Updated: Nov 16
Moving smartly Monday morning, I left Venice on the 9:08 train, with two stops to Padua. At the first, still a Venezia station, two fellows from Munich (Indo-Paki) boarded with bicycles, so getting off in Padova required some dexterity and juggling. The trip to the Hotel Al Cason wasn’t difficult, however I did question the safety of the area. The initial room I was assigned already had luggage in it, so they shifted me to 113, which faced out over the rail lines. No excess floor space, there was good shelf space in the bath.
My time in Padua would start with an English-language tour of the University, including the Bo Palazzo. The group came to about 25, with more than half being German speaking. (Tours are led by students, and few have German language skills.) Most every wall was full of something - illustrations, memorials to teachers, maps, and sketches. The room lined with books was filled with neatly lined up chairs, ready for an administrative session. The ballroom, with its fresco’d ceiling and walls covered with gilt memorials, was set up for a ceremony. An interesting hour plus tour followed, especially with the final stop in the anatomical theater. I was able to stand below the oval opening of the table’s position and look up to the oval seating. One other stop was the lecture hall, walls lined with full length portraits, with the lectern built for and used by Galileo for his 40-year stint teaching in Padua. I found some of the art displayed to be of enough interest to study briefly.
The next stop was the Basilica Pontificia di Sant’Antonio. From the outside, turrets, a tower, six domes cap a large building: domes over the arms of the transept, two in the nave, the largest over the altar and the final over the apse - and there was a seventh in the monastery. While each dome was ornate, the central one had a gold field, with a thick edging of plaster figures, and a trio of cherubs at the center.
A big ornate space, there are numerous references to the life of Saint Anthony, the city’s patron saint, as well as an altar with his mortal remains. Several side altars sit in chapels off the nave, there is an ambulatory around the high altar, and the stained glass was notable. Three colors of marble are used throughout, typically in stripes, although the floor tiling leant toward checkerboarding. The vaults were framed fields of dark blue, with golden points and usually a medallion depiction of saints. St Anthony was the saint my grandfather prayed to most (his middle name was Anthony), so I offered a few more prayers than usual in his memory.
My itinerary indicated the cathedral should be closed, but Google said otherwise, so I headed there next. Since it was lunch time, as I passed an Enoteca I elected to quaff a glass of white wine.
The Basilica Cattedrale di Santa Maria Assunta turned out to be open when I arrived. A younger church than St Anthony’s Basilica, a plain brick facade and the inside lines were cleaner with stark walls. I believe it has a double transept, one of very few that I’ve encountered. The vault was rather high, however it was unadorned. On the raised platform of the altar, lovely carved wooden choir seats curved behind the table.
The crypt has newish glass, providing unexpected natural light, but had little else of interest due to the oppressive low ceiling, dark wooden pews. Then I was surprised to enter the burial chamber - memorials for numerous dead lined the floor, all in bright white marble. The gray and white marble of the altar there contrasted sharply with that in the other end of the crypt.
Finishing with the cathedral, it was about 3 in the afternoon, and I decided to make a quick trip to Monselice. My initial research had references to both a new and old cathedral in this small town, but couldn’t verify whether this was like Monza, a cathedral in name only, or if there was a historic see. I thought to take the bus, but a woman at the bus stop sent me to the train station 7 minutes away where I passed my 15 minute wait by consuming a salad and smoothie from a shop there. The train stop in Monselice is up a slight hill and across a small river from town, after passing an isolated peak with a castle’s ruins, overlooking the quaint town.
Taking the middle of three bridges across the river, I first headed to the “duomo nuovo”, a new modern temple which dominated a slight rise. From my approach, the building looked closed, but, as I neared to test the doors, one opened! Entering the nave, I found it a clean, airy space. Narrow vertical windows lined the space, bright light passing through modern stained glass filling the nave with joy. I searched for a cathedra which I never found, nor could I find any reference to the presence of a bishop (vescovo) on posted printed materials. I surmised this was a “pseudo cathedral” - a duomo in name only.
Back out the front door and across the plaza, I proceeded through the slight rise of the commercial district. At a juncture, there were signs for a hikers walk, which Maps said was how I was to go. The rough road rose as it hugged a ridge line, offering a great view of the church I’d just visited. Coming around a corner, a true gem of history appeared!
About 3-stories tall, the few visible windows were small and set near the eaves. The woman watching the church had French, so I was able to learn that this had actually been a cathedral, and was pleased when she pointed out that the cathedra was still in the sanctuary. She told me that the church predates the arrival of Barbarossa. With a single central aisle, there are two smaller altars bracketing the main altar. Good old art, some of which I was able to photograph. (Often, the art is protected by glass, and reflections from the lighting make taking a snap futile.)
I exited, followed the hiking path back and found the first bridge where I crossed to head to the station. Amazingly, the train was there, waiting, so I boarded and soon was on my way back to Padua. The route from the station in Padova to the hotel, per the instructions I’d received from the hotel reception, were much simpler, and I was able to buy a banana for the morning on my way.
It was about 7pm, and I was ready for my evening perambulation. I passed a beer pub, spun to check it out, and entered Birrone Padova where I had My GF Maronella, which had been brewed with corn. Enjoying while writing my day’s activities up in my journal, I decided to have pub food, got a bock beer Punto G, and ordered a smoked burger: pane artigianale panificio dal Cortivo, hamburger di Manzo 200gr, asiago, cipolla caramellata, bacon, cole slaw, salsa BBQ. I found the bock to have flavors of cedar, as I used to chew on my pencils in grade school. It was a nice thick burger, albeit well done and needing salt. The fries were almost crisp enough, but the mayo helped (shades of Belgium!) The beer and burger went well together.
The final lines of my journal entry were several observations: I thought I might have thrown a rib out on my right side. (It went back into place overnight.) The Lindt chocolate bar in my string bag had melted, so I finished it off. I ran out of memory on the camera’s SD card while in Padova’s cathedral, and the battery ran out between churches in Monselice: I carry fresh to handle these occurrences.
The alarm woke me, and I was out and heading to the station in 40 minutes. I was early enough to have two delayed trains ahead of my train to Ferrara. I saw the Roma Termini train off, boarded the train I needed, and was only 7 minutes late arriving. The route to the hotel was a straight shot for 1.1km, passing the football stadium. At the hotel, the room wasn’t ready, so I left the gear after pulling out my camera. (When transiting with my luggage, I wrap the camera and put it in the roller. This prevents me from banging it on handles, and from having to keep putting it against my lower rear ribs. Set in the top of the smaller roller, it is easy for me to get it out - and even to put it back on those occasions where I’ve made a day trip stop.)
Leaving the hotel at 11, I hightailed it to the cathedral, as my notes indicated it would close for midday at noon.
The Basilica Cattedrale di San Giorgio Martire has some active reconstruction work on the west facade, and inside, at about half the nave and most of the side altars were similarly blocked off. The facade has three peaked roof-like caps over five levels of columns, niches, circular openings and arches, with the central section covered in canvas and scaffolding. However, the center door is the entry point, with plywood barriers keeping the public from approaching the actual stonework.
Protective netting spreads below the vault at the tops of the columns, and also covers statues. A plywood wall blocks the view of the apse and high altar. Only a pair of side chapels, with elaborate altars, on the south nave wall are available for worship, prayer and tourist viewing. The renovations had started in 2019 and would, per posted notices, continue until Christmas. I found the interior to be uninviting and dark.
Out on the plaza, I surveyed the front and side of the building looking for an angle, trying to avoid the setup for the visit from the Mille Miglia rally, due that afternoon. Fortunately, the plaza was relatively empty, and I could include the square tower at the apse’s south side, as well as the three raised dormers along the nave. I headed away from the piazza to the Tourist Office, were I learned that, because it was Tuesday, the castle was closed to visits.
My research revealed an older predecessor cathedral in Ferrara, so I got a map and directions and set off. Crossing the city, I came to a set of gates in the former defensive walls, went through to the outside and then walked along the bike/pedestrian path south, and eventually crossed the Po River.
Around a rotary, I came upon the old cathedral, the Basilica di San Giorgio fuori le mura which had been Ferrara’s cathedral until 1135. Its square belltower ranges tall above the building, dwarfing it about double the church’s height. Walking around the building, I couldn’t find an open door (or even a notice of when it might be open.) The external walls of the basilica and the clock tower were made of red brick. After getting outside shots, I crossed the river and entered the city through a different set of gates, using Maps to guide me to a few locations of “interesting churches” that the Tourist Office had recommended. The abbey, museum and church were all closed until later in the day or the weekend.
Back to the hotel, I was booked into room 323. A narrow space, it has a single bed, and was warm. I set up my toiletries and then checked my travel arrangements for the next day to Ravenna.
The app had showed all the morning options needed a booking of a seat reservation, so I checked Google which showed two “free” regional trains. After adding them manually, I decided to walk the 15 minutes back to the station to check. All was good and I didn’t need to purchase anything for my continuing journeys.
Taking an alternate route back from the station, I stopped at PianoB di Balboni Greta where I had a glass of sangiovese which came with crisps and a panini platter. Back towards the square about 4:30, the first of the race participants began arriving 10 minutes later.
As I stood at the barrier, multiple Ferraris roared past to the square by the cathedral to get checked in, and then they returned passing my location and made the turn to continue the road rally. Looking at their number tags, I suspect there were about 150 of these high-performance vehicles passing through Ferrara. After a pause, an hour later, and roadsters, followed by a spectrum of cars came through the checkpoint. I think I took at least 500 photos. [There’s a separate album page with about a hundred pictures of some of these vehicles.]
Exhilarated but also exhausted, I returned to the hotel to drop off the camera for charging before heading out to dinner. However, the room’s electricity required that the room key be in the switch slot, so I left knowing I’d be swapping electronics through the charger when I returned. Out onto the street, I spotted a sign for a winebar, and found it across from a church. Sacrati Wine and Brunch had umbrellas on the street, although the street people had moved to the loggia cattycorner to the church. With a light sprinkle wetting the streets, I started with a glass of Brentino and a plate of panini of prosciutto and fromaggi for dinner. I’d brought my journal, and began adding to the narrative with that day’s activities. From the next table, Nerina, a woman watching her boyfriend socialize at the bar, asked what I was writing, and we chatted, with me sharing the spreadsheet of my itinerary. My next glass of wine was a Corvina, where I was kissed by the bottom of the bottle (aka, heavy pour to finish it.) A Dutch couple I’d chatted with while watching the cars came in for supper, and we continued to talk. When learning I’d been to the Netherlands this trip, they expressed surprise at my visiting most of the Dutch cathedrals. When they poured my second glass, the remaining half of my panini disappeared, along with a bowl of olives. I was able to get the olives back, but concluded that it really wasn’t a place for tourists.
Reflecting, I realized that my day could have been planned better: the castle was closed on Tuesdays, the rally pretty much closed down the center from 2pm onward until dinnertime. The walking tour in my notes never happened - it might have been left over from my 2020 plans. I should probably have used someone “on the ground” like Elisa my ViaHero concierge; I would have added a day, or swapped out that day with another destination. Twenty-twenty hindsight. I also think I need to suggest better updates for the Eurail app process - it had no morning trains from Padua to Ferrara, but Google knew about them.
Leaving the station in Ferrara from platform 9 at 9:16 (12 minutes behind schedule) we arrived in Ravenna on time, and the 0.8km walk to the Hotel Byron was a straight shot. They had room 3 ready for me, so after unpacking the toiletries, I grabbed my Nikon and headed out to the Cattedrale di Risurrezione di Nostro Signore Gesù Cristo which would be closing from noon to 3 o’clock.
The building is set tightly within the old city, so proved a challenge to find a pleasing angle for a photograph. The site is quite old. A round tower sits to the left side when facing the three Romanesque arches that front the Palladian porch. Inside, pairs of elaborately carved pews are separated by the central walkway down the main aisle. Plaster flourishes top the columns supporting the barrel vault. The color scheme is light and bright, white and creamed yellow, yielding a sunny space. This is contrasted with the fresco which fills the large dome at the crossing, which has a navy background, illustrating the Virgin Mother’s assumption.
