Yes, I know there wasn’t an update yesterday. Here it comes…
After an afternoon of baking temperatures that had resulted in the desertion of Ravenna’s streets, I headed out for a walk.
From around eleven, it had felt as though the sun was gently cooking the town – all medieval brick-buildings that retain and reflect the heat beautifully. There isn’t much in the way of greenspace, no tree lined streets, so as the afternoon wore on, the heat just ramped up.
Though the restaurants and trattorias were open for lunch, until around three, nobody was sitting at the pavement tables and I couldn’t see anyone inside either. Everyone was taking refuge from the sun.
Breakfast had been cool and relaxed in my hotel’s courtyard where I chatted with two other guests. One, an Italian girl was visiting from Siena and told me that as Coeliac, she struggled to find restaurants in Southern Tuscany that catered to her needs but she’d had a wonderful time in Ravenna because every trattoria, osteria, restaurant catered for a range of food intolerances. She was in heaven and now contemplating moving North to start a new life of being able to eat a varied diet rather than returning home to go back to work on Monday.
I fully understood.
The other guest was an American woman who has lived in Sicily for forty years since marrying a local man. She had been delighted to find this hotel, across the road from her son’s apartment as, though she is always welcome (as grandmas always are for the free childcare component) because surely she had visited to look after his three children and their two cousins. She had not.
One thing that tickles me when I travel is an assumption, usually by Americans (not all Americans but I’ve not experienced this from other nationalities) that… well, as demonstrated here: “You must come to Sicily – I know lots of English people and Americans.”
I’m not travelling in Italy to find the English. I politely replied: “Thank you but I don’t want to meet any English people, there’s loads of them back home.”
The Italian girl nearly spat out her coffee in laughter and the American woman did see my point.
I visited the last two of the eight UNESCO monuments that morning (spoiler alert, one of them was a bit “rubbish” on the mosaic front).
The Battistero degli Ariani, a tiny building, dates back to the 5th Century. Only the mosaics in the dome remain. All the other decorations have disappeared over the centuries.
The… somewhat underwhelming quite frankly… Mausoleo di Teodorico was quite a different story, even though, they were taking the Alton Towers Queuing Approach with a lengthy path to the site/ride, lined with information stands/fun facts… attempting to make the walk/queue to the historic monument/ride as much of an event as your goal. It doesn’t work at Alton Towers. It didn’t work here. (And I’ve just done the same with this paragraph).
Built by Teodorico as his own final resting place in 520, it originally started off far less plain than it is now. The decorations were stripped out.
All that remains is the porphyry tub which was the burial place of the emperor. It’s empty and I just thought they were going with a bathroom design motif when I saw it.
From here I wandered, seeking shade, to the Rocco Brancaleone.
In 1441, Venice (they haven’t featured much in the last few days) took control of Ravenna. Among the many works to enhance the city, the new rulers made a great effort to reinforce its defensive system.
In 1457, the Republic ordered the construction of a fortress to protect the north-east part of the city walls. This area, set on the heels of the Montone river was namely much exposed. The new fortress was built close to a wide road that led to Venice.
The fortress saw action in two battles (unlike the walls of Bergamo)… The first was in 1509 – after a one month-long resistance, the Pope’s army succeeded in breaching the walls and entering the city. Three years later the Battle of Ravenna (1512) saw the troops of the anti-papal coalition (France and Ferrara) reconquer the city.
Starting from the 16th century, the Rocca Brancaleone fortress gradually lost its importance, and in 1877 it was acquired by the Rava family.
Today, it’s a park with a cinema and play areas. I had also stumbled into another medieval pageant, this time with bows and arrowals. Don’t panic, the archery involved shooting AWAY from the climbing frames and paths are closed off to prevent anyone inadvertently strolling into the line of fire.
I was not entirely certain that anyone had hit anything yet.
And as the sun climbed higher, the shade disappeared and I headed for my hotel’s courtyard.
By late afternoon, the temperatures had dropped so I headed out again. The streets were still very quiet.
I passed this fairly non-descript building every time I headed into town from my hotel and I barely give it a glance. Today, it caught my attention as the sound of violin strings floated out of the door. Wandering over, I discovered there was a performance of various classics at half past six this evening. “See the website for details and tickets,” which I did and managed to buy tickets for a ballet at the Alighera (Dante) Theatre for eight o’clock that night, and then discovered that the Brahms performance was free.
Two gigs in one night? Far worse things happen at sea.
The Church of San Romualdo where the first performance was taking place was closed down under the suppression of religious orders by Napoleon. Today, it provides a venue for classical performance – most of them free, for anyone who wishes to attend: local resident or visitor to the city. It appeared that this month is the first time that live performances have taken place since the start of the pandemic. Virtual concerts have taken place but there was a real sense of excitement that live music was taking place again.
Through June and July the auditorium is also hosting a series of concerts delivered in partnership with Ravenna’s studio and the National Youth Orchestra of Ukraine. Members of the Orchestra have come to Ravenna as refugees and the performances are taking place to show solidarity, welcome and to raise some funds.
I’ve heard a lot of Ukrainian spoken and seen a lot of flags since I arrived in Bolzano and now Ravenna. Most food shops have a collection point to support local Ukrainian arrivals.
The recital was fabulous and I headed for the Alighera Theatre, only a short walk away. It’s a fabulous opera house with no clue given by the exterior to its stunning interior. Designed by the Venetian architects, Tommaso Meduna and his brother, Giambattista it was (obviously) named for Dante and inaugurated on 15 May 1852. (It would be unlike Ravenna to miss an opportunity to annoy Florence).
To my horror, I realised that while this production was from a local ballet school and would feature a series of classical dances as well as some incredible performances by some very talented musicians, it was also going to feature appearances by the youngest members of the school – whether that was playing three lines of a nursery rhyme or delivering the basic moves from their first ballet class.
It felt as though I had inadvertently joined a parents’ evening for the attend of term gala performance.
And I had a front row seat.
Thank goodness that masks are still a requirement for performances here.
The best bit was actually a performance by the youngest dancers who could have only been in the four to seven age range. It was absolute bedlam.
I could see the choreographer demonstrating the moves from behind the curtain. Half of the girls knew the routine, less than half were certain and didn’t take their eyes off their teacher for guidance, while the smallest girl at the back was in a world of her own… twirling, blowing kisses to the audience and generally having a marvellous time.
Then they had to pair up – youngest with oldest – and I’m not saying our little ballerina was kicked into submission by her partner but there was some determined attempts by the slightly bigger girl, gently using the ball of her foot, her heel and her big toe, to direct her utterly oblivious partner into the routine.
I was not the only member of the audience laughing at this fantastic performance. And all of the girls received rapturous applause.