I Go to Pieces — An Italy Trip Report

Old May 22nd, 2014, 03:05 AM
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So enjoying this report and would also love to see photos!
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Old May 22nd, 2014, 04:29 AM
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koaleung asked: "Would it be safe to travel solo there?"
I was traveling solo when I was on this trip. I have traveled solo any times in Italy. What are your concerns?

Photos coming very soon . . .
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Old May 23rd, 2014, 10:01 PM
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Good to know, that's reassuring. My concern is safety. I've done solo trips before in English-speaking countries. I was worried that I couldn't communicate in Italy other than point and nod my head.

Besides carrying a map, what else would you recommend to help navigating? I would like to do some walking around towns and look at things.

Thanks.
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Old May 24th, 2014, 01:28 PM
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Koaleung, I use a map and a guidebook.I'm an excellent map reader and navigator an have ittle trouble finding my way. You also should make an effort to learn some Italian—please, thank you, numbers, and such to be polite and help you get by. You can start with free podcasts like My Daily Phrase Italian available on iTunes.

There are many posts here about solo travel. You might do a search for them.
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Old May 24th, 2014, 01:32 PM
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DAY 9: Friday, 7 March 2014 — