Tuesday, March 29, 2011


Yesterday was predicted to be a rainy day, so we decided to take a field trip to Ravenna.  We reasoned that in this case we'd be spending most of the day inside to get out of the rain.

We planned to take the 10:13 from Florence, which would require one change and get us to Ravenna at about 12:45.  Fantastic!

And then, Eleanor booted up her ipad.  "Umm, was there a time change this weekend?  Because I thought it was about 9, and my ipad says 10:03."  Well, that certainly explained something about Mass on Sunday!  We'd arrived in time for the 11:00 Mass (at the Duomo!) that was posted on the internet, only to find that the sign said 10:30 or 12.  We went in to the church expecting Mass to be in progress, but it didn't start for a while.  Now we know why!  We actually attended the 12:00 Mass.

Time to regroup.  We ended up catching a later train that required two changes (one of which we barely made) and made it to Ravenna at 1:30.  During the train ride, Michael read further in the tour book, and found all kinds of encouraging entries: "From March until October, reservations are highly recommended because of the very long lines to get into the sites....allow at least a full day to see the mosaics and another four hours to see the town..."  Would we even get to see anything to make it worth the long train ride?

We got off the train and walked up to the main ticket office for the mosaics.  There was a large paved courtyard that was completely desolate.  Not even a pigeon.  And I do mean large.  Michael said, "Do you know what this is?  It's where the line usually wraps around."  Indeed.

We walked right up to the ticket office, paid our money, and got started.  We had so much time to gawk at these mosaic marvels.  Wow.  I've seen pictures, of course, but...wow.  That was in San Vitale.  Then we went to the Mausoleum of Galla Placidia.  After that, I was on a quest:  the House of Mosaic Tapestries.  It's a site that was uncovered in 1993 during the course of excavations for a parking lot.  It's underneath a rather nondescript church, and is a huge house site with the most marvelous mosaic floors. 

After this, and a quick snack, it was time to head off to the baptistery.  They had thoughtfully provided chairs against a railing so that you could sit down and look up (again!) without continuing to crane your neck.  Again, visual overload.  I think what I found so surprising was the amount of color.  These mosaics were created around the year 450, and I think of mosaics from that time as light, natural stone colors.  These, on the other hand, are rich, jewel colors -- turquoises, blues, lots of gold (but not too much, somehow), greens, and a dazzling arrangement at that.

I forgot to mention the other stonework -- it's not just mosaics!

A tired Eleanor!

Yes!  Michael was with us!  Hurray!
We went into the cathedral, the museum (and got to see an archbishop's chasuble (?) that was either from the 4th century or the 10th -- there's a debate raging in the archaeological world), another church, and then the kids were done.  We got the 5:40 back to Florence, stopped for dinner on the way back to the apartment, and home for bed!




  1. So it's not just Italians who are somewhat casual about time.....Americans too! Good thing you made it....I guess there's always a train to somewhere in Europe! Your time change was a week later than ours, so Michael got to enjoy that twice!

  2. What fabulous mosaics - here the churches are decorated with wonderful old tiles, mostly blue and white, and a lot of gold! Wonderful that Michael is there to enjoye all this too!
    Love from us

  3. Another one of my absolutely favorite places - there is something about mosaic work that I find most appealing, and Ravenna is THE place for mosaics! Glad you made it, and hope you didn't miss the hour's sleep too much!