Friday, November 30, 2012

The One That Came After Siena

After leaving Siena bright and early on a Friday morning we headed off to Ravenna. The first part of the drive was really pretty. We drove through mountains covered in the orange hues of fall leaves. The ride was uneventful for the most part. There was one instance of near accident bladder fullness, but you don't want to hear about that. Let's just say that when an Italian says the rest stop is five minutes away it's actually over half an hour away... Va Bene!

After a few hours we reached our first destination, Sant'Appolinare. It's an early Christian church with some really old mosaics. And when I say really old I mean it. We're talking 400 AD. So yeah, that's old in my book. The church was really cool to see. I am so used to churches being elaborately decorated with gold leaf and sculptures and that mosaics were a nice change. The colors were so light and happy. Soft green. Gold. Cream. It was like springtime in a church. Outside the church we found some water buffalo statues. Photo op? We thought yes!

The church from the outside.

The beautiful mosaics

Why not kiss a buffalo?

So after our little stop we headed into Ravenna, or rather the ghetto of Ravenna. By ghetto I do not mean the previously Jewish section of the city (that's what ghetto means in Italian), I mean the sketchy part of town. It was in this area that we found our hotel. The Hotel Roma had been a source of excitement for me. I was staying with my best friends in Italy. It was going to be a party. At that point I hadn't seen my room yet.... Turns out our rooms had very interesting floor plans that were nearly impossible to maneuver three months of luggage through. Also, our room smelled a little bit like smoke. Even our towels were smoky! But that wasn't the best part. The best part was that our beds were leopard print. I am not going to lie that part was awesome! Also, oh so tacky. Let's just say that my first impression of Ravenna was not the best.

At this point we were set loose for lunch. After a bit of walking we entered downtown Ravenna. Fortunately, the city center is actually adorable. It kinds of looks like Main Street Disneyland (yes, that means I loved it). We ended up at a cafeteria that Rick Steve's recommended. I am not going to lie I was not thrilled about eating at a cafeteria. I thought it was intimidating and a little too mass produced for my new Italian taste. One piadina (kind of like a quesadilla) later I was convinced otherwise.

I told you it was cute!

With my piadina. I was obviously excited.

We then met up with the whole group and went to see more mosaics. They were all so incredible. The colors were just awesome and they were so different from everything else we had seen. I particularly like the church of San Vitale. Ravenna used to be part of the Byzantine Empire and you could really see that influence there. I may or may not have contemplated robbing the coins thrown in one of the fountains there.... Hey! I was pretty broke at this point! But I didn't do it. So be proud.

In San Vitale. Maddie thinks it looks like a Dan Brown movie.

The outside of San Vitale.

Just some of the mosaics.

After our educational visits we set out for entertainment and dinner. Of course my group did the most childish thing we could find. We rode a carousel! It was so fun. The worker gave us the strangest look when we bought our tickets. Also, riding a children's carousel when you've gained a lot of weight is not the best idea. My horse made thudding sound every time it came down... Yikes! The restaurant we ate at was VERY good. Ravenna is in Emilia-Romagna which is the most famed food region of Italy and it lived up to its reputation.

The Carousel

My tortellini in broth. Yummmmmmmm.

Our walk home (to the ghetto) was interesting... We were stopped by an elderly man speaking English to us in an American accent. We were surprised and talked to him for a while. Turns out he was actually Italian. We were shocked! I mean his American accent is probably better than mine. As we parted ways he told us not to walk towards the train station at night because that area wasn't safe. Little did he know that that was exactly where we were headed. Of course our sketchy hotel really was in a dangerous area! After a strange encounter with a white van we made it home safely, but not without a few freak outs on my part. 

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