Dante’s Tomb – Keep Calm and Wander

Author: , July 28th, 2018

Dante's Tomb - Keep Calm and Wander

You can’t talk about Italian literature without mentioning Dante Alighieri who peacefully rests in Ravenna. I’d say that his Divine Comedy (Divina Comedia) is, perhaps, the greatest Italian literary work the world has ever known. It’s a classic that must be read whether you’re a believer of hell, purgatory and paradise or not.

Is Dante’s Tomb in Florence Real?

If you were told by one of your guides or a local in Florence that Dante is buried in their city – ignore it. There’s no truth in that. That “tomb” you see in Florence is nothing but air inside. Empty – that is. It’s nothing but a memorial to Dante who was born in Florence.

But what’s this myth about Dante’s tomb lies in Florence? Well, in 1519, Pope Leo X directed that Dante’s bones be moved to Florence but the Franciscan monks at the nearby monastery stole them away and hid them for more than 300 years. It was re-discovered in 1865 – by chance!

By Alain – Full Story at Keep Calm and Wander

Emilia Romagna Gay Travel Resources

Ravenna’s Magnificent Mosaics at the Basilica di San Vitale – Keep Calm and Wander

Author: , June 18th, 2018

Basilica di San Vitale - Keep Calm and Wander

Ravenna is called “The City of Mosaics” for places such as the Basilica di San Vitale. I was dazzled by the Byzantine mosaics that played before my eyes and I couldn’t help but contemplate all its historical attributes of this place, not to mention its architectural magnificence.

The first stone foundation of the basilica was laid in 526 and after treacherous years of construction, it was finally completed by the 27th Bishop of Ravenna known as Maximian.

The Splendid Mosaics of Basilica di San Vitale in Ravenna

The basilica has all the elements of Roman Empire from its dome, towers, doorways, and that of the Byzantine elements of narrow bricks, perfectly illustrious mosaics and a polygonal apse. That is the structural brilliance that the place is built with.

However, more than this, what really captures the eyes and the heart of a visitor are the mosaics that are dotted around the building, lining its walls, and creating moving depictions of the old testament – all the way up to the dome.

By Alain – Full Story at Keep Calm and Wander

Emilia Romagna Gay Travel Resources

Mausoleo di Galla Placidia in Ravenna – Keep Calm and Wander

Author: , April 30th, 2018

Mausoleo di Galla Placidia in Ravenna - Keep Calm and Wander

I am an admirer of ancient art. And when I glance back at the time I spent in Mausoleo di Galla Placidia or the Mausoleum of Galla Placidia, I feel that my thirst for the arts, especially the mosaic art, had been partly quenched.

To describe this small mesmerizing place, I’d go with what UNESCO has said about it: “It is the earliest and best preserved of all mosaic monuments, and at the same time one of the most artistically perfect.”

1. It is still unknown what the building was built for

Surprisingly enough, by the looks of it, one would think that it is a chapel. The Byzantine mosaics dotted on the ceiling, the walls, and the floor say much about it pertaining to its role as a chapel. However, till date, no one quite knows what it was built for. I asked one of the men there about its story and he said that this building was built by Honorius’ sister Galla Placidia. Honorius was the Roman ruler at that time. Just like me, ahem, Galla Placidia also loved arts and crafts and, reportedly, she poured all of her love in creating the captivating mosaics lining the walls of this place. But more than her love for the arts, it seems that she built it as a mausoleum for her and her family.

By Alain – Full Story at Keep Calm and Wander

Ravenna Gay Travel Resources

Ravenna – City of Grand Churches

Author: , May 27th, 2012

Ravenna Church

Ravenna StreetscapeChe bella citta – what a beautiful city.

Today, our travels (and Marco’s car) took us to Ravenna, a grand Italian city on the Adriatic almost directly east of Forli.

Enrico, Marco x2Every day we meet a new friend, and today was no exception. Our new amico in Ravenna is Enrico, a friend of Marco and Fabry’s (of course), who took us on a whirlwind visit of the city.

After raining all night. the weather took pity on us, giving us a comfortable if overcast day, with occasional bursts of sunlight.

The historic quarter of Ravenna is filled with one beautiful street after another, many of them beautifully paved. There’s also some great shopping here with all the usual Italian boutiques.

Teatro Alghieri, Ravenna

Parking is difficult; many areas only allow you to stay for a limited time. But the train station is adjacent to the storico centro (historic center) so you can take the train in from out of town and walk everywhere.

Because of the parking situation, or perhaps just because they are more healthy than many Americans, the people of Ravenna ride a lot of bicycles, and they’re not shy about it, so keep your eyes open for a matronly woman in her fifties bearing down on you with her scarf blowing behind her in the wind.

Il Domus Dei Tappeti di PietraOur first stop was at “il Domus dei Tappeti di Pietra” – literally the house of stone rugs. A little over ten years ago, a construction crew was digging underneath a small church in Ravenna to build a new (sorely needed) underground parking garage and they uncovered some beautiful stone mosaics. Needless to say, the construction was halted, and a new historic treasure was unearthed.

No photography is allowed inside the site, which is accessed via the church, but you can see images of the mosaics here: http://www.domusdeitappetidipietra.it/.

The whole space is accessible via catwalks above the original surfaces, and parts of it have been filled in where the original floor was broken or missing. There’s even a full-scale reproduction of a part of the design that’s out in the middle of the floor and hard to see from the railing.

