Sabbato March 15, 2008
We are again sitting on a train. This time we are returning to Bologna to switch to Milan. Today was a relatively relaxed day as we woke up in the Hostel around 9am. Gashwin was all ready to go and ran down to have coffee. He wanted a café latte so he pressed the button for latte on a cappuccino machine and it dispensed hot milk. Confused, he left the milk aside and pressed the button for cappuccino instead. At least there was cold milk left for me when I got down for breakfast.
After having breakfast we checked e-mail. The first 10 minutes per person were free but it was 3Euro/hour after that, so no time to blog. Anyways, leaving the hostel we decided to get actual tickets for the bus. Even though we got away with it last night, we decided it wasn’t worth the fifty euro fine per person. It was just our luck as just when we got off the bus, an official came and asked for tickets. Those three euro sure saved us a ton of money.
As we walked down the street we were still conversing about our good fortune when a cranky old lady cursed me out for not paying attention to where I was walking. Apparently the two meter wide walkway was not big enough for us and her bicycle. She literally said “Where is your head?” only in Italian. Of course I didn’t understand, but found it funny enough.
After walking to the tourist office, we found out that we could rent bicycles for free for the day. We definitely took up this offer and got three bicycles. The bicycles were functional, yet their seats would not adjust, and the springs were definitely a bit squishy, and they were obviously not for tall people. We enjoyed them anyway, they had locks attached to them so we could park them anywhere and not worry about them being taken. On our newly acquired bicycles we rode all around the town.
Our first stop was at the Neonian Baptistery next to the Cathedral. The inside contained a fifth century mosaics. At the center was a mosaic of Christ being baptized in the Jordan. Around it were mosaics of each of the apostles. No picture could do the mosaics justice as you can’t really see the work that must have gone into it.
Next we stopped by Dante’s mausoleum, which is a large marble building next to the church of San Francesco. Alongside it was a large pile of dirt. On the initial glance that is all it appears to be, but it was actually used during WWII to bury Dante’s bones in the case of a bombing.
Following Dante’s tomb we stopped at the Arian Baptistery. It is the only surviving Arian building today. The Baptistery is octagonal in shape and is missing its actual pool. The ceiling there is also incredible. Similar to the Neonian Baptistery, the mosaics here depict Christ being baptized. The Arians believed that Christ was human but not divine, thus they rejected the Nicene formula. In the baptistery, Christ’s humanity is portrayed as he is in the nude. The baptistery survived as the orthodox took it over.
Leaving the baptistery we stopped at S. Apollinare Nuovo. This is a VI century church with the name Nuovo as there was already a church named S. Apollinare when the church was built. This is in the more classical form of early churches as it has three square naves. The church further has beautiful mosaics of the three Magi bringing Christ gifts and of Christ between four angels. Once again the mosaics were incredible.
We left the church in search of some food as it was almost 2PM. Entering the Piazza del Popolo we stopped at one café and they took forever to serve us. Gashwin grew impatient so we just left without even getting water. Instead we went to the Restaurant Bella Venezia which was recommended in Fromer’s guide to Italy. It was properly recommended. The food there was awesome. Gashwin and I enjoyed a beef dish which had an amazing sauce, it had an odd name and unfortunately neither of us can remember it. Afterwards we each enjoyed a strawberry shortcake and left feeling really good.
We wanted to go to the Adriatic sea but decided that time would just not allow so instead we rode our bikes to the Rocco di Branca Loene, which is the former ruins of a medieval fort. It was pretty cool and had been transformed into a modern park with benches and toys for kids. On our way back to the tourist center to return our bikes we passed by a nun leaving her convent. It was rather interesting as the side of the convent had been covered in graffiti. Apparently everything in Italy is covered in graffiti. Surprisingly though, across the street was some good American English, “M___ F___.” I guess one can’t escape it no matter where you are.
We returned the bikes and walked back to the station to grab a taxi to get our bags. After reaching the hostel I asked for a bottle of water. All I had was a 20 euro note, which is blue. I gave the lady the money and she went to return 19. Unfortunately she did not have it at the register, but gave me a five euro note (which is smaller and a lighter blue green than the 20 euro note). She went elsewhere to grab the remaining change. Once she returned I counted the coins, (It is odd that one always counts the coins but never looks at the notes) grabbed my bag and ran out to the taxi. They were waiting on me and the meter was running. Once we arrived at the station, I went to pay, looked in my wallet and realized that instead of giving me 2 additional five euro notes, she gave me 2 twenty euro notes and thus overpaid me 30 euro. After sorting the mess out, we called and she told us to mail the money back to her. Oh well, what else can you do, now I am down the change to buy a stamp and envelope.
Since then we have gotten on the train to Bologna and are now somewhere in the countryside surrounded by pink cherry blossoms. Giuseppe is asleep and Gashwin is occasionally helping me with my blog. In any case we still have another 30 minutes to ride before changing trains.