Friday, September 29, 2006

Travel Chronicles VII - Winter - From Ferrara to Ravenna and back

Saturday 12th - Ferrara - Italian drivers

Saturday we got up relatively late for our standards, finding an ever greyer sky than the day before and a slightly chilly air. We got out of the bed and headed out looking for breakfast that, I had found out the evening before, wasn't provided by the hotel. We fell back on the typical italian breakfast (cappuccino and croissant or equivalent) which, I'm afraid, left Susanne deeply unsatisfied.

We made it to the station at a much quicker pace than the evening before and found out an unpleasant surprise. Despite the fact of having purchased all the train tickets in advance in a travel agency, we discovered that the Ferrara-Ravenna rail line was out of business due of maintenance works for the whole month of August and until Sunday 13th september, the day after (our usual luck). As an alternative means of transportation, a couch, stopping in every little station, so to make a 50 minutes train trip a 2 hours drive.

Having no other choice, we boarded the couch and we unwisely choose the very first places, right behind the driver, so that we could be overly pleased to see the driver answering his mobile phone and driving with a single hand for 4 times, one of which while passing a dangerous crossing and another while making a hard turn. As I disembarked I was really tempted to go to the police.

Saturday 12th - Ravenna - Rain and the miraculous drive back

As we disembarked in front of Ravenna's station rain started to fall thickly on us. After a moment of loss of directions (it happened surprisingly often to me during the week, which is somewhat surprising to me as I had always had a very good orientation sense), we headed towards the north-east part of the city, towards one of the most peculiar monuments of Ravenna, Theodoric's Mausoleum, the first of eight locations in Ravenna (probably a record for such a small city) in the UNESCO's world heritage list. What I didn't know before this visit and left me with quite some awe is that the roof of the mausoleum is made with a single stone of 10 meters of diameter weighting 300 tons and I still wonder how did they raised there (it seems that as they dropped it, its weight created a fissure in the rock). The body of the barbaric king did lay in a porphyry (regarded by romans as the "imperial" stone) tub, originally from some roman baths, which is still there today.

Once finished there, we started walking towards the city and it's many byzantine, mosaic ornate, churches, but a particularly intense rain forced us to seek refuge under the remains of the city's castle, Rocca Brancaleone. As we could move again, we headed towards the San Vitale / Galla Placidia's mausoleum complex, famous for its magnificent mosaics showing Emperor Justinian and his wife Theodora. Still under heavy rain, we moved out and entered the first place providing food and there, as a miracle, the rain stopped to start again as soon as we moved towards the Neonian Baptistery and the, unimpressive, city Dome. Moving to the archbishop's palace, we found out that the famous Archiepiscopal Chapel was closed, but the
museum, on the other hand, was open and presented two unusual objects, the "Ivory seat", the bishop's throne all covered with ivory bas-reliefs, and an universal Easter calendar on stone.

As we moved out from the Dome the rain, if possible, increased even more and was somewhat hard to reach the next objective, the basilica of Saint Apollinare Nuovo, famous for its "political" mosaics and its tower bell (on the right, taken from the church's cloister).

Moving out of Saint Apollinare I tried to locate the burial place of Dante, which, unknown by many, is in Ravenna, near the church of San Francesco. The monument itself is nothing impressing, but the story of the relics of the italian most important poet is novel material with attempts by Florence (from where he was exiled and could never return) of taking it back, the bones being hidden, lost, recovered, hidden and lost again and finally resting in peace. The church itself is interesting, with its crypt flooded by water in which fishes happily swimming among columns and mosaics (left).

After Dante's burial place, the rain won and we gave up the idea of reaching San Apollinare in Classe. We moved towards the train station and sat at a bar for a warm cappuccino to recover our strengths or at least a bit of warmth. Then, an inspiration fell on me and I decided I had to play the lotto with Susanne, so we looked for a bar where they could take the bet (for the chronicles, we got 2 numbers out of 6).

And here starts the odyssey of our return. We reached the train station under heavy rain (as indicated by Susanne in the picture) and there two coaches were waiting, one stopping at every station and another that would had stopped only in the major ones. We boarded, obviously, the second and in the whole 62 places bus there were only 3 people, Susanne, me and another girl. The driver was a new one, but with the same habit of the old one, as he started speaking on his mobile while driving but, surprisingly, at some point he asked us if we did mind switching over a minivan. We agreed, even because it would had been faster, and at the next station our coach drive became a taxi drive as the other girl disembarked. A nightmarish taxi drive, as the driver sped, surpassed on a straight line street which was far from being in good shape and without much light at all. Eventually, Susanne and me were holding our hands tight, sending each other looks of anxiety and wondering if we would had made it alive. We obviously did and the driver was even nice enough to deliver us at the castle rather than at the station, which spared us 2 kms of walks under what had became a real storm.

Saturday 12th - Ferrara - The quiet after the storm

Even if dropped at a few hundreds meters from the hotel, we arrived totally drenched. Quite obviously, by the time we were ready to go out again to have dinner, the rain was over. Yet, we were exhausted and we headed straight to the restaurant right under the hotel, called "La gatta sul tetto". I had suspects about the place (bad experiences taught me never to trust a restaurant without a menu where checking the prices), but eventually I was pleasantly surprised as we had the best dinner of the whole travel and the prices were reasonable. Too tired to explore Ferrara at night, we called it a night. A night without toothpaste, obviously.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Great, now when I dont correct and supplement your texts you start to make mistakes ;). (in the coach there have been another man too... but anyway)
ps you dont have to publish all my comments. I am just too lazy to write mails...