Thursday, November 3, 2011


"Mornings are magical," Mikey always tells me. (Tell that to me when I'm not waking up a few times with a baby during the night . . .)

But I got up, packed lunches and snacks, got dressed, dressed the babe, fed her, and readied our things for our first trip by train. It only took a few steps in the brisk morning air to begin agreeing with Mike. It was still dark out and the streets were empty. The city was clean and quiet. The only footsteps I heard in the Piazza Maggiore were our own. It was a little bit of magic.

As we neared the train station, the bustle of morning-life began to animate the city. Dozens of people rolled suitcases towards the station and the sound of trains got louder. I was excited to be on a train again, but all I could think of were the various verbs and nouns that I needed to make sure we bought our tickets and got on the right train.

The car we got in was mostly empty and after the initial excitement of being in a new place surrounded by new faces, Ada settled down and slept for an hour as we chugged east to Ravenna.

As soon as we stepped onto the platform you could sense that the ocean was only a few miles away. And when we got out of the station Mike and I were both taken with the city. It's so beautiful and small. It makes Bologna seem like quite a buzzing metropolis.

I've grown so used to the portici that I was at first a little confused about where I should be walking. Oh of course. In the street. Sidewalks weren't really the thing in the 4th and 5th century when Ravenna was built.

Our first stop was the Basilica di San Vitale. I was blasted back to the front row of Prof. Magelby's Art History class when the church came into view. Mikey and I both recognized it from slides we had studied in college. It was almost a revelation: the things I learned about are real.

The mosaics were incredible. I haven't seen any photograph online that does them justice. They're so dynamic in real life. The way the stones each catch the light and throw it around is so surreal. The meticulousness of process and design is staggering. I was astounded by how beautiful they were.

The cloister outside the church (and in many churches I've visited in Bologna, too) was used to display pieces of recovered ruins from the church and surrounding structures.

The Mausoleo di Galla Placidia is on the same grounds as the main church. It's not much to look at from the outside. But as soon as you cross the threshold, the glittery ceilings pull you into another world. The contrast between the simple exterior and the incredible interior is supposed to represent man's relationship with God. The parallelism resonates with me. I love that my relationship with God seems simple from the outside. Externally, it consists only of simple daily worshipprayer, study, gratitudebut it creates something majestic and beautiful internally.

After the main church, we went to the Battistero Neoniano. It was constructed in the 4th and 5th centuries. Originally, the floor of the font was nearly 10 feet below ground, but has been reconstructed at ground level. Interesting, no?

We also visited the Basilica di San Apollinare Nuovo. Down each side of the central nave are mosaics that show a procession of women in robes on the left side, and men in robes on the right side. They are proceeding towards Christ who sits near the head of the basilica. The parts of the church that have been reconstructed are either blank, or painted. Next to the mosaics, the paintings look so flat and lifeless. It makes me want to start collecting rocks in my back yard and learning a new material.

Mikey and Ada in the Piazza Popolo
We thought about trying to catch a bus to the coast, but all of us were winding down, and we decided a trip to the Adriatic coast deserved more than a few minutes. We're saving that trip for another day. Ravenna makes the perfect day trip. Hopefully we can make it again with family in the Spring!

We waited for the train and Ada chased some pigeons. This girl wants to take off on her own, but a few spills have made her more hesitant to let go of my fingers. I'm okay with that. I like her small and close.


Elle Keeps Moving said...

stop making me green with envy.

Anderson's said...

our passports are almost ready to turn in!

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