Monday, September 10, 2012

Ravenna - mi Amore

I have no idea why Ravenna isn't swarming with tourists. Though now I feel like I cursed it, because not being full with tourists makes out a big part of its charm. Besides being an adorable small and friendly town, however, it can also boast a super rich history - having been part of the West Roman, Goth and Byzantine Empires - as well as no less than 8 UN world heritage sites, including the most gorgeous mosaics I have ever seen. Oh, and it's got a beach (at which I incidentally relaxed all morning today). A huge part of my great time here is also due to my couch surfing host Maria Grazia, who - get this - is the director of Ravenna's tourism office and of its public library, and thus possesses a wealth of information on the region and its attractions. Plus, she made me taste the culinary highlights of the Emilia-Romana region (cappelletti- tortellinis filled with spicy cheese from the region-, primo sale cheese which looks like mozzarella but tastes much fresher and lighter, some yummy cookie with jam filling, ravioli alla zucca - filled with squash-, panna cotta with strawberries... Let's just say these past few days were a culinary highlight. Oh, and did I mention the ricotta gelato with thick strands of fig preserves waved throughout?) and she showed me her favorite beach with prime beach chair position - in the first row facing the water. Heavenly. Now I understand why she says she would never move away from Ravenna.. Hell, I find it hard to leave! But new adventures await!
To end this post, here are 5 fun facts about Ravenna:
1. It boasts some of the coolest stories of women in power, including Theodora, wife of Emperor Justinian, who was so influential random rumors were spread to weaken her - including that she had been a child prostitute and starred in weirdo travelling sex shows before getting Justinian to fall for her and, after his mum died, change like a gazillion laws to be allowed to marry her.
2. Or like Galla Placidia, who was Emperor Honorius' half sister and pretty much ran the place, until she was kidnapped by the Goths. However, then she preceded to marrying her kidnapper, and going into battle with him. Then after he was assassinated she was bought back by the Romans, was forced to marry a general and carry his child, but THEN her son was crowned Emperor at the age of 6 - guess that second husband didn't really live long either - and she got to rule an Empire all over again! Hell yes, girl.
3. Ravenna used to be a harbor town and one of the West Roman Empires most important fleet harbors (as well as its capital as of 402); however, since it is located at the southmost point of the Po-delta with time the seashore receded to around 8km away from the city centre where there are now tiny lidos for the beachtime of the locals.
4. It is also the city where Dante died and the locals are crazy proud of that fact - they organize festivals every year with recitals, concerts and the like - it was just happening this week while I was here - and Maria Grazia says she is dreading 2021, when some huge anniversary is coming up.
5. Ravenna is a candidate for the European cultural capital of 2019 - I really hope they get it, they have more than enough culture to show for it!

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