Notes from Florence & Ravenna


Cheryl is in Seventh Heaven. She has visited Florence and Ravenna. So, a report on both. The photo above is the 1st Mosaic we encountered in Ravenna. It’s a ‘Where’s Wally?’ kind of photo. (And I’m NOT the Wally!)


We arrived in Bologna a day early courtesy of the train driver’s strike. I was all for wandering around Bologna (bit of spag bog, few beers, soak up the cultcha), however little did I know how much a certain girl had set her heart on Florence.

What’s more, she hadn’t expected to get there. But now the glittering prize was in her grasp. ‘What would you like to do tomorrow Jim?”. Naively I assumed she wanted to actually know and would take that into account.

I talked about spag bog, beer, sitting around etc. ‘No,’ she said, ‘What would you REALLY like to do?’. At this stage a normally dormant sense of self-preservation started to kick in and I sensed this was one of those ‘Do these jeans make me look fat?’ kind of questions.

I realised that I just might have missed an important cue and like a drowning man clutching at straws I could only throw out what I thought might be the right question. ‘Oh, I don’t really mind what we do, dear. What would you like to do?’

Phew, I hit paydirt. Actually in hindsight it was obvious – what I REALLY wanted to do was visit Florence! So we did.

We tried the trick of hopping on a train and seeing if we had to pay. We actually had Eurail passes, but we hopped on one of the High Speed trains with 1st class that you have to book. Florence was the 1st stop, only 1/2 an hour down the track, so we felt pretty safe.

Complimentary wine, coffee, nibbles delivered. This is the life for us!

10 minutes to go and up came the conductor. We were THAT close! Now, if you don’t pay in advance they sting you on the traino. But because it was the strike day, we only had to pay the normal fare, €10 each.

A bit of a lecture, but we got away with it. On the way back we tried to buy tickets, but the queue was an hour long! So, did the same again, got caught again, still only €10 and the required lecture. C got 2 glasses of champagne though!

Now, Florence. Bit of a staggering place really. Pretty old, some magnificent churches, a history of top artists and a certain statue by one Michelangelo. That’s a photo of C in front of David below:


It’s the real thing! Ridgey Didge! If you want to know why he’s turned green it’s because I was with C and not him!

One of the great places in Florence is the Ponte Vecchio. It’s the only bridge not destroyed in WW2 and actually has buildings on it that project from the bridge out over the water. It’s the heart of the silversmith business in Florence and they have been operating there for yonks.

Here’s a photo from up the hill:


Of course Italy is a great place for leather handbags and Florence in particular has heaps of shops selling them. I tried to convince C to buy one, but the heat took its toll and she was too hot to even be interested! However, I discovered you can get Prada etc bags on the bridge at a fraction of the price in the shops from some really nice men from the Congo.

We are sure we’ll be able to do the same in Venice, so will try again there.

There are some fantastic sights in Florence, but I can’t add as many photos as I’d like because I think I’ve got some sort of limit on this blog and I need to include some from Ravenna. So, come and see me when I’m home and I’ll show you.


C has been telling her art students for years that one day she would go to Ravenna and look at all the mosaics there. Today was the fulfillment of that dream. C has shown pictures of these famous mosaics to countless children, filling them with an enthusiasm for such art in the way that only C can do.

Today she walked around gobsmacked. Open mouthed. Breathless. Rapt. (get out your Thesaurus, you’ll find plenty of words). Here were all these fantastic mosaics that she has enjoyed copies of for years, now in the flesh, so to speak.

At one stage she asked me if I was as excited to see them as her. My reply was that no-one could be AS excited. However, I too was blown away by the intricacy, the colour, the ‘aliveness’ and the skill in producing these magnificent works of art. The real thing just blows you away.

From a distance some looked just like paintings or even photos they were so skillfully done. It was only as you looked up close you could see the ‘bits’ they used to make them. It was then that the vibrancy of the colours and different types of tiles stood out.

Here’s the one of the Empress Theodora and Her Retinue that C has been telling children about for years:


How about this one?


Remember, these are mosaics, not paintings done on the ceiling.

Oh well, off to Venice tomorrow. Could find that a bit boring I suspect. Hope the boys from the Congo are there, might be able to pick up a Prada man bag for me!



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12 Responses to Notes from Florence & Ravenna

  1. Tim O'Loughlin says:

    Arrr Jim, great to hear Cheryl is in her element. I suspect the whole trip was worth it just for the look of wonder and happiness on her face at the sight of all those masterpieces. Now prada man bags, how can I say this Jim, no you cannot take one bushwalking, no self respecting pirate can be seen with one, you may have been in Europe too long, there are lines we do not cross in the colonies – but by all means buy one for Cheryl! Loving your stories of cheap train rides and only getting a little bit caught and arriving an hour and half early, I can see you doing this! Just remember plans can change and the spice of life is often intuitively following these little adventurous opportunities. This could be your last big trip to Europe so remember my motto, of course you can always fit something extra in! Off to Liawenee today for work, currently 0.3 degrees and snowing, enjoy the warm weather while you can, soak up the cultcha, and alright buy a man bag, but make sure it looks rugged and mountain man-ish! Or better yet a hand tooled Italian leather prada iPad case! Huge bragging rights! We are looking forward to the slide night greatly. Love Tim and Helen

    • Jim Wilson says:

      Arr Cap’n and the TCB, we just about wet ourselves reading your comments. We have been having this exact conversation re man bags for weeks! Are our conversations being secretly taped and played back in Oz?

      Hand tooled leather Prada iPad bag sounds just the ticket!

  2. Did you see our footprints? Or our little trails of melted gelato?

    My lasting memory of Florence will be the deafening sirens on the ambulances (all rushing to the latest road accident, no doubt).

    Your blogging delay rate puts me to shame!

    • Jim Wilson says:

      Yes, A&J we saw your footprints AND the melted gelato!

      My blogs are my diary, if I leave it too long I forget it all! Plus I’d end up with very longs blogs for my friendsto read and they only have a short attention span!

  3. BILL PERRY says:

    You’re a braver man than I am Jungle Jim. Contemplating buying a man bag from a native of The Congo? What would Tarzan say to that?
    Florence sounded marvelous . Good on Cheryl for getting you off your ass.
    Venice boring? I don’t think so Jim.

  4. Pete says:

    Still not jealous Jim!

  5. Jennifer says:

    Jim , I suspect there is very little chance of convincing Cheryl to put a mirror on your bedroom ceiling but you could possibly talk her into a mosaic 🙂
    The trip continues to sound fantastic and the photos are great.

    There are going to be some great stories to tell when you get back and maybe one or two from you guys as well 🙂

    Jen xox

    • Jim Wilson says:

      Jen, just so looking forward to stories from that end. Nothing much exciting happening over here, you’d be bored in no time!

  6. Lynne OCB says:

    2 glasses of bubbly, mosaic heaven for Cheryl and lots of words on the blog for Jim!
    loving it!
    finished term 1! hooray! but we missed you Cheryl! I’m having a sad start to my hols – flying to Sydney tmrw for my Nana’s funeral – she was either 98 or 99 (we’re not sure!) – a good long life and now she’s gone home!
    In true Irish style there’ll be a wake and all the family will be there! (could be good, could be ……!) Pete’s staying home!
    (and I think he really is jealous!!!)

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