Ravenna - In Training....

Trip Start Mar 03, 2005
Trip End Mar 04, 2006

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Flag of Italy  ,
Tuesday, December 20, 2005

After a day out in the villages of Tuscany, I returned to Firenze for some of the finest Genovese Pesto I have ever tasted, followed by hitting the movies with Melisa and some of her friends.

I have not been to the movies since I left home. It is the price you pay for seeing the world. I do miss it.

The movie of choice - an amazing French documentary on Emperor Penguins, dubbed into Italian. I had no hope really. But 'Marche dei Pinguinis' is visually incredible. If you get the chance, do see it. Probably in English would be your best bet.

Mel would occasionally lean over to explain in English "oh that is so sad, the eggs only last on the ice for 2 seconds!" and the like, but beyond that I made up the rest. If you ever think your life is difficult, thank the Stork for not delivering you in the minus 40 degrees winds of Antartica as an Emperor Pinguino.

Today I leave Tuscany. But not for long.... an overnight trip to the nearby region of Emilia-Romagna and the city of Ravenna. The journey takes you through some famous Italian motor racing country. Nearby to Bologna (where I have already been) is the town of Modena, which amongst other things, is famous for Maserati and Lamborghini. Further on is Maranello, home of the Ferrari. The train passes through Imola, which is the home of the Italian Formula One Grand Prix. To finish it off, only an hour or two away is San Marino, which is the small principality stuck in Italy and home of the San Marino Formula Grand Prix.

I should have borrowed Elena's Yellow Peugeot and hit the highways at top speed.

Ravenna is a town famous for Mosaics, and Dante. (the writer, not the terrible film sharing his name plus the word Peak, starring Pierce Brosnan)

The Basilica di San Vitale is stunning. Outside it is just another church made of red bricks. Not you 1960's red clinker style, your 1,500 year old Italian vintage. Inside is where the action is. It is just beautiful. High domed ceilings and intricate mosaics are everywhere, and they are completely colorful. They have been very well looked after given their age. Next door is the small Mausoleo di Galla Placidia, which hides more mosiacs, but close up given it is a tiny place.

Across town are other museums and cathedrals, as you would expect in every Italian city. Dante's Tomb is another drawcard. The Ravennian's revere him, as he wrote most of the famous 'Divine Comedy' here, decided to live here after being kicked out of Florence for being too controversial, and decided to die here in 1321. He helped keep the town on the map. Thus 700 years on, he is still Divine here in Ravenna.

After a rather decent feed of traditional Italian food at the pensione I stayed in, and an overnight stay in Ravenna, I hit the return trail to Firenze. This is not as easy as it sounds.

Ravenna is not on the main line from Bologna-Firenze. Thus you are stuck on the frequently very late regional trains, before changing trains and directions at Bologna. I used the opportunity of stopping in Bologna to visit the local Fitness First gym there - a must see on any tourist visit to the town, with the appropriate membership from home.

Returning to the station, given the regional train was late, I decided to forego a stop in nearby Parma, and head back to Firenze. This meant a hurried run in order to catch a CIS train. These are sort of middle quality Italian trains - kind of slow, but not that slow, and thus kind of cheap but not that cheap.

The bloody thing was coming all the way from Zurich. Firstly, the '10 minutes late sign' when up. Then 20, speedily followed by 30. Soon enough, the '45' sign went up and I was pissed. Saving 5 Euros was annoying. The '50 minutes' late sign went up and I was annoyed.

Suddenly the appropriate platform number appeared. Platform 3. Off I went to Platform 3 to catch the train. I arrived at the Platform to see the train pulling out. The bloody thing wasn't 50 minutes late. It was only 45 minutes late, only they forgot to tell the driver that he needed to hang around for a few minutes to pick up the passengers. Back into the ticket queue, I am told to jump on the superfast Eurostar train and pay the supplementary extra. Eurostar trains are faster, more expensive, and only late some of the time. So off I ran, to Platform 8 to catch the next Eurostar passing through Firenze.

Up the stairs at the Platform I arrived just in time for the Eurostar to pull out. STUPID FRICKIN' ITALIANO BLOODY TRAINS!

Finally I jumped onto the next Eurostar, a couple of hours later than anticipated. Such an easy exercise. My intentions were good - save a few dollars and catch the cheaper and slightly slower train, but instead I was stuck a few hours late and due to pay some extra cash to Trenitalia for the priviledge.

Bugger it I thought. The train conductor came to me. As he didn't speak English, I took advantage by babbling in English continuously for minutes - enough for him to look at me blankly, until he just walked away.

The extra fiver was safely still in my pocket.
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