In some places, it’s possible to see that there were at least two distinct floors in the home – the more finished, newer marble floor, and a much more primitive floor of rocks embedded in mortar.

The entrance fee, at just 1 Euro per person at the time of this writing, it’s a steal.

Ravenna ChurchAfterwards, we walked over to the Museo Nazionale to purchase tickets to see five “opere di religione della diocesi di Ravenna” (11.50 euro at the time of this writing) – locations with religious artworks of the diocese of Ravenna. The pass included five different churches – so we proceeded to criss-cross the city “a piede” (on foot). Ravenna is a city of grand churches, and I think we visited every last one!

Ravenna ChurchThe first of these was grand cathedral called San Vitale, just behind the National Museum – originally built between 546 and 556 AD, this church features stunning arched ceilings and gorgeous mosaic murals – some of the most colorful we’ve seen – some on the huge cupola far above the middle of the church, and many gathered around the altar at the front.

Ravenna MuseumYou reach the church across a courtyard filled with small sculptures and pieces of sculptures, and one of the first things you notice is that the church is fifteen feet below the level of the courtyard – as in most of Italy, each successive part of the city has been built above the last, and the church dates back to a time when the ground level was much lower.

Scott and Mark at a Church in RavennaThis is supposed to be a quiet, sacred space, but the noise level kept creeping up and up – there were, after all, hundreds of school kids here on a field trip – and every now and then, you’d hear “shhhh!” and it would quiet down again. Eventually, someone had finally had enough, and a huge voice boomed down from above:


And everyone went quiet.

Ravenna CryptWe spent twenty or thirty minutes here admiring the grand architecture and workmanship, and then left the church to make our way across the courtyard to the Mausoleo Galla Placida, a small tomb across the yard from the church, where the sister of the Roman Emperor Honorius, Galla Palcidia (386-452 AD) is interred. This small structure is notable for both its mosaics, an for the thin marble “windows” that let in a filtered yellow light.

Built in the shape of a latin cross, the tomb also features a beautiful cupola, a deep blue sky filled with golden stars.

Bizantino Ristorante, RomeAfter visiting the first two sites, we sat down for lunch at what we would call a buffet, but the Italians apparently call “un ristorante free flow”, called Bizantino. They serve a variety of things, from salads and fresh fruit to pasta and a variety of breads, cheeses, and meats – all for a reasonable amount – I think our lunch together (Mark and I) cost about 20 Euro.

Lunch at BizantinoI tried the caprese salad and the gnocchi – but these were giant gnocchi, larger than a silver dollar – more like potato pancakes than the gnocchi I’m used to. But they were delicious – very buttery – and filling.

Mark had a pasta dish with a white sauce and a salad, both of which were really good.

Baptismal Building CupolaAfter lunch, we visited the Museo Archivescovile, founded in the 17th century, where you’ll find many religious sculptures and a beautiful little chapel – unfortunately, photographs were forbidden here as well.

Next was the Neonian Baptistery, built around 396, with a beautiful series of mosaics. The most interesting, to me, were the ones in a band around the base of the cupola – made to seem as if you are looking into a series of rooms, filled with chairs and pulpits and tables with books.

Some of the objects are half-hidden behind the doorway, as if the “doorway” was really a portal into another room.

In Dante's TombWe did visit one other site of note – the tomb of Dante, the famous Italian writer/poet who is credited with the creation of modern Italian. It was a fitting place to visit, given our status as students of the bella lingua, but it’s strangely small and out of the way. Someone had left a single rose on the tomb when we arrived, an expression of love for this Italian hero.

Right next to the tomb, there’s a beautiful, grassy courtyard with two statues – a man (presumably a monk) and a woman – take a look between the gates if you get the chance.

Ravenna ChurchWe had one more church on the agenda – La Basilica di S. Appolinare Nuovo – a cute little church originally built around 493 AD. The church has one very tall brick tower.

Ravenna Church

While not nearly as grand as San Vitale, the church has a long nave with a series of columns topped by murals, and on the right-hand side, they’ve left the walls partially unfinished so you can see the mud bricks below.

This church also features a series of alcoves along the right-hand side featuring various pieces of religious art.

Just down the street from the Basilica, you’ll find an interesting structure – the Palace of Teodorico – built in the fifth century and now little more than a facade. but a beautiful one. Teodorico was born to the king of Ravenna via one of the king’s concubines, and succeeded his father as the king of Ravenna in 474 AD.

He fought a number of battles against the Eruli, a rival nation, and eventual killed their leader, ushering in a long period of peace and stability for Ravenna.

Il Mausoleo di Teodorico

At the end of the day, we visited the Mausoleo di Teodorico, where he was buried in the tradition of Roman emperors. Its a beautiful white building on the northern side of the storico centro (historic center), surrounded by open fields of grass.

Willem?One more photo from Ravenna – we spotted this “pubblicità” (ad) in a store window while walking through Ravenna.  For anyone who’s also a fan of RuPaul’s Drag Race, tell me that’s not Willem? <grin>

Ravenna is truly una bella città – and there’s more than enough here to see to fill three or four days.

That night, we enjoyed a delicious meal with our hosts, Marco and Fabry, and two of their friends, Micheala and Francesco. Che carina coppia – what a cute couple! The six of us spoke for hours about things Italian and American, about the differences of language, and the desire to learn Italian and English.

It was one of those nights you don’t want to end, but eventually, after midnight, it did, and they wished us a buon viaggio.

Some days are just perfect.