May 24, 2012 Leave Pensione Stella for Ravenna

Basilica of San Vitale, Ravenna


Last morning breakfast buffet at the Stella- packed up and loaded bags into 3 vans. We took the car ferry off the Lido to the mainland. The drive to Ravenna was harrowing with a driver who seemed almost homicidal, passing incessantly on a 2 lane highway and driving well above the speed limit. The Autostrada seemed a bit safer, so I tried to relax a bit and enjoy the Eastern Tuscan landscape – fields of corn and grape vines punctuated everywhere by stately cypress trees. When we arrived at Ravenna after a 2 hour van ride, we were quite hungry, and were told by our driver that we had only 1.5 hours for a quick tour of Ravenna, so we had to make some quick choices-we chose seeing the sites over a sit -down lunch. Dante’s tomb was a must see and lo- and -behold Lord Byron’s apartment was located in the same square, even kitty-corner, to the tomb- a very large and well treed square. The Byzantine mosaics in Ravenna’s churches and mausoleums are the best preserved outside of Constantinople, so we headed to the Basilica of San Vitale, a church begun in 527 AD; it has an octagonal plan with the architectural mix of Roman and Byzantine elements. I sat in the central section of the church mesmerized by the intricacy and dazzling colours of the mosaics-fruits, flowers, birds and The Lamb of God in the center with radiating depictions of the Old Testament, Emperor Justinian and the astonishing Empress Theodora. The mosaics on the floor were of equal intricacy in beauty and design and the marble inlays on the pillars also dazzlingly rich in texture and colour. This is Italy, I thought, the richness of art is unsurpassed!  And Ravenna, so rich in historical significance! I could have dreamed longer, but we had to head back to the van and on our way we made a feeble attempt at eating, the re-hydrating chocolate gelato had to suffice!! As we drove towards Florence, our next destination, the landscape looked more typically Tuscan with villas atop hills, many marble quarries, cypress trees and the scent (even from the van) of orange blossoms. The road began to get very busy as we neared Florence and it wasn’t long before we found ourselves winding our way through the city gates in search of our Convent which was to be our accommodation for the next 2 nights. Perhaps we would get a sense of how Allegra may have felt living in the Capuchin convent at Bagnacavallo near Ravenna as a young child having been placed there by her father, Lord Byron.


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