« Al chiaro di luna si viaggia attraverso le valli del delta del Po.
Ravenna, la vera meta del viaggio, è raggiunta. » (G. Klimt)

Ravenna, a mosaic of balloons

Ravenna represents so many stories, so many cultures, so many different mood and contrasts that it is quite difficult to know where to begin her story. Ravenna is a town to be savoured gently – either on foot or bicycle – without haste, during two or three day. One should start with a walk among the superb 5th and 6th centuries UNESCO World Heritage Sites. When visiting Ravenna, the visitor must take time to wander in silence and contemplation. Ravenna’s monuments are made of stone and gold. They are plain and hieratic and have both physical and trascendental characteristics, unlike anything else in the world.

Ravenna’s beauty exists not only in its mosaics but also in its natural surrounding. There are many woodlands and pinewoods along the historic delta of the River Po, brackish wetlands and valleys in the hinterland; bodies of water that seem to light on fire at sunsetand blend with the sky. Many different species of winged animals including herons, little egrets, black-winged stilts, and pink flamingos flourish in those valleys and ponds. Ravenna painter Vittorio Guaccimanni (1859-1938) is famous for his painting of untamed pinewoods, so realistic that one can almost smell the air as if it were just after an August shower.

On fair-weather days one can ride or walk along the streeets of Ravenna, and smell the flowers that grace gardens and balconies, and observe the flocks of swallows as one breathes the summer evening air. Through open windows one can hear kitchen sounds, and small bits of conversations that fly away from houses like balloons in the sky.

And speaking of balloons…The visitor who is fortunte to be in Ravenna on the 8th of December can witness childrens realising balloons into the sky like arrows aimed at Heaven, prayers to the Vergin Mary. This is a mosaic as well, albeit an open-air mosaic made of colors, hopes, thanks, requests to God, tears and folded hands. These balloons are mosaic tiles, big up close and then small and intangible as they rise in the sky, even as the children, noses up in the air, try to follow their upward path.

And what has all this to do with tourism? A great deal, because Ravenna doesn’t go into hibernation in winter. Ravenna is veracity and spirituality and stands for an intangible heritage that a tourist guide or a cruise cannot accurately describe. The traveler must take on the task of visiting Ravenna with the tranquility it deserves.

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