Elaborate altars fill the back walls of the side chapels, many having half domes with lanterns. I found two cathedrae, one on the altar an elaborate seat set in carved blue-gray marble at the side of the apse, while a broader wooden throne is at the center of the apse’s back wall. A panel fronts the lectern pulpit, which appears to be tiling from a Roman floor. And the nave and sanctuary’s floors are littered with both old and new geometric patterns of colored marble. Down in the crypt, the walls are rough brick, as are the curved arches. And true to the posted schedule, at noon I was kicked out.
Heading towards St Apollinare, I made my first stop at St Vitale Basilica and Mausoleo di Galla Placidia, which is in a walled triangular piece of land. I’d spotted the tomb first, was intrigued, and was talked into getting Ravenna pass for entry into 5 sites. The tomb is brilliant - the ceilings and upper walls are filled with a blue field of white stars, animals with twisted vegetation, robed saints with the occasional angel, all as mosaics.
San Vitale is another round (really octagonal) building, filled with brilliant mosaics, especially on the floor. There is a (second level) gallery, supported by arches and columns, which fills the space above 7 of the sides, keeping the area over the altar clear. A lantern above the gallery supports a stunning mural in the dome. Murals fill the higher vault dome, which rises above the lantern lights. The labyrinth design on the floor was enough different to intrigue.
Following the pass map, I got “lost” as I headed towards the Battistero Neoniano, which is in the direction of the duomo. The Baptistry is an octagonal building as well, and has a stunning vault. The mosaic illustration in the dome has the baptism on the Jordan at its center, with full standing images of the 12 apostles surrounding it, and then another band displaying structures. The baptismal font in the floor’s center is full emersion, as one had to be an adult to be baptize in antiquity.
Next door is the Museo e Cappella Arcivescovile. With two floors, there is a nice chapel to Sant’Andreas, and the vault mosaic is long and full of small figures. Historic sarcophagus, tombs, mosaics and some murals were on display. The walls are full of funerary pieces. Contents of the treasury were mostly post Napoleanic, with what I felt were excellent examples of croziers, the staff of a bishop. A historic cathedra is on display - constructed with panels of ivory.
Continuing to wander, I approached a park on my way to find the Basilica of San Francesco. In it was the tomb of Dante Alighiero. I enjoyed my visit to the church, finding it not overly ornate, but found the flooded floor intriguing.
My notes reflect on the frequent Dante recurrence on this trip, and that I need to read more of The Divine Comedy. Finally, I reached Sant’ Apollinaire.
The Basilica de Sant’ Apollinaire Nuovo has a Palladian porch in front, a tall round tower to the side, with the central aisle raised above the single-story roofline. Inside, that vault is flat, and an opulent coffered surface, the gilt frames containing gold-covered plaster medallions.
A church of contrasts, with polished richness in the central nave and apse, while the side chapels have raw plastered ceilings and walls, small shrines and some frescoes in need of conservation; sixteenth century rococo statues sit outside the Art Deco of the Chapel of Peace and Victory. I particularly liked the stretch above the columns between the very long main and side aisles, as they were filled with full sized mosaic images of gold-robed saints and martyrs below the clear-glassed clerestory windows pouring light to the floor. There is so much to see in this basilica that I spent over an hour, and still I was unable to view the exhibition of mosaics, and of “Dante in Ravenna”, which had closed at 4pm.
Walking back to the hotel, I got some juice and a small bottle of hydrogen peroxide. Around the corner, OVS had a pair of black slacks on sale, which I planned on wearing aboard the ship for “smart attire” dinners. At the hotel, the AC was working, giving a bit of relief to the rather warm weather northern Italy had been experiencing. Attempting to go online, I found the hotel WiFi slow and weak, so put off my mid-month banking. After a brief laydown, I cleared up some space on the Chromebook for new photos by copying folders to a spare 64GB SD card (Luxembourg to Strasbourg.)
