Day 4: Ravenna to Faenza

Ravenna is famous for its wall mosaics. You see them decorating signs and objects all over town, and because it was a short riding day, Rosita had arranged a morning tour of the chapel and cathedral. Our guide explained how Ravenna, formerly surrounded by malaria-infested swamps, was an impoverished city. Because of that, the mosaic churches, though unfashionable, never got remodeled to Renaissance standards. Today, they’re quite spectacular; the texture of thousands of individual glass pieces made the walls look like a living thing.

Mosaic tour in Ravenna
Mosaic tour in Ravenna
Mosaic tour in Ravenna

After the tour we got rolling into another very pleasant day. As usual, getting out of the city was a little stressful, and we made a wrong turn trying to get onto the levee south of Fiumi Uniti, hitting a dead end and having to backtrack. So instead of more gravel we were on pavement. The road was not very busy but it wasn’t as quiet as some of the others we’d ridden on. We made decent time heading into our lunch stop.

Ravenna to Faenza

Crossing over the Po yesterday had brought us into the Emilia Romagna region, and one of the specialties there is piadine, thin sandwiches on pita-like bread. I’d had some when I visited here last year; my brother-in-law’s family is from nearby Cesena. Lunch was at an agriturismo where they set out a great spread of piadine and other local foods, which we got to eat under the trees at the villa. It was special and we lingered for quite a while before getting back on the road. 

Piadine lunch in Emilia Romanga

Turning to the west, we got our first view of a new ride feature: a hill. The first three days had been entirely flat, with no elevation over 20m. We would not be doing any real climbing today, but we were transitioning from the river delta into the foothills, and we started to pick up some terrain. The light was not great for photography facing ahead towards the hills, but I realized that if the light looks bad ahead, it probably looks good behind.

Ravenna to Faenza

The riding went fairly quickly (the distance for the day wound up coming in at exactly 60km), and when we got to old town Faenza we stopped at the first bar we saw for gelato and a beer. There, a local told me “You have Italian!”, so I tried to explain in my Italian that il mio bisnonno (my great-grandfather) was born near Napoli. 

Faenza is famous for its ceramics, and on the way to the hotel we we got a tour of a ceramic workshop. It was interesting but I think people were jonesing to get to the hotel. 

The hotel was outside of the old town, in an architecturally awful area of town with big-box stores and car dealerships. It really highlighted the spatial differences between classic and modern architecture. Riding bikes through modernist areas is both way less fun and far more dangerous.

The hotel was a modern box without any flair, but dinner turned out to be surprisingly good. Afterwards, Nathan and I got to meet up with Nicola, an Italian unicycling friend who we’d toured with in Nepal. We’d reached out to him to see if he had a spare 36” uni tire to replace Nathan’s failing one, and he kindly drove down from Bologna to bring it and have a drink with us. 

Everyone else had gone to bed early, because tomorrow was going to be the hardest (most fun!) day.

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