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Europe » Italy » Emilia-Romagna » Ravenna
July 7th 2010
Published: July 7th 2010
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Trip out to Ravenna and on to Firenze


Justinian and MaximianusJustinian and MaximianusJustinian and Maximianus

Whaddya think? Justinian in front? Bishop in front?
Last night, as planned, I ventured out to watch the Netherlands play Uruguay (awesome game, btw). On the way, I passed some coaches with... FEP people, you get three guesses... Yup. Collette Vacations tour groups (for non-Fort Ed folks, these tour groups used to come through the park and were the bane of our existence whenever they'd pop by). They're everywhere. literally, I think. Fortunately, they appeared to be touring the Villa Borghese rather than headed to watch the football. As mentioned, it was quite a good game, Netherlands being the first to make it to the finals. Tonight should also be an awesome game, Spain v. Germany. Hopefully I'll be able to watch it!

This morning it was up bright and early to catch a train. I decided I _had_ to see Ravenna after an entire semester of History 207 discussing the mosaics there. Yes, that's right. I'm off to look at a mosaic I studied in my second year of undergrad. Mostly just because I can. But also because it is one of the best surviving examples of a Byzantine mosaic this side of... well... The Byzantine. The basilica of San Vitale itself is worth visiting, as it's
Arian BaptistryArian BaptistryArian Baptistry

So. Whaddya think? Jesus man, or Jesus woman?
1500 years old. If I have time, I'm also hoping to hit the Arian Baptistry, but not sure I'll make it. Only have about 3 hours, I think, in Ravenna before I need to head back to the train station and move on to Firenze to meet my choir.

**Note - I have now found a worse group than Collette Vacations. Disney Adventures are all over the freaking place, including my train car. Not impressed. Whiny kids, demanding adults... *sigh*.

Now. About Italian trains. My vague memories from 12 years ago are not particularly positive. I remember old, cramped and dirty. I _think_ my current pleasant experience on an Italian train is due to a few things that have changed since my last trip. First, inter-city trains are newer and faster. When I get on the regional from Bologna to Ravenna, we'll see if that's more like what I remember. Second, this time, I'm traveling first class! Free drinks, snacks... all sorts of room! Fabulous and totally worth it. The only thing that has been a bit confusing is the departure boards at Roma Termini (old style, flipping numbers and all). The board only lists the final destination
Me at RavennaMe at RavennaMe at Ravenna

A dark proof, but proof nonetheless that I was in San Vitale!
of the train, which is not cool if you're not going there. Fortunately the train numbers show up on more modern boards, and and this morning I was able to find my train with 20 minutes to spare.

A few hours later...

First, even regional Italian trains are better than I remember. But I digress. I ended up getting to Ravenna shortly after 1:30, which gave me about 2.5 hours to explore. I checked out San Vitale, the adjacent mausoleum ('cuz you know I can't pass up a good mausoleum!), the Arian Baptistry, and the 'House of Stone Carpets', where they've uncovered a whole villa's worth of mosaic floors from way back in the day (I'll have to get back to you on exact dates). Thank god everything is so close in Europe - can you imagine trying to get to four different sites (two of which are UNESCO Heritage sites) in 2 hours, anywhere in Canada? The first three sites, though, absolutely made my day. Certainly not the most impressive buildings, but the mosaics in them are well worth the two-hour-each-way detour that this afternoon has been. They are amazingly colorful, and when you realise how long ago they were done, they become just that much more impressive. For those of you on Facebook, I'll try and post a photo when I see what the Internet situ in Florence is going to be like. And you'll have to imagine 19-year-old Kate being confronted by an eccentric professor, cardigan askew, hair looking like a balding Einstein's glasses slipping down his nose, like he'd already started the lecture five minutes ago in the hallway, "So what do you think? Is Jesus a man or a woman?"

"Um... He's a man, isn't he?"

"Look at this slide, then tell me what you think."

Followed by two consecutive classes of discussion around Jesus' hair, breasts and genitalia. Yes, these are the sorts of things I paid tuition form. If you can't wait until I get a photo up, do a Google Image search for "Arian Baptistry, Ravenna", and you'll see the very image I made a pilgrimage to see today. If only Dr. John Kitchen had been around to argue with!

We also spent a solid chunk of that semester discussing the precedence of Justinian or bishop Maximianus in one of the mosaics in San Vitale. After seeing it in person, I still can't decide. First impression was the Bishop, but then I began to overanalyse. I don't think I will ever have a firm opinion on that one.

I'm writing on the train back to Bologna to pick up my backpack. Best 5 Euros I've spent on this trip was to stash my bag at the baggage check at Bologna Centrale, rather than trying to carry the massive bugger everywhere. Seriously. I don't know how much it weighs, it's not ridiculous, but it was much nicer to just carry my purse. A very happy backpacker this one.

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7th July 2010

Ravenna
I googled the Baptistry just as you suggested. It looks beautiful. Looking forward to seeing your piccies.
7th July 2010

thanks for posting daily updates! I'm living vicariously through your posts!
8th July 2010

ADVENTURE!
WOOOO! (that is all)

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