Other Visits

Most of the trains from Venice to Florence are the Italian Eurostar trains, nice, clean, fast modern trains that require a reservation and a supplement.  On the morning we left for Florence, after we had boarded the train, we looked at the map and realized that Ravenna would really be an easy side trip.  We could get off at Ferrara and be in Ravenna in about an hour.  We thought it would be an easy matter to do our sightseeing and return to Ferrara to complete our trip.  Unfortunately, at the station in Ravenna, we discovered that there were no reservations left on any of the remaining trains from Ferrara to Florence, so we had to improvise.  Instead, we had to plan to take a secondary train across the mountains directly from Ravenna to Florence, getting us into a station other than Santa Maria Novella late at night.  With our travel plans ready, we decided to store our bags and set off to see the mosaics.  As we were putting our bags into the locker, Brenda asked, "What about our umbrellas?"  I took one look at the beautiful blue sky and told her that could be one less thing we'd have to lug around all day.  Naturally, about 45 minutes later, at our farthest point from the stations, the monsoon season started.  It rained hard for the remainder of the day. Even after having our travel plans messed up, and even after being soaked through and through, we both still agree that Ravenna was just about the best  detour we've ever made in all our years of travel.  Even in terrible light, the mosaics are more stunning that we could have ever imagined.  We look forward to returning on a sunny day in the future.

Most of the sites for the mosaics in Ravenna are located fairly close to each other.  We began at the Basilica di San Vitale (the building in the first photo) and visited the nearby Mausoleum while there.  In San Vitale, the famous mosaic of Emperor Justinian (right) faces a similar mosaic of  Empress Theodora and her court.  The works are almost fifteen hundred years old and although they look dark and dreary taken on a cloudy day with a cheap camera, they are actually bright and very clear.  Those in the Mausoleum are among the oldest in the city.  Do a "Google" search for Ravenna's mosaics to see much better photo examples than these.

   Ravenna mosaics (2)
Without a car, it is difficult to visit San Apollinare in Classe, three or four miles outside the main town.  But just as good a choice is the San Apollinare Nuovo where the Virgins Procession is one of the sets of mosaics.  Because of the way light is admitted into the church, these mosaics appear much brighter than those of San Vitale.  Inside the city, visitors will also want to see the Neonian Baptistry, one of most ancient monuments in the city.  For our final visits in Ravenna before we moved on to Florence, we visited the so-called Dante Zone and saw the small portico under which he is buired.  In Florence, we would later revisit Dante's empty tomb (or cenotaph) along one of the walls in Sante Croce.  Ravenna is a little out of the way, but well worth the effort to visit.

On our last night in Italy, we decided to stay in one of the cities on Lake Como.  We had visited the Borrommean Islands in Lake Maggieore on an earlier trip and had really enjoyed it.  This time, we chose Bellagio.  True to its name, it does sit on what is probably the prettiest possible spot on the lake.  It is a little worn from its heyday of fifty or sixty years ago, but its still a lovely town with nice restaurants and little shops and incomparable views of the blue lakes and white capped mountains.  There are a couple of the old grand villas that have fallen into ruin that are still standing just on the edge of town; I think its only a matter of time until someone with money comes along and resurrects them to their former glory.

   Hotel Rooftop
From the rooftop of the Hotel du Lac, we had a wonderful view down to the lakeside promenade and then across the lake to the mountains that surround Lake Como.  It was a nice way to spend our last night in Italy before heading back to Zurich for the trip home.  Ferries run regularly from Bellagio to all the other cities on the lake, so you're not really isolated here even if you don't bring a car.  The Villa Serbelloni is the high end choice for a hotel here, and the "highest location" is the Belvedere.  I imagine there are great views from the Belvedere, but without a car it would have been very inconvenient.  The Hotel du Lac and the Florence Hotel are perfect for those arriving by boat from Como; their front doors are right across the street from the boat landing.

.We returned to Switzerland by way of the Gotthard Tunnel and we were shocked at the sight when we exited on the northern end.  We left the warm temperatures and blue skies behind to find the northern side of the Alps covered with snow.  At our airport hotel we talked to a few people who had driven back from Italy, and they talked about delays of several hours getting through the tunnel.  I'm glad the train didn't have to wait.  
   Back into Switzerland

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