I love, love, love Italy! Compared to our dear Deutschland, Italy is simply peaceful. Even in the most touristy of towns, when the wine flows freely, time seems to stand still. But this last trip south, I was on a … Continue reading
Contrary to popular belief, all roads do not lead to Rome. However, many roads DO lead to Siena. Now, we are familiar enough with Italy to know that we’ve seen some exceptional piazzas, those huge main market squares that anchor … Continue reading
Ravenna became very prosperous and was the capital of the Western Roman Empire in 400AD. From 540 to 600, Ravenna’s bishops embarked upon a notable building program of churches in Ravenna and many of those still stand. In 476 AD, the Roman Empire declined and was taken over by the king of the Goths who inaugurated the barbaric period of the history of Ravenna until Justinian, the Byzantine emperor reconquered the area and began a crazy period of building churches and art.
We bought a combo ticket (about 15 euros adult) which gave us admission to the main buildings in Ravenna. The big draw is the1500 year old mosaics, many in pristine condition since Ravenna was practically abandoned when the seat of power left. The walls are covered with the brilliant little tiles of precious stones and gold. The walking tour for the 5 buildings took us about 2 hours which included reading about the mosaics in Rick Steves’ handy guidebook.
After our trip to the city, we drove over to the Adriatic Sea to give the kids an chance to look at the water from this side of the world. It was a cool and blustery day but the salt air and seagulls satisfied our need for a dose of the ocean.
I’m beginning to understand the European way of life. They work hard in the summer tilling the fields and bringing in the harvest. Then, the long winter sets in and the human spirit craves a little diversion. Many of the small towns and villages follow the Church Year in their festivities. First comes the Christmas season which is filled with lively Christmas markets throughout Germany. This is followed quickly by New Years Celebrations featuring fireworks and festive spirits.
For the month of February, just before the season of Lent, many villages host “fasching” parades or Carnivale. These festivals can be simple such as the one in our town of Lupburg which included a quick parade down main street with people in costumes, similar to Halloween without the “scary”, and balloons adorning the street lights. For others, the celebration still involves costumes but they’re taken to the next level of creativity. Perhaps no other city in Europe celebrates Carnivale quite like Venice, Italy where grown men and women spend a lot of money and time in preparing for the festivities. Tim and I took the kids down south to visit our friends Eddie and Jenn Cook and their son Edward. Then, off to Venice we went to experience the spectacle. It was a bit strange to see the extent some people go to in designing the “perfect” costume, to include walking and talking and posing for passersby. We focused our visit on St Mark’s Square where the bulk of people playing dress up hang out in the bright sunshine admiring each other’s costumes. As we took the water taxi down the Grand Canal to St Marks, we spotted costumed revelers on the balconies of hotels as we sailed by. They waved to the boats and thoroughly enjoyed entertaining us. The atmosphere during the day was festive; people were happy and carefree but no one was doing anything questionable (except for the fact that grown men were dressed as women). It was all relatively tame and not at all like Mardi Gras in New Orleans. We weren’t quite sure what happens in Venice after dark but we didn’t want to take a chance with the kids. We made it back to the ferry before nightfall and had a smooth and uneventful ride back to the Cook’s home in Vicenza.