Saluti a tutti voi da Ravenna (5/22/02)
We arrived in Ravenna an hour or so ago, which was about two hours later than we intended. The trip here was of a character-building nature. We left the Dei Mori at 11:00 a. m., after the last errand I tried to run in Florence met with unsuccessful results. (I had left the room a few minutes before, after announcing to my wife that I was "off to get Dante's head" -- i. e., a bronze bust of Dante that was being sold at the gift shop of the poet's house. Unfortunately, the giftshop was closed, although the museum itself was open. Perhaps I will be able to get Dante's head here.) [N.B. -- As of today's date (2/5/05), I still do not have Dante's head. Anyone making a trip to Florence anytime in the future, please contact me first. I still want it!] We took the Eurostar from Florence to Bologna (where I informed my wife that a terrorist bombing in August of 1980 had killed a number of people [85, to be exact]at that very train station.) This time we traveled second class, but the Eurostar is a wonderful way to travel and we hardly noticed the difference between traveling second class on it and first class on the IC. At Bologna we missed our connection and had to wait about two hours to catch the next available train, but that was not the worst aggravation of the day -- not by a long shot. There are no elevators or escalators at that station, so we had to haul all our bags -- or, rather, I had to haul all our bags, including that monstrosity of Sheila's -- up and down several flights of stairs, until finally we ended up at Binario (platform)4, from which the next train to Faenza was to leave. (Our itinerary for the day required us to change trains again at that place.) And wouldn't you know it: at the last minute we heard an announcement that the train would instead be leaving from Binario 6, or 9 -- I don't remember which, and it doesn't matter now. So, once again, it was down one flight of stairs and up another. Then we had to wait about two hours at Faenza, which wasn't bad because there was a nice breeze, in addition to which the arriving train and the one we were supposed to take to Ravenna would be using the same platform. Or so we thought, anyway; this also proved too good to be true, and another last-minute platform change obligated us to go down and up the stairs yet again, with the Monster in tow. If I don't need back surgery when we come home, it will be a miracle.
Ravenna is in the province of Emilia-Romagna, a good portion of which lies within the Po Valley (which, incidentally, is where much of Italy's heavy industry is located). As a result, the terrain around Ravenna is flat, and there are no hills here to remind us of Tuscany. It actually reminds me of Indiana, but my wife thinks it looks more like the San Joaquin Valley in California. She is a rancher's daughter and knows more about crops than I ever will, so I will defer to her judgment on that; after all, she has been to Indiana and grew up in California, whereas I have lived in Indiana but never even been to the San Joaquin Valley. We did see a lot of vineyards today, in addition to thousands of acres of land cultivated with other crops; but among them, the only one I recognized was corn.
The place where we are staying is an albergo called Al Giaciglio, which is within easy walking distance of the train station. When we arrived, I took two of our bags and walked right over here from the station, leaving Sheila with the remaining luggage until I returned about 15 minutes later. Without the bags, it took me 3 minutes to walk back to the station from the Al Giaciglio. The Dei Mori in Florence had one serious drawback in Sheila's eyes: one had to climb 47 steps to arrive at the albergo itself. I told her there was bad news and good news, the former being that she was not yet through climbing steps for the day, and the good news being that there would only be 22 of them this time. The room has a TV, so I am going to check the schedule and see if "Carabinieri," starring Manuela Arcuri, is on tonight. (At the train station in Faenza I watched part of some really dopey program that might best be described as a sort of combination of Jenny Jones, "The Dating Game," and "The Bachelor." Everyone was talking about a zillion miles an hour, but I gathered that a bunch of women were competing in some way for the attention of one man. At one point he told the band to start the music and began to dance with one of the women as the others watched. I halfway expected him to say something like "Daniela, accetterai tu questa rosa?" but I did not stick around to watch any more of it.)
We have no plans for tonight, other than to sample the famous cuisine of Emilia-Romagna at the restaurant attached to the Al Giaciglio, which has the same name and the same owners. Tomorrow morning, while Sheila takes it easy, I will probably wander around Ravenna, visiting Dante's tomb and some of the old churches with their Byzantine art, about which I will report next time I write. In the afternoon I will probably take Sheila to see the Adriatic. We are in for a really big travel adventure on Friday, so I will give you a heads-up right now: There is no direct train service of any kind between Ravenna and Rome, to say nothing of Ravenna to Viterbo (which, with the exception of Orvieto, is the closest point to Bolsena where there is a train station.) So we will be going there by way of Rimini, Ancona, and Orte. Oh, well -- Sheila loves the ocean, which is a big part of the reason I included Ravenna in our itinerary, and she is going to get to spend a lot of time contemplating the Adriatic.
I'll check in with you all tomorrow.