Roaming around Romagna

Although our stay was a brief one night affair, I was quite disappointed in Castel Bolognese. For a start they don’t have a castle and bolognese is apparently in reference to the famous meat sauce said to originate from down the road in Bologna, but where they also don’t have a proper castle!

Swiftly moving on…

I have to say our arrival in Brisighella wasn’t text book. Turning off the main road as directed by camper parking sign, we were immediately confronted with a 2.5m width restriction (Charlie is 2.3m wide). Managing to squeeze the van between the rear of 4 parked cars and an immovable roadworks sign, we were about to cross an unmanned railway line when we realised the road ahead was blocked by the roadworks. “Oh flip” there was nothing for it but a nervy multi point turn of a 7.5m long motorhome on the railway line. Wasting no time we quickly managed to regain the main road. That’s what you might call a twitchy _ _ _ moment!

Brisighella does have a castle (sorry castel) they also have a nice looking clock tower perched on a rock 400 steps above the town. The clock tower works on a six-hour system, compared to the 12-hour one on my watch. Perhaps that means everything here takes twice as long?

The arches of Donkey’s Alley

Donkey Alley is a raised and covered road lit by half-moon-shaped arches and said to be the only one of its kind in the world. Built in the 12th and 13th centuries as a defence fortification, it was later used for carrying chalk on donkeys from the quarries in the surrounding valley.

Brisighella’s history originates from an unexpected source. The surrounding hills are rich in gypsum, which was used by the Romans in making cement. Gypsum crystals were used as glass panes.

La Rocca fortress was built in 1228, ok so it’s a fortress but it looks like a castle and it’s on a hill. We know it’s on a hill because we cycled up it….

The clock tower with Brisighella below
View towards The Monticino Church – on the third of Bisighella’s 3 Hills

Our bike ride was going to be a there and back affair with the first half all up hill although not too steep. And at least we had the excuse to stop and take a breather and take in the vistas on either side of the ridge.

During our standard visit to the tourist information office we had been told that the area was renowned for it’s gypsum and “is what the town was known for in Medieval times.”

Near the top of the climb we left the bikes to follow a sign to the Continico Cave. We imaged it was just off the road but after 20 minutes of walking down we were about to turn back when the cave appeared. As it turned out it wasn’t that impressive and definitely not worth the slog back up. However as we turned to retrace our steps, we noticed lots of small sparkling crystal-like stones. A quick rub and our trek down was rewarded with a small gypsum souvenir.

We liked Brisighella, we’d had a good ride, recharged all our batteries and (Gary & Jen you’ll pleased to hear) we caught up with essential laundry and van washing.

Ravenna

We can be a bit fussy when it comes to finding the ideal spot to park Charlie for the night, somewhere safe and legal, not too noisy and if possible with a nice sculpture to look at.

At night Ravenna’s old town blossomed with a multitude of attractive looking bars and restaurants, with people sitting outside even in February.

Only opened in December this building was originally a covered market and has been renovated to contain lots of trendy bars and food outlets. We were attracted by a stall selling Piadina, a thin Italian flatbread, typical of the Emilia-Romagna region that is folded and filled. Washed down with beer and wine it was surprisingly good.

Not a particularly detailed mosaic but I liked that with just a few tiles it manages to captures the faraway look of the sitter – It appealed to me.

  • Some of the finest surviving Byzantine mosaics are preserved in the city of Ravenna. 
  • The Byzantine Empire, so-called for the former name of Constantinople, was the Eastern portion of the Roman Empire.
  • The surviving Byzantine art is predominantly religious and follow traditional models that translate their carefully controlled church theology into artistic terms.

Lesley cycling past the church of San Vitale where the mosaic’s of the roman Emperor Justinian can be seen and which we only found out later was one of the best in Ravenna.

Cycling in Ravenna is not quite on the Cambridge scale but locals young and old move around on their (not necessarily trendy) bikes with ease. This map from the tourist office was designed to fit on the bikes handlebars and it made navigating our way between the various sites easy.

Whilst touring around the streets we came across a plaque with a quote by Henry James who was a big fan of Ravennna:

“Three things in human life are important: the first is to be kind; the second is to be kind; and the third is to be kind.”

Classe

Our next stopover was about 6km’s south of the city where we found a flat route to cycle alongside a canal where Lesley spotted several beavers living in the riverbank. The track wound its way through the pine forest to a waterway with fishing houses that have huge nets which are lowered into the river.

What’s the collective noun for fishermen – ‘An exaggeration of anglers’ perhaps

We intended to cycle as far as Cervia but a local man approached us excitedly and managed to tell us in broken Inglish! If we approached with care we could catch a glimpse of some rare Egyptian Ibis that had flow in from West Africa and were just of the road in the Salt Pans before Cervia.

The iphone is not good enough to get a close up of the Sacred Egyptian Ibis – This one is borrowed.

In making the detour to see the Ibis we headed back along forest track, but only after about a mile Lesley discovered she must have dropped her mobile phone on a ramp near the salt pans. A mad dash followed with Dave arriving at the spot just as two dog walkers simultaneously discovered it. A bit breathless Entalian and the iphone was soon handed over..

With Sat Nav set for our next destination San Marino we made a small detour to find a coastal spot to have our lunch by the sea. We couldn’t face going to Rimini and with almost every other inch of the seaside fronted by hotels, finding a nice place wasn’t straightforward but we did manage at Valverde to locate a seafront carpark with views of the unusual sea defences.

Bypassing Rimini meant missing the eight hundred hotels and one thousand bars, restaurants and nightclubs, but I’m sure we’ll cope!

Before I sign off I thought I’d share a couple of more quotes this time by Groucho Marx;

Outside of a dog, a book is your best friend, and inside of a dog, it’s too dark to read.

Those are my principles, and if you don’t like them… well, I have others.

Toodle Pip

D & L

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