The drive to Ravenna was not long and soon we had arrived; however, driving to our hotel was something else again. Because of one-way roads and blocked roads under repair, we couldn’t seem to get there. Finally, we parked nearby and took our suitcases to the hotel where we dropped Jeanne, who registered us, and Bob and I continued trying to get the car to the hotel. After several more attempts, we went the wrong way on a short one-way road and reached the hotel.
We had a look around at the Piazza, and tried some Campari, which reminded Jeanne of the comic book caption, “BRAAACK.”
We looked around some more and then turned in, thinking we would see the 5th century mosaics in the morning. That night we were treated to some fairly loud music wafting in through our hotel windows until all hours.
The next couple of days we did see all the wonderful religious mosaics scattered about in Ravenna in old 5th and 6th century buildings. The city of Ravenna goes back to Roman times (and probably well before) when Christianity spread here at a very early age, perhaps in the 1st or 2nd century AD. The city was a main seaport of the Romans and in 402 it became the seat of the Roman Empire in the West. In the 5th and 6th centuries many churches were built that were decorated in these wonderful mosaics. They are really amazing. We visited the Battistero Neoniano, the Mausoleum of Galla Placidia, the 6th C. Church of San Vitale, The Archiepiscopal Chapel, the Basilica di Sant’Apollinare in Clase, and the Basilica Sant’ Apollinare. There is also an old Roman Bridge still in use.
When we went to leave Ravenna we had just as much trouble getting out of town as we had coming in. We drove in circles for quite awhile but finally got onto the highway, going to Bologna, where we only stayed overnight. We had wanted to try the wonderful food said to be available in this city. Unfortunately we chose an outdoor venue and a wind came up. By the time we finished our napkins were blowing all over the place. Jeanne and I hadn’t made a good choice of food, either, although Bob’s dinner was excellent. (We had tastes!)
On to Florence! This city, like Venice, is one big museum. One could spend a lot of time here and perhaps never see it all. The Hotel Aprile where we stayed was an 18th C. palace, converted to a hotel. It was charming and added to the ambiance of the city.
Of course we started our sightseeing with the Duomo, the Baptistry and the Campanile in the main Piazza. The Duomo was built in the 1200’s but didn’t get its huge dome until the 1400’s when Brunelleschi figured out the technology. The Baptistry is much older, having been built in the 4th century. It has beautiful 13th C. mosaics and a Baptismal font where Dante was baptized, among other notables. The Campanile was completed in 1359. Interestingly, the façade of the Duomo was only added in the late 1800s so is quite new.
The Church of San Lorenzo has many art treasures inside it as well as the Cappelle Medicee connected to it. This is where many of the members of the ruling family of Medici are buried. Michelangelo carved beautiful statues for these tombs’ adornment.
The Piazza della Signoria was the center of the city for centuries with its Palazzo Vechio, the old town hall, built in 1322. There are many interesting things to see inside of it as well as on the Loggia dei Lanzi with its many sculptures. The Neptune Fountain, you may recall, played a big part in the movie, “Room With A View.”
The world-class Uffizi is just adjacent to the Palazzo Vechio. Its stunning art collection contains many of the priceless Renaissance art treasures. We enjoyed seeing the art and ‘finding’ the various ‘important’ paintings pointed out in a guidebook, but finally, when our eyes glazed over, we had to leave!
Another day we walked across the Arno on the Ponte Vecchio, the old bridge. What a wonder! Built in 1345 it has many gold shops on either side displaying beautiful jewelry as you walk across the bridge. A bit rich for my blood, but fun to see.
Across the Arno we visited the Pitti Palace which has several art museums with evermore Renaissance art. The building is huge and the spacious grounds include the Boboli Gardens, a green respite from the city hubbub.
The Bargello Museum contains all sorts of wonderful things, including the submission by Brunelleschi to get the commission to create the doors of the Baptistry (he lost out to Ghiberti) in 1402. We were, again, perusing a guidebook, finding the treasures that it emphasized. We had one to go, which was Donatello’s “David” which we hurriedly found as it was getting close to 1:00 which was closing time. I snapped a picture of this statue and less than one second later the lights went out—it was 1:00! The “David” is a bit odd, isn’t it—why is he wearing that ‘women’s’ hat?
Again, there was lots of other art in the Academie, but by this time I could absorb very little more! Over the days in Florence, we also saw Santa Croce with its tombs of famous people (Michelangelo, Galileo, and many others), the Church of Santa Maria Novella, The Hospital of the Innocents, San Marco’s Convent, The Old Market, and the Mercato Centrale (new market, built in 1874). Florence is a place that I could spend a year, I think.