The Milan skies were gray with a touch of light fog as we drove out of the urban sprawl of Milan. Our destination was the UNESCO World Heritage Site of the city of Ravenna. Ravenna during the fifth to eight century was the western capital of the Byzantine Empire. Formally the city site was a lagoon that was drained and the city was built upon the former swampy land. In the 1700’s a canal was installed that reconnected it once again to the nearby Adriatic Sea. The freeway leading to Ravenna is lined with a dreary industrial and manufacturing scenery that is a real eyesore. The landscape is occasionally dotted with neglected buildings from an earlier time or groves of noble cypress trees, but not often enough. As we entered the rundown outskirts of Ravenna through the numerous roundabouts and one way streets we were a bit skeptical as to what our destination would bring. But were we pleasantly surprised. As one enters the city the faded glorious past has lovingly been restored and maintained. The city center was quaint with care given the aging patina of its old buildings and monuments.
We located our bed and breakfast accommodations and were very pleased with our choice. Our room was small, but charming complete with modern fixtures and electronics. It was situated on a one street away from the main city pedestrian area but still remained quiet. The old town is charming and tidy with small shops filled with lItalian leather goods, clothing, and designer boutiques. Numerous trattorias, small cafes, and espresso bars that offer regional fare from the region of Emilia Romagna are everywhere. In Ravenna one does not lack for eating and drinking possibilities. We found the people kind and friendly. Franz speaks passable Italian and I none, but the local people didn’t care and they spoke to us even more effusively. The inner city is made for walking. And walk we did. It’s wonderful to stroll aimlessly down the streets simply window shopping and stopping for an occasional gelato or coffee. We commandeered a map from the local tourism office and set out to see the world renown mosaics that the city has to offer.