After some debate about our route with the palace staff (do we go on the autostrada or over the mountains), we left around 10:30am. By the way, turns out the morning desk clerk at the palace is from Boston. Don’t you think we should stay? OK, I just have to let it go. Anyway, we decided to use the autostrada because the more direct route (half the mileage) will probably take twice as long. Too many turns and small towns. A trip for another time, I guess.
So off we go. The trip is uneventful. By now, I am very comfortable driving on the autostrada. After Siena, I am comfortable driving anywhere. The views were nice, and we even stopped at AutoGrill to have lunch. For those familiar with the NJ Turnpike, AutoGrill is the equivalent of the Molly Pitcher service area with one difference. Even the highway food is awesome.
I had prosciutto sandwich on a crusty roll with just a little butter. PJ had a chicken cutlet panini. By the way, Coke has even taken over in Italy. For just 6.50 euro, you get sandwich, soda, dessert and a commemorative coke truck for the holidays. How beautiful. So we finished lunch and headed back to the car. Of course in Italy, they make you exit through a maze of items for sale. Kinda like Cracker Barrel, but instead of crap, there’s tons of more great food. We could have stayed all day.
But we didn’t and headed on to Ravenna. As you may have figured out by now, we are somewhat directionally challenged when it come to local streets, so I was not going to let Ravenna get the best of me. Before we left the palace (remember, it’s beautiful), I used mapquest for door to door directions to our hotel. I even elected for maps step by step. Afterward, I cut/paste the information into a Word document, so PJ could navigate once we exited the highway. Well, it worked, I am happy to report we easily made it to the hotel with only one mistake and no blood curdling arguments.
We arrived around 2pm, so there was plenty of time to visit the old sites of Ravenna. For those who don’t know (us included), Ravenna was once a capital of the Roman Empire before being nabbed by Venice. The town is famous for mosaics. Words cannot describe the beauty. You have to look at the pictures.
After touring, we returned to the hotel to rest for a few minutes. Then we went out again to explore the streets and shops. Turns out there is a new department store and grocery store right across the street from the hotel. I think we are the only people in the world that can window shop in a grocery store, but the food looked great. Again, we could have sampled all day and night.
But there was no reason, at 7pm Alessandra Caprara and her husband picked us up for dinner. We came to Ravenna, in part, because she and her sisters visited with us in October, and they wanted us to see their beautiful town. Also, she saw the article in Classis Country Life about Pizza Rustica and wanted us to try their regional dish called Pasticce da Macaroni. It’s a sweet pastry crust like Pizza Rustica, but filled with pasta, eggs, sauce and meat. Could there be anything better? Answer, simply no.
After Pasticce, there was another course with flatbread, cream cheese and carmelized figs along with a savory casserole, then, the usual dissert display of panatone, chocolates, coffee and dessert wine. It was a great night, and we were out until almost midnight which leads me to apologize for a late posting. After working on this for an hour last night, exhaustion or alcohol got the better of me and I lost my writing before I was able to post. So, I am re-writing this morning before we leave the hotel.
But before we leave the hotel, we go to see Alessandra in her studio. She is a very accomplished mosaic artist. See the link below. She just spent 10 YEARS working on a 1,000 square foot mosaic for the Transfiguration Church in Orleans, MA. That’s why they were visiting Maine. After she finished, the family joined her for a vacation. Check it out. By the way, the religion seems a little out there, but she said they were very nice and respectful of her.
OK, it’s time for a quick cup of coffee and we are off. By noon, we must depart to return to Rome, return SmartCar and reunite with Lucia and the gang. See you later.