This really is a lovely time of year to be traveling. It’s sunny and refreshingly cool; there are no crowds beyond the locals, so trains are quiet; and getting around town and into sites is a breeze. Many times I have only myself and the ancient energies of place for company. Granted, windowsills, doorways and le piazze are devoid of brightly-coloured flowers, a signature European look, so the overall picture is a bit austere.
I made two daytrips from Bologna…the first to the city Ravenna, UNESCO designated World Heritage site because of its collection of 5th and 6th century mosaics, “the best in the west,” according to Rick Steves (whose Italy 2011 I thankfully downloaded on my Kindle e-reader.) On the train to Ravenna I met two women from Portland, Oregon, here to run a marathon in Verona. The first English speakers since I left Germany, so we shared a bit of our experiences. After hearing how I’d planned this trip, alone, first time in Italy, no not a hotel but staying in an apartment I’d found online (and hit the jackpot for its perfect location), learning about train travel, speaking as much Italian as I could and being understood for it…the one called me “intrepid.” Hmmmmm…. I liked that, though I acknowledged, too, the moments when I thought, “what am I doing here???” of which there have been a few and it’s only week one!
Ravenna…following Rick’s directions, I found my way to the Tourist Information office (never as straight forward as I imagine), got a map and then set off to experience the most incredible, breath-taking, vivid, glowing depictions of the sacred, composed of pieces of glass and stone, most no bigger than my thumb nail, and many half the size of my little finger nail. From the UNESCO designation:
“The site is of outstanding universal value being of remarkable significance by virtue of the supreme artistry of the mosaic that the monuments contain, and also because of the crucial evidence that they provide of artistic and religious relationships and contacts at an important period of European cultural history.”
See for yourself…
Friday I set out for Verona, the mythical home of Romeo and Juliet. Yes, “charming,” as the women from Portland had described. Through the medieval gate to Piazza Bra and immediately ahead to the Roman Theatre used every summer for its famous operatic performances. The Torre dei Lamberti, Juliet’s balcony, Dante’s piazza (though his tomb is in Ravenna), the Duomo and churches, and the weekly market set in Piazza Erbe where I leaned against the statue, in the sunshine, enjoying a foccacio formaggio and a Austrian-influenced doughnut (a carb day!) And a wonderful river, La Fiume Adige. A charming day. A new adventure.