Just a few steps away from Dante Alighieri’s Tomb, in a sort of dialogue with the facade of the Basilica of San Francesco, is one of the most beautiful and charming corners of Ravenna: the RASPONY CRYPT and THE ROOF GARDENS OF PALAZZO DELLA PROVINCIA.
A bit of history
Palazzo della Provincia, along with the roof gardens aroung it, are all that remains of a building erected in the 17th century and owned by Count Ferdinando Rasponi.
Turned into the luxury Hotel Byron at the end of the 19th century, in 1918 the building was bought by Nullo Baldini, who wanted it to house the federation of cooperatives.
In 1922 it was set on fire by a fascist group led by Italo Balbo and Dino Grandi that partly compromised the structure.
Since then, there is another neo-romantic building in its place, where the official function rooms and offices of the Province are located.
The Rasponi crypt
It is possible to access the Rasponi crypt from the side portico of the building overlooking the beautiful Piazza San Francesco.
The crypt is the most ancient nucleus of the architectural complex and dates back to the end of the 18th century.
To date, it is the only authentic and certain trace of the ancient Palazzo Rasponi and was never used as a burial place for the Rasponi family.
The entrance is surmounted by a decorative neo-gothic tower dating back to the end of the 19th century.
Then you will get to a second room in which a niche houses a stone sphere on which the inscription “Sic vita pendet ab alto” (“Thus life descends from above“) is written, and finally, a small presbytery designed for liturgical celebrations opens up on the left.
Here, you will also find small niches with memorial inscriptions of the Rasponi family. Despite this, it was never used as a burial place.
The mosaic floor, with decorative patterns and animal figures, comes from the destroyed Basilica of San Severo (6th century AD), discovered during archaeological excavations carried out in the past century in the area of Classe.
The roof gardens
Right out of the crypt, thanks to an outdoor staircase, it is possible to reach a beautiful terrace located over a big vault (1839) that once connected Palazzo Rasponi to the stables and warehouses.
The entrance arch is unusual. At the base of the last flight of stairs is the marble clock face that was located on the facade of the churches of San Sebastiano and San Marco in Piazza del Popolo before architect Morigia designed the facade in 1783.
A few steps higher, and you reach a viewpoint overlooking Piazza San Francesco. From here, it is possible to admire the belltower of the from which you will be able to admire the bell tower of the basilica and the Zone of Silence from close up.
Laurel oak leaves for Dante: a piece dedicated to Dante Alighieri
From 2021, on the occasion of the 7th centenary of Dante Alighieri’s death, the gardens of the crypt host a contemporary piece (see Laurel oak leaves for Dante) dedicated to the Supreme Poet, whose eternal resting place is located just a few steps away from Palazzo della Provincia.