Friday, August 14, 2009

RAVENNA & RIMINI...northeastern Italy

Friday, August 13th, 2004 Ravenna & Rimini

Today was definitely a travel day. It is also the opening day for the Olympics in Athens, Greece. That’s our television show this evening; of course with an Italian slant on one channel and a German slant on another station. We were awakened from a dead sleep at 5:15 am this morning; good thing that I set the alarm clock. We’d set everything up last night so that getting out the door by 5:45 am wasn’t too much of a problem. It was still dark outside; by six the roosters were crowing and we had some daylight as we stood at the bus stop. The bus arrived about 6:10 and soon we were whizzing down the mountain. There was only one other passenger; it was like a private limo ride except it cost only one euro each! Since no one else was standing at bus stops he passed them by as well as a few stop signs along the way. Arrived at the train station and missed the 6:30 am train by minutes; it was still in the station but they wouldn’t open up the doors for us. So we had to wait half an hour for the next “chugger” train to Naples. While we were waiting two Americans arrived, brothers from New York; they were doing eight cities in seven days. Today they were stopping to see Florence and Pisa on their way to Venice. They had lots of questions about the trains and Venice. We ended up giving them lots of advice and our train timetable book.

This train ride was a breeze compared to our trip into Sorrento. Not crowded at all and the passengers were business people on their way to work; a very quiet and somber crowd. The stairs going up into the main train station all had working escalators; no problems there. Found a pizza shop and had breakfast there in the train station. While we waited in the pizza shop for our train we had fun talking with two girls from New York who have been traveling together in Europe for about a month; on the trains and staying in Hostels. They had some wild stories including their experience in purchasing their Eurorail Pass in France. It cost them double the amount that they would have paid in America. We also had a young man from Chicago join our group. He has been traveling in Europe for six months and plans to stay another six months. His main mode of travel is hiking. He has already been to Egypt and surrounding areas. He was meeting a friend today who was coming in from the USA and they are going to hike through Italy together. All three were under twenty-five years of age. The girls were definitely ready to go home next week. The young man was still excited about his travels. The boy offered the girls a “baby wipe” when he walked up…they were thrilled! I offered the girls our small travel pack that we haven’t used but a few times. The one said, “I can’t believe I’m so exciting about getting baby wipes.” But they are wonderful in hot, sticky weather. We now know why the soldiers in Iraq enjoyed receiving them from home.

Our train left on time, an Italian Euro Star in excellent condition. This time we checked both ends of the car before getting on so that the luggage rack was easy to get to when we got on the train. The five hours went fast as we were both able to read and enjoy the scenery. Air conditioning on a train makes a huge difference. Also, the train only stopped in Rome and Florence before we arrived in Bologna. Once in Bologna we had to use the up and down stairs to get to the next train but managed to do them without too much trouble. Found a train headed to Ravenna that was leaving in only half an hour. It was a milk run, but also in good condition and not crowded.

Our hotel, the Hotel Ravenna, is only a block from the train station. No air conditioning but again, very nice and we do have a ceiling fan over our bed. I haven’t been able to get the Internet connection working yet so it’s a good thing that I gave it one more try last night in Sorrento. Jim talked to the manager and found out that I had to put an extra comma between the 0 and the number. Usually it only requires one “pause” after the 0 but the Italian phone lines are such that it needed that extra time to allow the number to connect. So it was “ 0,,02” …… Using electronics when traveling requires lots of patience!

Saturday, August 14th: Up about 7 am we tried the Internet connection one more time without any success. So, you may not receive this until we get back to California depending on the last two hotels; Cremona, Italy and London, England. Talked to the manager on our way out this morning and she said, “no, no, no….it will not work!”

Purchased train tickets to Rimini; an hours ride south of Ravenna. Very crowded but we did have seats all the way there. Rimini is known for the longest beach in Europe and also some very good Roman Ruins; it was packed to the rim with tourists who are mostly Europeans enjoying their traditional August vacation. The campgrounds were full of trailers, motor homes and tents. They stretched from the beach to the train rails in several areas. We also noticed several fields of sunflowers while we were on the train; Jim said, “your girls are looking rather sad”. When I looked out the window they were hanging their heads and rapidly turning black as they are nearly ready for harvest.

After arriving in Rimini we ate “brunch” (this is the first hotel that does not offer a breakfast in the hotel) and then headed for the bus to San Marino, an independent country located about an hour away by bus. We had thought that it would make a great outing while we were in this area. Purchased our roundtrip tickets for the 11 am bus and then found out the bus was full and we’d have to wait for the next bus in another hour.

No problem, we decided to spend the time exploring Rimini; we walked to the Church, then over to the Shopping Market. From there we walked to the Roman Ruins of the Arc of Augusto, still in excellent condition and a great photo opportunity. We also walked along a bicycle path (dodging the many bicycles) in a park that borders the ruins of a Roman Wall and took us most of the way to the beach area. Finally arrived at the beach and walked along the broad sidewalks to find the hotel where the great Italian bicycle rider, Pantani (the pirate who had an earring, shaved head, and won the Tour de France and the Tour of Italy) committed suicide this past spring. Jim didn’t particularly like him but respected him because he was a great road rider and climber. Found the hotel, but disappointed that there was no mention or plaque or memorial of the incident.

We realized the time and turned around towards the bus station. Part of the walk back included a street of very old stately homes. More than likely summer homes for many of Italy’s wealthy families. Some had been converted to multiple residences but most were still privately owned. We checked the number of buzzers on each of the gates to determine how many families lived in each of the estates. Arrived at the bus stop about 1:30 pm and had missed two buses. The next one would not leave until 2:30, and then it would be an hour up and another hour back with very little time to really see the area. Also, we would be catching a late train back to Ravenna and that would probably mean standing with a group of sweaty bodies for another hour because so many would be headed home after a day at the beach. The locals make very good use of their train system in addition to all the summer visitors.

It was not a tough decision to make…. we caught the next train at 2:20 for Ravenna; arrived about 3:30 and watched the Olympics on television in the comfort of our hotel. Called my sisters who were in the path of hurricane Charlie; they are all fine and the storm came in south of them. It was a Level Four and did extensive damage. Other than spending a nervous night in the evacuation center, they are fine; having a cell phone with us so nice. We are a bit worried about our friends in Venice, Florida. We’ve tried to call several times and only get a busy signal. The word on CNN (yes we finally found the magic channel on our little TV) is not good about Florida. I’ve checked out the local Internet Café and it is closed until August 15th for their vacation. I’ll walk over again tomorrow and see if they’ve decided to open on the 15th or 16th. We have found many shops closed for part or all of August here and elsewhere in Italy.

We picked up an English newspaper to get some news on Florida and the Olympic Games. There were three additional stories of interest: (1) The Pope is in Lourdes this week for the celebrations there (the Pope is big news in Italy); (2) Julia Childs died and (3) the Paris Beach rage; remember we visited the site while in Paris. Seems as though within three years this is catching on and a number of large cities all over Europe have copied the idea. Not on quite as grand a scale as Paris; but they are catching up fast!

We decided to go to the local McDonald’s for an American style fast-food dinner tonight. It’s located on the main square of town; but no “golden arches” in sight. The selection is not as big as USA and no breakfast type foods in the morning; otherwise it was good food and packaged to code! Also, you can eat at anytime instead of waiting for the traditional restaurants as those don’t open until 7 or 7:30 pm. Since we had dinner our first night in Ravenna at a great local restaurant we thought that we really should do a real McDonald’s meal at least once while we are in Europe this summer.

Sunday, August 15th: Walked about ten minutes to the local church for 8:30 am Mass this morning. Very nice, not too grand, but large columns probably from Roman ruins somewhere back several centuries. The photo gallery on the wall showed the church after it’s restoration in 1920’s and then again after the bombing in 1944. Apparently it took a direct hit as over half of the church was in ruins. A color photo after they had repaired the damages was dated 1951.

Continuing our tour, we visited the tomb of Dante and then the church of San Francisco. Walked to the town square and had an Italian breakfast at Café Roma. After breakfast, Jim walked over to the National Museum and the church with all the Mosaics and I did a slow walk back to the hotel on my own observing local customs and people.

The cafés and benches in the squares were filled with men as the women were in church; very few men in Europe seem to attend Mass. The most popular mode of transportation inside this town seems to be bicycles. Several hotels have bicycles available for their guests to use during their stay. Most streets have bike paths, trains are marked as accepting bikes or not, they stand with them in the vestibule of the train car. There are racks all over the place. Some of them are special in that it has a locking device that the bike fits into and then the people take the key with them.

Clothes, young girls wear their hip huggers unbelievably low all over Europe. Sometimes the top is four inches below their navel that has a piercing in it. The chins, ears, navels and more have small piercing. Small tattoos are very common. They wear skirts and dresses more than shorts. The material used for women’s clothing is generally loose and shear. Shoes are extremely pointed; we see more “flip-flops” than actual sandals on men and women, both young and old. The levi’s are treated to appear aged and are generally about one hundred euros for that style. It is very apparent that they favor the thong underpants. Most of the women shave under their arms now but it is still not uncommon to see women who don’t. Hygiene standards are very different.

Young men almost always wear earrings; mostly only one but not uncommon to see both ears and/or several in one ear like the girls. The chin and eyebrow piercing is very common. Occasionally you’ll see the pants riding down on their hips but not very often. Shoes are generally flip-flops. Even waiters in the restaurants will have a sandal type slip-on style of shoe. Only tourist seem to wear shorts; very unusual to see Italian men in shorts except at the beach.

We walked over to the train station to check out the schedules for our train tomorrow. Returned to the hotel and did some repacking to start the process of getting ready for the airplane trips coming up this week. Weather wise we’ve really been fortunate on the entire trip. Last week this area had very heavy rains. We’ve had sun with light breezes that help keep one cool. We’ve also gotten very good at walking on the shady side of the street.


Anonymous said...

Have so enjoyed traveling 04 with you and Jim. Am looking forward to your upcoming blog on your trip to Montana. Hugs, Mary

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