruzione del magazzino 17

The reconstruction of warehouse n.17

The building n. 17 is found during the excavation: it’s a warehouse organised in a big unique room, divided in three naves. There is also a porch facing the street and a garden in the back.
Between the end of V century and the beginning of the VI century AD, during the Theodoric’s time, was destroyed by a fire.
People couldn’t saved the products so they have been found exactly at their place, just covered by ruins.
In this way, we can understand that a part of warehouse was for wines, fish’s sauce and parfumes stored in particular anphoras (spatheia); in another area there was the oil, stored in big anphoras and another place was for tablewares in ceramic and the oil lamps.
There were also corn seeds an legumes inside sacks.
All these products came from North-Africa, the most active commercial route of this periods.
Thanks to this discovery, we can understand: how really worked a warehouse; how people stored products and especally the containers: anphoras were fixed in the floor made of wood boards in order to keep the same anphoras straight.

9. The historical stratification of Classe’s Harbour

Una delle sepolture ad inumazione (VII secolo d. C.) rinvenuta all’interno dello scavo

Tomb found inside the excavation (VII century)

During the history of Classe houses, warehouses, structures of the harbour and handcrafte structures overlied each others, creating a complicated archaeological stratification.
Younger layers has been removed in order to discover the town of the VI century A.D. In these layers there were: houses, laboratories and a lot of tombs.
Ancient stratifications are covered to allow the vision of streets and warehouses of the VI century. Thanks to some excavations, we know that below there are rooms of a house from I-III century decorated with floor mosaics and docks of an harbour from the I century.

10. Building with recycled materials

Fornace da calce a pianta circolare (metà VI secolo d. C.)

Round-shaped furnace for lime (VI century A.D.)

During the Imperial Age the importance of Ravenna as commercial terminal grown up especially thanks to the harbour of Classe. This brought to a rapid urbanistic development.
New buildings were built using materials from ancient structures: everything abandoned was reused to built new buildings. Also the necropolis were used as building’s materials.
The cement is a recycled material too. It’s made of marble and limestone which were burnt in furnace.
During the VII century A.D the warehouse of the harbour, in riuns, were destroyed, to build the last houses and new places of worship.
The production of blinks stopped during the III century A.D and started again only between the XII-XIII century A.D.