Ravenna
From Umbria we drove northeastward to Ravenna.

Ravenna was for a time at the end of the Roman Empire the effective capital of the western half of the empire,
and then became the capital for the barbarian kingdom of Italy ruled by the Ostrogoths, so it was adorned in
the fifth and sixth centuries AD with an astounding number of churches, each filled with beautiful mosaics.
Because it became a relative backwater after that, these older churches remained the same (while in cities like
Rome or Florence that once had churches very much like these, they were long ago replaced or redesigned).

The church of Sant'Apollinare Nuovo is one of these spectacular churches.

Mosaics in this church even depict the walls of Ravenna as they appeared in the later
Roman Empire (below left) as well as the palace of the Ostrogothic King (below right).

The mosaics in the Cathedral of Ravenna were equally striking.

Included among them were mosaics of the sixth-century Roman emperor Justinian (shown below left
with his attendants: soldiers, magistrates, and bishops) and his wife the empress Theodora (once a circus
performer with whom Justinian fell in love, shown below right with her attendants, ladies-in-waiting and eunuchs).

Below is the Neonian Baptistry, and its mosaic of the baptism of Jesus in the dome.
(This bapistry is also known as the Orthodox Baptistry. There were two Christian groups in
Ravenna in this period: the Romans who were Orthodox or Catholic, and the Ostrogoths who
were Arian Christians. They differed in their interpretations of the nature of Jesus: Catholics
believed that he was both human and divine, Arians that he was more than human but not equal to God,
sort of like an angel. The Ostrogoths later converted to Catholic Christianity and Arianism disappeared.)

Below, the Arian Baptisry, and then its mosaic of the baptism of Jesus.

Here is a detail of one of the saints from this mosaic in the dome of the Bapistry.
The saint carries a crown of laurel, a traditional Roman symbol of victory (and once
given to Roman athletes who won their contests) but which here in a Christian context
means that this saint was a martyr (and whose victory had gained him a place in heaven).

There are a large number of tall church towers in the city, too,
but these are of a later date, mostly tenth or eleventh centuries AD.

The crypt in this church was underwater, giving it an eerie glow
(and reminding us that Ravenna was built along the marshy coast of the Adriatic Sea).

As well as churches, there are a number of mausolea in Ravenna.
Below is the mausoleum built to house the remains of Galla Placidia
(who was daughter, sister, wife, and mother of various Roman emperors).

Below is the mausoleum of Theodoric, the first King of the Ostrogoths in Italy, and what remains of his porphyry tomb.

Even Dante Alighiere, the medieval poet who wrote The Divine Comedy, his vision
of heaven, hell, and purgatory, is buried in Ravenna. Below is his mausoleum.

Nowadays Ravenna is mostly a university city, so there are lots of young people, students--and with them, lots of bicycles.
In fact, we've probably never seen so many people riding bikes--and they boldly swerve in and around the pedestrians.
This row of over a hundred parked bicycles was just down from our hotel, which was near the university campus.

Click here to see more of our photos from the area around Ravenna.