The old town of Rovinj, in modern day Croatia, is dominated by the towering baroque church of St Euphemia built in 1763. A marble sarcophagus behind the alter is said to contain the remains of the Virgin Martyr St Euphemia. Not being of the faith, I find myself slightly bemused watching the elderly pilgrims, with heavy feet, they clamber about the church’s forecourt. Perhaps seeking absolution prior to a personal audience with their god. Church is a vehicle used to explore the mysteries within and without an anchor for those adrift in the world.
I received a rather rudimentary education at Footscray Boys Technical School, so without a formal grounding in classical history, its a real struggle to fully appreciate what I’m seeing.
In Ravenna Italy, I come face to face with the Byzantine Empire. The ornate architecture of early Christian churches of the late Roman period. Replete with exquisite mosaics of breathtaking beauty, depicting an endless parade of saints, martyrs, innocence and virgins.
In Italy, history seems to be held together with faith, hope and concrete.
Ravenna has provided inspiration for writers such as Dante, Oscar Wilde, Herman Hesse, Lord Bryan, T. S Elliot and evidently Nostradamus. I close my eyes to better imagine the romantic appeal of Ravenna before the advent of McDonald’s, the motor car, strip mall and the 21st Century.
Cities are just that, cities.
I prefer rolling along by the open road, cycling past the freshly ploughed khaki coloured fields of Lake Comacchio, which are ringed with elegant statuesque Pink Flamingos!
A massive Sunday morning peloton of synchronised cyclists wiz by shouting excitedly. A blur of colour. Cycling fast, brimming with exuberance, fist pumping encouragement, before disappearing snake like into the distance.
One of their number, Mauro, peels off to ride with me for a time. Within minutes, we are old friends.
As the afternoon draws out, we arrive sun kissed and grateful to set up camp at an organic farm. Feasting on fresh home made piadina, figs and jujube (an olive sized fruit that tastes surprisingly similar to an apple).
Life is good , cycling in Italy .