The Comacchio Lagoon
12th – 15th March 2021
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 March. We will spend a day exploring further into the Po Valley with a visit to the Comacchio Lagoon and Pomposa Abbey. We hope to take a boat out in to the lagoon to see the fishing huts and reach a fantastic restaurant. The trip will be a mix of mosaics, frescoes, local traditions and wonderful food. There will even be the opportunity to take part in a mosaic workshop for those who wish.
We will stay at the Albergo Cappello, a lovely 15th-century hotel in the heart of the city with beautiful communal areas. We will have the hotel to ourselves.
Friday 12th March
Our early morning flight will allow us to arrive in time for a lovely lunch at an atmospheric osteria. Once revived we will head out to explore the city. 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. Visits to both the Neonian Baptistery (also known as the Orthodox Baptistery) and the Arian Baptistery will aid discussion on the different approaches to Christianity. Supper will be at an excellent trattoria we know.
Saturday 13th March
San Vitale is one of those churches 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 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 there will 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. There will be time for some shopping or further exploring in the late afternoon. A fun supper in what was once an old cinema and now a contemporary restaurant.
Sunday 14th March
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 and still using the ancient technique of the Romans. Deep in the lagoon is an incredible restaurant serving fresh fish and other seasonal produce.
Nearby is Pomposa Abbey where we will spend the afternoon. At its height this Benedictine monastery was the most important in the North of Italy and the rich decorations are a legacy of the Abbey’s prominence. 14th century frescoes adorn the nave and apse of the church and continue on into the Chapter House and Refectory. The cosmati pavement of the church is worth the journey itself. Our coach will take us back to Ravenna late afternoon. Supper at a trattoria near the hotel.
Sunday 14th March
Our first visit will be to 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 nearby we will take our coach to Bologna. We will stop enroute for a brief visit to yet another UNESCO World Heritage site, the brilliantly designed Mausoleum of Theoderic. Our final stop before the airport will be to see the 6th century basilica of Sant’ Apollinare in Classe, here the beautifully simple architecture acts as a perfect foil for the dazzling mosaics.
The trip will be led by Charlie Winton and Richard Stemp. Both tutors have taught for AHA for many years and know Ravenna well.
We will stay at the Albergo Cappello, a lovely 15th-century hotel in the heart of the city with beautiful communal areas. We will have the hotel to ourselves. You can upgrade to a ‘suite’ for £150 a room. Please note these are very limited so do let me know.
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:
12th March London Heathrow 08.35 – 11.45 Bologna BA0540
15th March Bologna 18.40 – 20.00 London Heathrow BA0545
(Flights are currently £80 return 1/12/20)
We will travel in comfort in a private coach with air-conditioning. There will be airport transfers to meet the recommended flights.
The fees are £1350 which includes accommodation (in a room for double occupancy) and breakfast, all four lunches, mosaic workshop, private boat, transfers for the recommended flight, transport when connected with teaching, entrance fees, tuition, reading lists and local advice. Single room supplement is £120. Room upgrade £150 a room (limited numbers). Not included are the flights, all suppers and travel insurance.
We will send our safety protocol ahead of the trip. If for reasons of Covid-19 we need to cancel the trip up to 48 hours before the start, we will refund all money except for any payments made on non-refundable entrance tickets.
Please complete the online registration form, having read our terms and conditions and pay the fees via bank transfer.
If you have any queries please email charlie@arthistoryabroad or call 01379 871800 (302)
NB you must buy your own flights.