Checking Maps for nearby wine bars, I headed out only to find the first option closed, so I wound up at Casa Spadoni, sitting outside. My first glass of wine was a sangiovese superior, but had turned (oxidized) so I sent it back. The next was a lighter “regular” sangiovese, which was served with crisps and peanuts in the shell. Standing in the open floor space was a British church group, initially a dozen but growing to more than twice that size; they were exploring Italian churches. Over a glass of Chiara Condello ‘20 (sangiovese) I learned that they were an Anglican group from Knightsbridge, had been making these trips for a few years. I surveyed and suspected that the kitchen would be jammed soon, so I pushed on in my search for dinner.
Moving on to Trattoria Rustica, I started with tagliatelle con asparagi stridoli e pinoli. Tasty and enjoyable. The main was spalla brasata di mora romagnola, mostarda di mele con fricandò di verdure, what I would call pot roast: great gravy, tender beef, good veggies - an A+ in my book. Along with a bottle of still water, I had a half liter of sangiovese Rubicone IGT.
Knowing I had a late start planned for the morning, I gave myself an extra 15 minutes on my back once the alarm sounded. Breakfast was included, but no bananas so I had coffee, a chocolate croissant and juice. I would have had a hardboiled egg, but a German couple walked off with the only three available. Back to the room, I finished packing and set off well in advance for the 10:47 train to Rimini. Of course, I headed in the wrong direction, which I discovered after 15 minutes of being convinced I would soon recognize a landmark. It took an additional 20 minutes before I reached the station, only to learn that the schedule had changed and it would leave an hour later!
After about an hour and a half, the ride took an hour and the walk to my hotel was easy. Room 330 was ready, and was a large space. For the two nights, I was able to leave my large roller open in a corner! The bed was ample sized, as was the bathroom, with enough surfaces. The AC worked, so I wrote it was “happy time”.
Returning to the tobacco shop opposite the station to get my tickets for the bus to San Marino the next morning (open return), I crossed to the station to get a seat reservation for my ride Saturday morning to Bologna.
Deciding to walk and explore a bit, I found that I didn’t have my camera! A quick stop at the tobacco shop proved I hadn’t left it there, so backtracked to the hotel to see if it was in the room. As I entered the lobby, the reception asked if I had left my camera when I was getting instructions for the bus tickets. They provided me with a Tourist Office map, and sent me towards Palazzo Dolci, which had been a Federico Fellini residence. I sort of noticed the palace, but noted that there was a big to-do in Rimini regarding their native son Fellini. The map then pointed towards their Roman amphitheater. This turned out to just small ruins of brick walls, all behind chain link fencing, prohibiting access.
Following the outer city wall, I came to the Arco d’Augusto, a triumphal arch and not a gate. Staying on the bastion border, I continued around to the next gateway, Porto Montana, with its small arch. Passing through, I came to the area called Castel Sismondo, where there is a Fellini Exhibit and Museum.
Continuing along, I passed the theater (Galli) and Piazza Cavour and its palazzo. Walking down to the Chiesa di Sant’Agostino, which has some good art and trompe l’oeil ceilings. By that time, it was 3:10 and I had 20 more minutes before the cathedral would be open. A glass of cool white wine and crisps at La Magnuga solved that wait.
Around a few corners and I arrived at the Basilica Cattedrale di San Colomba aka Basilica of Malatestiano Temple, a fairly plain structure.
At about 20m tall, the external walls are red brick, with very few openings. A pair of white columns bracket the entrance, with a lintel above. The nave is primarily white walls, with plaster scroll work on the vault plus a few paintings, and several shallow altars along the walls. At the apse end, an alcove houses the high altar, cross, candlesticks and tabernacle. Large red and white diamonds tile the floor. Frescoes cover the walls of the sanctuary.
From the cathedral I headed to the north, exiting through Porte di Tiberio to the banks of an inlet cut to the sea, which is now a marina of powerboats, sailboats and fish trawlers. This inlet allowed me to walk along Flume Morecchia to the Adriatic, where its mouth included a lighthouse and a Ferris wheel. I walked south along the seashore, with its very wide beach, until I came to a rotary, across from the Tourist Office.
Heading inland, I walked the tunnel under the railway and arrived back in the hotel after procuring 3 bananas and juice.
