Before we went on our trip, I told Caleb I wanted to visit Ravenna, Italy for one reason: I’m from Ravenna, Nebraska. My Nebraska hometown was named after Ravenna, Italy as it sits on the same latitude line in the western hemisphere. We left Florence a little sad but excited as we had a few days and, really, very little knowledge about what Ravenna had to offer. Our host, Maria, picked us up from the bus station and apologized as she was dog-stitting for a friend. I was jacked, as we have seen beautiful, well behaved dogs that I have been longing to play with the whole time while in Europe. Maria thought it was pretty weird/amazing I was from Ravenna, Nebraska and laughed when I told her most of my town pronounces it as ‘Ra-VAN-na’ instead of ‘Ra-VEN-na’. Our host informed us Ravenna is ‘home to the mosquitoes,’ since it sits on the Adriatic Sea, and she wasn’t kidding as I had upwards to 30 bites by the time we left. Maria gave us a quick tour of the apartment and then had to return to work. Caleb and I played with Thiago (the dog) for a while and then got ready to walk the 30 minutes to downtown Ravenna.
Besides being home to mosquitoes, Ravenna is known for its mosaics. The town’s churches are decorated with mosaic ceilings, mosaic street signs and even the downtown flower pots have mosaic designs on them. Ravenna was heavily influenced by the Near East, which was then the Byzantium Empire, which included Turkey, Macedonia, parts of Iraq and Iran and Syria. After the fall of the Roman Empire in the 400s, the Empire was split in two, the East becoming Byzantium, in which Ravenna held an important role as a major port city. We visited the Ravenna cathedrals and saw where Dante Alighieri, the Florentine poet, is buried. We ate some traditional Ravenna piadne (flatbread with meat in it) as we explored the city. It started to downpour so we looked for a bar to settle in. In an alley way (would have never found it without good ol’ Google maps) we found ‘Moog,’ a cool little bar where we attempted to wait out the rain. Unfortunately, the rain continued all night so we had a pretty wet walk home.
The next day we got ready and again headed into the downtown area where we walked the old fort of Ravenna (used by the Byzantines and Venetians), the mausoleum of Theoderic the Great (one of the Kings of Byzantium and relative of Clovis I, the first King of “France”, aka the Franks) and then Theoderic’s palace. We went to a local restaurant where we had good, traditional food (gnocchi, pasta and a pint of wine) and explored all the little side streets and alleyways. We stopped at a cafe called Del Corso, where the bartender made us very stiff drinks and we got free sandwiches and snacks ( I love Italy’s way of life by the way…free snacks with your drinks and siestas really resonated with me). The bartender was very sweet and attentive. When he saw Caleb writing notes he said to him, ‘You are a teacher, no?’ (must be that nice penmanship). The bartender must have really liked us, since we went to pay for our last round before closing and he waved us off and said it ‘was on him’.
We ended our night back at Moog, where the bartenders recognized us from the night before. Caleb had told them about me being from Ravenna, Nebraska the night before and they thought it was the coolest thing. While Caleb was getting our drinks they gave him a tote bag for free that had a map of Ravenna on it. I know we’ve said this before, but everyone is sooooooooo nice over here, it really makes a homesick tourist feel right at home.
We stumbled on home and the next morning came too soon, as we had to leave bright and early to catch our bus. Our awesome host, Maria, made us breakfast and coffee and took us to our bus stop. After a quick double kiss on each cheek (that I have yet to master, I always go the wrong way and about kiss my host on the lips every time), we were off to our next destination and last visit in Italy: Venice.