Monday, January 26, 2009


Last weekend we took another trip, this time to two cities in Emilia-Romagna (the region north of Tuscany). Italy has its wealth of UNESCO World Heritage sights, and we were able to cross two off of the list this time.
First up on Saturday was Ravenna, to which we took a regional train that left way too early in the morning. It's not really a particularly attractive city, but maybe because of this, its treasures shine much brighter -- a wonderful collection of 6th century mosaics in its churches. Maybe it's also the fact that it was raining the whole time we were there that made it somewhat unattractive. Anyway, after arriving we dropped our bags at the hotel and then took the bus to the Basilica di Sant'Apollinare in Classe, a few km outside of town. This is probably one of the more beautiful churches I've seen so far, but then again I'm drawn to the more simple Romanesque style. In the apse was a giant mosaic of Sant'Apollinare (the patron saint of Ravenna) among many sheep, and Jesus simply symbolized by a cross.
From here, we made our way back into the city, again by bus, and stopped by the Basilica di Sant'Apollinare Nuovo. Here the mosaics were more golden, and on the side of the church -- The altar area was done in a clashing baroque style. The was a group of American students there (some of the few tourists we encountered these two days), and the guide pointed out that the word "palazzo" -- "palace"/"large building for living" -- came from the Palatine Hill in Rome, where many of these were located (there was also a mosaic of a palazzo). After a visit to the tomb of Dante Alighieri, we got some piadina for lunch and then checked into the hotel.
After warming up a bit, we went out again, stopping first at the Battistero degli Ariani, with mosaics depicting the baptism of Christ. Next was the Basilica di San Vitale, which still had some mosaics on the floor. On the walls were some of the most colorful mosaics in town, depicting biblical scenes, the usual array of evangelists and other saints, animals, as well as the court of Emperor Justinian and his wife Theodora. Next door was the Mausoleo di Galla Placida, with a blue mosaic ceiling studded with stars. Finally, we walked to the Battistero Neoniano, another baptistry, again with a mosaic of the baptism of Christ (do I sense a theme here?). Cold and wet, we returned to the hotel and took advantage of the TV before going out for a pizza and pasta dinner.

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