Refreshed, I headed into Piadino, on the sea side of the tracks for a pizza cagnito (peasant): mozzarella, tomato, spicy salami, with added gorgonzola and sausage. I drank a sangiovese from the Veneto while doing email before the pizza arrived. I expected on my return to the hotel’s WiFi I’d be able to upload, add photos and post, after my nightly backup routine.
With the second half of June beginning, I woke early, and was down in front of the hotel at the bus stop early as well. The bus was early, and soon took on passengers, about 2/3rds full before leaving Rimini and heading for the mountain top of the country San Marino. About an hour later, we unloaded in a parking area where a map stood showing the roads that weave across the top to the several fortress castles, the basilica, the vista points, the funicular and other points of interest.
Wanting to make sure I would see the Basilica Concattedrale di San Marino (the resident bishop is also at St Leo’s in the diocese based in Pennabilli.)
A simple church, the side aisles under flat coffering have small altars and statues in recessed alcoves, while the central nave under a bowed coffered vault is filled with pews. There is no cathedra, but the double-wide cushioned seat behind the main altar is for the Captains Regent. I found no local reference as a cathedral, but both gcatholic.org and Wikipedia both list as a co-cathedral.
Sitting out the front and to its side is the Church of St Peter, a much older building. It was closed; however, in the open crypt below, the sacrament was in exposition, with a nun keeping watch. Leaving the churches, I walked around to arrive at the first (of 3) towers where I paid my fee and began exploring. From the ramparts I was chilled by the serious drop over the edge, giddy with the awesome tower climb (via stairs and ladders), and mildly disappointed by the haze, preventing any brilliant long distance shots. The tower visible in the distance looked tempting, but I put that decision off for a bit. The third tower is closed.
Exiting, I window shopped while hunting for the facilities. Back out to the store fronts, I saw offerings of leather, watches, sunglasses and “trash & trinkets.” With the battery in my wristwatch failing the night before, I was looking for an inexpensive analog replacement. Finding one at 20-euros, my reticence to spend was broken and I found a pair of cheap polarized sunglasses to replace the ones where the screw fell out. The much crisper view had me considering getting a polarizing lens for the Nikon!
Noonish, I was done, really not wanting to climb more ledges and stairs. Per the map, I found the bus stop, only to determine a rally would be taking place that evening and the pickup point was where we’d been dropped initially. As I approached, I checked the posted schedule and saw that I had time for a glass of red wine and a reheated piece of “pizza”.
Finding that I had dozed off a bit on the ride down the mountain, I went to the room where I took a longer nap, and then fired up the Chromebook to continue transcribing my journal into the trip report for the blog. I was able to finish the stops in Belgium, proof it, upload it and begin to lace in the photos from Liege.
Out onto the streets of Rimini looking for a glass of wine, I passed a nail salon and realized I actually had a mental shopping list that might be reduced. Into a discount store, I found a nail file to replace the one I’d misplaced. Next required a tech store, as I wanted a USB 3.0 (processes at higher speeds) splitter for the Chromebook, to facilitate image transfer. Maps first option didn’t have what I wanted, and at the second, the guy didn’t even stand up before sending me back to the street.
Between these two tech stores I’d passed Vineria, a wine cafe outside the walls of central Rimini. Three glasses of wine were offered: ‘21 Hebo cab-merlot; ‘21 Fico Grande sangiovese; and ‘19 Il Nespoli Romagna Sangiovese Superiore Reserva, which was truly the most awesome of the three. To soak up some of the alcohol, a mortadella baguette.
Then, on the walk back to the hotel, searching for a protein meal and seeing only pasta, pizza and kebab places, I stopped at the corner Burger King for a chicken sandwich and an oreo shake. I had the chicken in the hotel lobby (keep the smell out of the room) and took the shake upstairs and had with a frozen Mars bar I’d stashed in the room’s mini-frig.
My next day plans in Bologna involved an early walking tour, so that meant an early train to start. Rearranging my gear in the larger roller, I had it packed up, and was ready to finish and get moving in the morning.
You can purchase your own copy
(or have me send it as a gift) of
Cathedrals to the Glory of God
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