Nov. 12th: Rimini, Ravenna

Salutations blog readers! We awoke this morning to the dulcet tones of wind and rain slapping across our windows and rattling our shutters. We have had the worst luck with the weather in Assisi. After a mad scramble to get to the bus on time, we settled down for a long bus ride to Rimini, RomanAriminum, on the Adriatic Coast. To reach such a far-off destination, we had to cross the Apennine Mountains, the “spine” of Italy. It was a long drive through the romantic Italian countryside. There were quaint cottages clinging to the sides and tops of hills where couples could live in Italy, somewhat close to Venice, but not in Venice.

Anyway, after the eventful bus ride, we reached Rimini, an important port city to the Romans, and explored the sites for an hour. We walked through the triumphal arch Augustus built in Rimini. Roundels holding the faces of gods and goddesses decorate both sides of the arch, which formed one of the gates of the city. Jupiter and Venus watch the Via Flaminia, and Neptune and Roma gaze into the city itself. We then walked farther into the town, to a church built by Leon Battista Alberti, one of the most amazing early Renaissance architects in Italy. Alberti was a master of Latin to such an astounding degree that a play he wrote in Latin as a prank convinced critics for years that it was a genuine ancient Roman play. The façade was familiarly Roman.

But soon enough, we had to depart Rimini, and Carlo had to take us farther North, to Ravenna. Ravenna was one of the latest capitals of the Roman Empire, after the split between East and West after the death of Constantine in 337 CE. Ravenna was the capital of Odovacer, deposer of the final Emperor of the West, Romulus Augustulus, and the capital of the Ostrogoth King who in turn overthrew him: Theodoric the Goth. Theodoric provided a surprising measure of stability to peninsular Italy, ruling for thirty-three years over a population that believed him a heretic. We visited his mausoleum soon after arriving in our hotel and soaking up a few minutes of wifi, which we’d been sorely missing in Assisi.

Ravenna is built on a swamp that is slowly but surely reclaiming the buildings. Every ancient structure is sinking into the mud that forms the substrate of the city, and the mosquitos that inhabit the muck began to eat us alive as we sat near the mausoleum to listen to Professor Ulrich’s historical background lecture. The mausoleum is a humble affair to see after Hadrian’s enormous tomb in Rome, but it was still interesting to see. The whole structure is built out of Istrian limestone from Croatia, a short sea voyage over the Adriatic away. The dome was a miniature marvel of engineering. It’s made out of a single massive piece of limestone carved into shape, instead of traditional Roman domes of concrete, decorated with barbarian motifs around the edge. Theodoric is a personal historical hero of mine, so seeing this mausoleum was fulfilling a childhood dream. It was very exciting, even though the site closed at four, meaning we couldn’t get inside.

Afterwards, we walked to another area of the city to see the Basilica of San Giovanni Evangelista. Most of the original decoration had been destroyed in a bombing attack in the Second World War, but fragments had been placed around the walls as an exhibition of the beauty of the 5th century church. The church had also left one of the original columns at its original floor level, which had sunk ten feet deep into the swamp. The sun set just as we were exploring the church, leaving only a beautiful ambience outside in Ravenna, perfect for young Italian lovers to meander through the piazzas and romantic alleyways of the city. It was a wonderful night.

​Now, we must sleep. Tomorrow means another long day of church-wandering, and we need all the rest we can get.

Buona Notte!

-Thomas

Photos:

Earliest remains of a triumphal arch in northern Italy. Bam.

Small octagonal structure in front of large octagonal structure.

The group strolls through the piazza on this dreary morning.
Alberti’s masterpiece. #triumphalarch
It’s lecture time.
The group bids farewell to Carlo.

Thomas is overwhelmed with giddiness at the sight of Theodoric’s mausoleum.

Cuddle Huddle, take 1.

Cuddle huddle in the puddle (caption inspired by the wise words of Jiyoung).

Students climb up to get a view of the mausoleum.

So much going on here.

#angst #standingonstuff #aaronstillhasjin’sredjacket

Sunset behind the mausoleum.

Leaves! Changing colors! It now feels like fall.

I like big apse and I cannot lie.

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