Be Italian - Day Seven

We made it to Ravenna in one piece, after a cramped ride on the local train (imagine riding the Metra with 2 suitcases and a range of carry on baggage.) The hotel, the Albergo Capello, is quaint, probably my favorite of the trip so far, and has a nice, spacious bathroom. We had a very tasty lunch in the hotel restaurant (usually I avoid them for being crappy and overpriced, but this one was neither, in fact, it has an honorable mention in the Michelin guide, supposedly). I had a rabbit ragu on handmade bowtie pasta that was excellent.

San Vitale, in Ravenna, on another dreary day.
After eating, we went to see San Vitale and the Mausoleo of Galla Placida (intended to be the burial site of a Roman emperor's wife, though it was never ultimately used that way.) San Vitale is sort of the star destination of the trip for me; it is the church that launched a thousand copycats. The mosaics, as predicted, were incredible. It's hard to fathom how something 1550 years old can still exist in such good condition. I can only conclude it must have been restored in recent years, as the colors are fantastically bright. 

SO beautiful!
Also notable is that San Vitale has two very famous mosaics of Justinian and Theodora, emperor and empress of the Eastern Roman Empire during the 6th century,  with their entourages. I've been learning about them since World History to 1500 my freshman year of high school, and it was amazing to see those pieces with my own eyes. They were so much brighter in person!

Justinian himself. This mosaic is actually the image Wikipedia uses to represent him.
The mausoleum was surprisingly impressive as well, with nearly the entire ceiling covered in flowers on a deep blue background, reminiscent of the night sky. I think when Dad saw it, he was suitably impressed, perhaps even enough to stop questioning my decision to come here.

The mausoleum contains this image of St. Lawrence, who was grilled to death.
Since it was nearby and we have plenty of time in Ravenna, we stopped at the Museo Nazionale to see a number of Bronze age, Roman, and later artifacts dug up in digs around the city, which came to prominence under Augustus Caesar, who built a port and naval base here. Dad was interested in statues and armor; I cared more about pottery fragments and household objects, which is hardly surprising.

Mosaic tesserae for sale.

It was nearing 4:30, when the major sites in town close, so we headed back to the hotel, stopping briefly at an open mosaic workshop/store where you can watch artists at work, buy their wares, and take classes yourself. The city is also currently hosting an international mosaic expo (they bill themselves as "the city of mosaics," so we ducked out of the endless drizzle of the past couple days  and into a church that was housing an exhibit of contemporary mosaic works. There were some interesting pieces, and I would say the predominant trend was toward playing with surface texture and moving into a three dimensional space.

Back at the hotel, we rested and worked on our respective writing duties before having a somewhat lackluster dinner selected on the basis of proximity to our hotel. I find it's usually worth the extra walk to find a good place, but Ravenna is a much smaller city than the ones we've been in the past few days, and the options were more limited. Still, the small-town atmosphere, predominantly pedestrianized streets, and smaller amounts of tourists are making for a very pleasant stay here...

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