15th – 18th April 2024
Ravenna, once the capital of the Western Roman Empire is now an earthly paradise for mosaic lovers. The churches are packed with a Byzantine brilliance which is simply breathtaking. The city has a lovely atmosphere, full of cafes, trattorias and good shops. Normally a magnet for tourists, the city should be relatively peaceful in April. We will spend a day exploring further into the Po Valley with a visit to the Comacchio Lagoon. Here we hope to take a boat out in to the lagoon to see the fishing huts. The trip will be a mix of mosaics, frescoes, local traditions and wonderful food. There will also be the opportunity to take part in a mosaic workshop for those who wish.
We will stay at the Palazzo Bezzi, a lovely 18th century hotel in the heart of the city with a rooftop terrace.
Monday 15th April
The afternoon flight will land in Bologna and we will take a private coach to our hotel. Once settled in we will head out to explore the city with an introduction to the rather complex history. Supper will be at an excellent trattoria we know.
Tuesday 16th April
Seeing the mosaics of Ravenna for the first time is such an unforgettable treat. We shall follow the transition of the city from the capital of the Western Roman Empire to the capital of the Kingdom of the Ostrogoths. We will start in the Arian Baptistery before continuing on to San Vitale, a church that everyone should visit at least once in their life time. Adorning the walls are perfectly preserved mosaics of Biblical scenes, creatures and symbols, fruit and flower garlands which curl up the pillars and the highlight must be the depictions of the Byzantine court with fabulous portraits of Justinian I and Empress Theodora. Next door is found another gem, the Mausoleum of Galla Placidia. The tiny interior is encrusted in mosaics lit by alabaster windows. Rich patterns of flowers coat the vaults and wonderful scenes depicting the triumph of Eternal Life after death embellish the walls.
After a good lunch nearby, we will visit the Neonian Baptistery (also known as the Orthodox Baptistery) which will aid discussion on the different approaches to Christianity. There will then be the option of taking part in a Mosaic Workshop, run by one of the city artisans. No previous experience is necessary and it is a great way of understanding the skill and technique of the Byzantine masters. Alternatively, there will be a visit to the Archiepiscopal Museum. Supper will be in what was once an old cinema and now a contemporary restaurant.
Wednesday 17th April
In the morning we will head north to Comacchio, the tiny cousin of Venice and rarely visited by anyone. This fishing town is built on thirteen islands all interconnected by little bridges, the most intriguing of which is the Treponti. The town and lagoon briefly sparkled with Hollywood glamour when it was used as the set for ‘La Donna del Fiume’ starring Sophia Loren working in the local eel factory (still the speciality of the area). From here we hope to take a covered boat into the Comacchio Lagoon which forms part of the Po Delta Regional Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. We will pass the salt basins and see the wooden fishing huts built out on stilts.
After lunch we will visit the Basilica of Sant’ Apollinare in Classe, making sure we have seen all of the best mosaics and one of the finest examples of an early Christian Basilica known today. The central apse mosaic glistens with the image of Sant’ Apollinaire flanked by sheep against one of the most vibrant greens you will ever see. Our coach will take us back to Ravenna late afternoon. Supper at a trattoria near the hotel.
Thursday 18th April
In the morning we will visit Sant’ Apollinare Nuovo, commissioned by the Ostrogoth King, Theodoric the Great. Once again, these sparkling mosaics tell a fascinating story and we shall pick out the ‘renovations’ made by Justinian I when the Byzantine Empire gained control of the city. After lunch there will be some free time before we will take our coach to Bologna.
The trip will be led by Richard Stemp and Cecily Hennessy. Both tutors are experts in their field and know the city well.
We will stay at the Palazzo Bezzi, a lovely 18th-century hotel in the heart of the city which has been restored with a contemporary interior, rooftop terrace and a small courtyard garden.
We do not book the flights thus allowing you to travel to suit your budget, use airmiles, travel between different airports or on different dates. However, we recommend buying the following flights with British Airways:
15th April London Heathrow 15.25 – 18.35 Bologna BA0542
18th April Bologna 19.20 – 20.35 London Heathrow BA0545
We will travel in comfort in a private coach with air-conditioning. There will be airport transfers to meet the recommended flights.
There is quite a bit of walking on this trip, as well as uneven cobbles and steep slopes. As is the case for all our courses, there is a lot of standing while we discuss the works we are looking at.
Dinner is by no means compulsory, but we book a table for the group each night at different restaurants and divide the bill equally between everyone. The bill will be adjusted for those who have not had wine or beer.
The fees are £1600 which includes accommodation and breakfast, all lunches, mosaic workshop, private boat, transfers for the recommended flight, transport when connected with teaching, entrance fees, tuition, reading lists and local advice. Single occupancy supplement is £180. Not included are the flights, all suppers and travel insurance. The group will not exceed 16 people and we will divide in to two smaller groups wherever possible.
Please complete the online registration form and pay a deposit of £600 a head by bank transfer. Our bank details will be sent to you once we receive your registration form.
If you have any queries please email charlie@arthistoryabroad or call 01379 871800 (302)