A few years ago, art began to make its way in the ancient Byzantine capital and conquered areas of the city that not so long ago were on the sidelines of the city.
And thus began an extraordinary urban regeneration project, which used street art as a means of reinterpretation of the present.
In a very short time, the walls of Ravenna have changed their appearance, or rather their colours. From the Darsena area to Porta Adriana, from the Stadium to the Rocca Brancaleone, the city has transformed into an actual open-air museum with works by artists coming from all over the world.
In 2010, the Municipality of Ravenna started a project of valorisation of urban art called “RigenerArte – urban art in Romagna”.
Some time later, from 2014 onwards, the Subsidenze Festival (curated by Marco “Bonobolabo” Miccoli of the Indastria Association, in collaboration with the Department of Youth Policy) has invited and hosted artists from all over the world, who came to Ravenna to leave a mark.
With more than 80 works scattered all over the city, Ravenna can be considered as a small street art capital, and a reference point at a national level.
Graffiti art is always available. Murals belong to everyone. The Darsena area of Ravenna is a scattered modern art gallery that you can visit at any time.
The Darsena area and street art
More and more people, especially young ones, come to Ravenna to take a closer look to its gorgeous murals. And the Darsena/Gulli neighbourhood is undoubtedly the richest one.
This densely populated area, poised between industrial archaeology and public housing buildings dating back to the ’70s, hosts many works of wall art.
A walk in art
The tour in the Darsena area to discover the murals is very nice. Go for a walk, ride a bike or go around with an e-scooter and you will immediately see it for yourself.
The reference points that you must keep in mind are: the Candiano canal and the area around Almagià and Darsena PopUp, Via Trieste and Via Tommaso Gulli.
We suggest a sort of ring route that will take you about two hours walking.
Start from the head of the Darsena, reach Via Grado and continue with the so-called Cittadella della street art (lit. citadel of street art) – a working-class set of buildings located in Via Gulli, just in front of the Pala de Andrè. Go back on Via Trieste and finish your tour on the docks of the Darsena.
The artists of the Darsena area
The roads around the area host many works – some of them were authorised, others weren’t – realised by artists as Ericailcane, Bastardilla, Millo, Jim Avignon, Basik, Pixel Pancho, Qbic, Tellas, Camilla Falsini, Zed1, Dzia, Hope, Dissenso Cognitivo, Geometric Bang, About Ponny, Reve+, Exit Enter and many others.
“P.G.R.”, standing for “Per Grazia Ricevuta” (lit. by grace received) is the name of the huge work realised by Ericailcane on a wall of the former Mosa feed mill in Via Salona.
An enormous water monster stands out on the wall of the former feed mill and is the result of the application process that almost made Ravenna the 2019 European Capital of Culture.
Given its dimensions (24 x 36 metres), it is alomst impossible to look at it from close up. We suggest to walk a few metres away and enjoy the view from the Candiano Canal.
Along with the sea monster, the wall hosts a boat full of mice which wave a white flag and call for help to take shelter from the dangers of modernity.
Swirling and well-defined lines. The Belgian artist Dzia has a truly unique style. In via Magazzini Posteriori, it is possible to see some of his works perched on the walls.
A little flock of birds that seem to come to life from the mosaics of the Byzantine basilicas.
A huge vase covers the wall of a building in the heart of the most multiethnic neighbourhood of Ravenna. The flowers in it smell of integration, with faces of men and women, African masks, skeletons with caps, cats and much more.
The work was realised by Jim Avignon, famous street artist from Munich and one of the first ones to paint on the remains of the Berlin Wall after the reunification of Germany.
Sky Arte also dedicated him and Ravenna an episode of the series MURO, curated by David Diavù Vecchiato.
Walking towards Cittadella della street art in via Gulli 249, it is possible to admire many gorgeous – and very big – works. One of them is The last kiss, by Pixel Pancho from Turin, a very talented artist who uses robots to express his creative spirit.
Located in via Trieste and realised on the occasion of the 2015 Subsidenze festival, the mural represents two kissing robots wrapped in a climbing plant. A sentimental representation of two machines with human features, inviting the visitor to think about emotions and go beyond the mechanical parts of which they are made up.
Rustam Qbic from Kazakhstan is an extroverted figure. Artist, illustrator and designer, in Ravenna he realised the perfect image for the neighbourhood hosting it.
It is a dreamlike work, depicting big blindfolded birds flying towards the sunset and lead by hooded figures. An homage to those who leave, without a destination, in search for a better life.
Human faces and an intense discovery of the self. These are the main characteristics of the works of About Ponny, from Bologna.
On a wall near Almagià he painted the bust of a fireman with a proud and hopeful look. Not far from it, a black curly girl lives in a wall decorated with black and red butterflies. Her look is emotional and expresses hope.
Cittadella della street art
On the occasion of the 2019 edition of the Subsidenze festival, Ericailcane and Bastardilla realised in via Gulli 249 two murals that have now become the entrance of the so-called “Cittadella della street art” (lit. citadel of street art).
The 2020 edition of the festival was organised in collaboration with the Municipality of Mantova, giving life to the “Virgilio e Dante 4.0, nuove storie, antichi maestri” project, in honour of the 7th centenary of the Supreme Poet’s death.
Among the many artists (such as Ericailcane, Bastardilla, Zed1, etc.), it is possible to admire the dreaming art of Millo. To pay homage to the Supreme Poet, he decided to depict Dante and Virgilio as children who play with some iconic objects related to their journey in the afterlife.
The Cittadella also hosts a work by Lucio “Basik” Bolognesi called ‘The Incredulity of St. Thomas towards Modern Art’, in via Tommaso Gulli 253.
It is a declared homage to the “Grande Ferro R” by Alberto Burri, a site-specific steel sculpture realised in 1990 and hosted in the courtyard of Pala de Andrè, just a few hundreds of metres away.
It is not only a celebration, but also a criticism of the state of conservation and valorisation of contemporary art. Basik invites people to touch it with hands – as did Saint Thomas – to check its situation.
It is possible to this piece, and many others scattered in the city (as the one by Camilla Falsini, not far from this one), with augmented reality, thanks to the free application ARIA The AR Platform.
Next to Dzia’s birds there is another big bird, very different from the others. Made of flesh and metal, with spread wings and transformed features, it is one of the many works by Dissenso Cognitivo in the city.
There are two other works of him in via Almagià. Bones and mechanical parts come together and create two futuristic and dehumanized figures. The highest expression of the combination of human and robot. Other works can be found along the Candiano canal, in via d’Alaggio. Are you able to recognise them?
You may get to the Darsena area by walking through the underground passage connecting viale Pallavicini (next to the railway station) to Piazzale Aldo Moro.
In 2014, various artists from the Emilia-Romagna region were selected to realise “pieces” in this tunnel, which has become a coloured and multi-faceted link between historical centre and water.
A wormhole towards one of the new “centres” of the city.