The Elon art history class took a trip to Ravenna today. Though I am not in the art history course, I still wanted to tag along on their adventure (hey, a free bus ride + museum admittance is good with me!). Ravenna is a little city on the eastern coast of Italy, about a 2.5 hour drive away from Florence. It’s famous for being one of the capitals of the Byzantine Empire, and therefore gained the mosaics popularized by the Byzantines. So our bus left from the train station early this morning and we got into town about 10am. Our first stop was the little town of Classe (just outside of Ravenna) to visit the Basilica di Sant’Apollinare in Classe which is built where Ravenna’s patron saint is buried. But before going into the church, we made a pit stop at a bar (café) for some cappuccinos. I had a delicious café shakerato (espresso + sugar shaken until foamy). Once we were sufficiently caffeinated (waking up at 6am is tough), we walked into the church and were greeted with the sight of an absolutely beautifully decorated interior. The mosaics glittered with gold and all sorts of bright colors and created a scene of the apostles and the patron saint. My favorite part of this church were the sheep done completely in mosaics. They were just so fun! Oh also, pretty much all of the windows in the churches today were made not from glass but from the stone alabaster (a nickname my mom calls me)!
After the basilica in Classe, we made our way to the city center of Ravenna and to the Basilica di San Vitale. This church was purposefully rather plain on the outside, but the inside was absolutely covered with a combination of marble work, frescos, and (of course) mosaics. My favorite part of this church: peacocks (symbolizing passion) hidden amongst other forest animals in the ceiling.
Right after this basilica, we entered the Masoleo di galla Placidia. This great little building is kept very dark inside and houses the oldest mosaics in Ravenna.
Our last official stop was to Dante’s tomb before parting for lunch. Dante, as you all should know, was a famous author and credited for being the father of the Italian language as we know it. Apparently, Florentines of the past have tried to steal Dante’s body from Ravenna many times, and now Florence pays to always keep the lantern burning in his tomb as an act of penance.
Then we had free time for lunch. My group invited our professor to join us, and I’m so glad we did! She showed us to a great restaurant that served region specific food. We chowed down on antipasto platters with different kinds of prosciutto and salami to put on warm pita slices. There was a fig sauce and some sort of mozzarella spread. Different but delish! For my main dish, I ordered potato gnocchi that was filled with gorgonzola cheese and topped with some sort of white sauce and crispy prosciutto. It was so filling that I couldn’t even eat it all! Lunch was super fun, and it was really nice getting to hear stories from our professor. She’s really pretty awesome.
After lunch, we made our way over to the Domus dei Tappeti di Pietra. This is a site underneath a little church where they found leftovers from a 6th century house. All that was left were floors (decorated with mosaics, of course) and bits and pieces of the foundation. It was really interesting to be able to see how the actual rooms were laid out.
It was really a lovely day in a beautiful city.