Friday, 9 October 2015

Not just mosaics.

Today we  headed for Ravenna mainly because I wanted to visit its famous mosaics. However, the visit  was was full of interest over and above the requisite hour so of appreciative gawping.

On a much more mundane note where we had parked-up overnight,  on the outskirts of Modena is worth a special mention. This aire is located next to a motorhome storage facility and repair business but seems to operate as an independent business.  Though quite close to the 'tangentiale' it is not noisy at night, has excellent service points, a small shower and toilet block. The lounge area has free Wifi and the whole place is secure. I suppose at 13 euros per night it's not cheap, but if the 'car park' style free Sostas in Italy seem a bit too public and insecure, then this place offers a good alternative, especially if you are headed for an Adriatic ferry port.

We reached Ravenna quickly, after the bone-shaking experience of Italian main roads yesterday, the 7.40 euro toll for the autostrada seemed money well spent. Even so, it was hardly a relaxing drive. The motorway past Bologna is a major transport hub for trucks from all over Eastern Europe. They tend to cruise along at about 60mph, anything above 55mph and Maisy starts to gulp fuel. The result is that we get constantly buffeted by massive  trucks bombing past us. It's uncomfortable rather than dangerous; though when the  artic right in front of us screeched to a sudden halt to avoid colliding with the remains of a shredded tyre - that was  scary. What can you do stopped dead in the middle of an Italian motorway watching in the wing mirrors, a wall of lorries bearing down on you like a stampede of elephants?  Two thoughts crossed my mind, a calm curiosity as to whether they too would be able screech to a standstill, and a nagging anxiety that I might not be around long enough to find out. You will of course already have gathered that we avoided getting squashed; the trucks did not stop however, but swerved past us, flat out, making a last minute  manoeuvre worthy of Louis Hamilton.

We were thankful to reach Ravenna. The car park at Piazza Resistenza is about half a kilometre from the Centro Storico and well set-up for motorhomes, doubling-up as a coach park. So far as the famous mosaics are concerned, I am going to put-up a separate post, they are sublimely beautiful and deserve more than a passing comment.

St Vitale, still functioning after 1500 years, I can't see that being said of the Shard!
Ravenna itself is a lovely ancient town built on a Roman grid street plan. Aside from the sixth century church architecture, it does not have the ensemble of stellar buildings found in other Northern Italian cities such as Vincenza, Mantua, Padua or Verona. What it exudes is a relaxed conviviality. It streets are crowded with bicycles - reminiscent of Lucca. It must have a University as it was buzzing with young people.  As It was lunch time they were crowded into the many cafés and pizzerias.

Not exactly Siena, but not Skelmersdale either...
Bikes= students, they were all in the cafes.

interesting corners
and Art Deco shop fronts
social spaces

and less frequented streets
We decided to have lunch before visiting the mosaics. Gill was on a mission, she decided that what she wanted for lunch was a spinach and ricotta pie. We wandered about hunting for a a pasticceria that would provide the said pie of desire. It took a while, but after circumnavigating the Central Market a couple of times, we finally tracked-down the bashful pastry skulking behind a pile of pizzas in a small shop down a side street. The hunt was worthwhile, if you are a committed spinach and ricotta aficionado.

In between admiring the mosaics at the St. Vitale, and those at the Mausoleum of Galla Placadia, we rested our feet and neck muscles (gawping at cupolas can be very tiring) and found a cafe for Italian coffees número uno of the trip, (pause for rapt silence, frequently broken by joint mmmms). Is it the ambiance or the method that makes caffe Italia better in Italy than at home, even in an Italian restaurant made on an Italian machine using Italian coffee?

First macchiata of the trip - always a milestone...
The Early Christian art and architecture having been fully appreciated, footsore, we headed back to the van and set out to find the Camperstop at nearby Classe. It was OK, a couple of vans were drawn up in a car park surrounded by houses, it looked safe enough, but lacked any privacy whatsoever. Was there anything better nearby? Gill consulted our various Vicarious Books, and found a Agritourismo place about 20 kms south of Ravenna near Cesena.

We put the GPS coordinates into the Sat Nav and sallied forth. After 18 kms we were directed off he E45 dual carriageway, then down a minor road, then another, a left turn took us up a single track road climbing through vineyards and orchards. At the top of a steep hill we arrived at some narrow metal gates with a small hand painted sign to Agritourismo Macin. I edged Maisy down a vertiginous stony track, around tight bends, and after a few hundred metres arrived at a large modernised farmhouse. A young women welcomed us, explained that the parking space was a few yards back up the hill among the vines, complete with electrical hook-up. We bought a bottle of her Sangiovese, unpacked the chairs and watched the sunset over the hills of Emilia Romagna. These were covered in orchards, vines and olive groves. The scene before us was almost absurdly picturesque, as if we'd accidentally woken up in the middle of an Italian tourist board advert; except it was real.

Agritourismo Macin. 
Parked-up among the vines
Local wine, Morrison's crisps - there's multi-culturalism for you.
Views from the pitch

Sent from my iPhone

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