Part 3 - Ravenna, Italy
Part 3 - Ravenna
The next morning we woke up in Ravenna. The cruise itineraries usually indicate Ravenna/Bologna, as Bologna is a popular destination, approximately 85 km (53 miles) away.
For this first day of our trip our plans were to make no plans. So we started this sunny morning with our usual routine of gym and the following reward breakfast on the terrace of the Ocean View Café.
Afterwards, we set out to stroll around the town of Ravenna. Ravenna is a 20-minute drive from the port, for which the cruise line offered guests without booked excursions a shuttle bus at $ 15.00 per person.
We went to the port exit, where we met Jacky and Lee, a couple from the UK, who were also studying the big map of the surroundings. We asked them whether they also wanted to go to town, and we all decided to share a taxi. The ride to Ravenna was short and pleasant as we got chatting.
Once in Ravenna, our driver dropped us off at Piazza del Popolo and gave us helpful directions as we paid the fare of about EUR 20.00 for the four of us.
On the piazza, we agreed that that’s where we’d meet again at around 2.00 pm so we could also share a taxi back. And then we went our separate ways.
Ravenna is world famous for its mosaics, which we obviously didn’t want to miss. So we followed a street map, which had been added to the day’s program in our room.
Just before we reached the first site, we passed a line of about 20 people, which made us aware of the ticket office. We joined the queue and bought a ticket for all eight sites, which are part of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites. The first of them, the Basilica San Vitale, was just a few steps away from the ticket office.
With its splendid mosaics, Basilica San Vitale, consecrated in 548 AD, counts among the most important early Christian buildings in Italy. Instead of the classic nave, the basilica houses an octagonal central building dominated by a dome. The supporting pillars, several arches and nearly the whole altar and apse area are almost entirely covered with impressive mosaics. With stunningly strong colors, dominated by blue, green and gold as background colors, they make the basilica melt into one single work of art.
This mosaic represents a scene where Abraham hosts three angels during the sacrifice of Isaac.
In a depiction above the apse, Christ presents San Vitale with the martyr’s crown and an angel hands Bishop Ecclesius a model of the church.
The large dome and the alcoves of the basilica were covered with frescoes by artists from Bologna and Venice in 1780.
The garden of the basilica was already home to the next cultural monument: the mausoleum of Gala Placidia.
Gala Placidia was the sister of a Roman Emperor who had made Ravenna the capital of the Western Roman Empire in 402 AD. Between 425 AD and 450 AD, she had this little mausoleum built but was never laid to rest here. She died in Rome and was burried there in 450 AD.
The building’s simple exetrior contrasts with the magnificent mosaic decor inside, which seems to shine even more thanks to the light falling in through the alabaster window.
In line with the building’s function as a monument, the themes of the decor are the victory of life over death.
Apparently, the numerous stars of the dome have always impressed Ravenna’s visitors. The story goes that during his honeymoon in Ravenna, Cole Porter was so impressed by the atmosphere of the small mausoleum that in memory of the starry sky he composed his famous song “Night and Day”.
Impressed and already happy with our decision to „only“ look at Ravenna, we followed the streets on our map towards the „Neonic Baptistry“, which is right next to the Cathedral of Ravenna.
The baptistry is the oldest monument in Ravenna. It was built at the beginning of the 5th century and restored around 460 AD under Bishop Neon.
We admired more detailed mosaics in strong colors.
The depiction in the center of the dome represents the Baptism of Christ in the waters of the River Jordan. It is the oldest mosaic scene of the Baptism of Christ to be found in a monument.
Our next destination was the Franciscan monastery with the Basilica of San Francesco and the tomb of the poet Dante Alighieri.
Inside the old monastery lies the Dante Museum, which we didn’t visit, though.
Instead, we moved on to Basilica St. Apollinare Nuovo.
The 35 m (115 ft.) long interior consists of an elevated center nave and two lower side aisles, each separated by a row of columns.
More huge mosaics could be found above the columns. The southern wall represents a procession of 26 males led by Saint Martin. The opposite wall depicts a procession of 22 virgin martyrs moving towards the Virgin Mother and child surrounded by four angels.
A coffered ceiling dating back to the 16th century spans above it all.
In no hurry we returned to Piazza del Popolo. We still had about an hour left until our agreed meeting time and remembered a pretty café inside a courtyard that we had noticed on our way. That’s where we went and enjoyed a cappuccino.
Around 2.00 pm we met Jacky and Lee at the Piazza and went to the street to catch a taxi. On our way there, we passed the stop of the shuttle bus and a line which had already formed. We were glad we didn’t depend on it.
Since we didn’t find a taxi straight away, we followed the road a little further to the train station, where a few were already waiting. The trip back went by quickly as we traded our stories of what we had seen, before we reached the port and split the fare.
We still had time until sailaway. With the beautiful weather, Birgit decided to soak up some sun. I returned to the harbor building to take advantage of the free wifi, before the Constellation left at 4.00 pm.
The rest of the day was very relaxed, as usual – a nice dinner at Blu and a nightcap at the Reflections Lounge before we went back to our room.
We both agreed: we had come to Ravenna with no expectations but were positively surprised and had a great day.
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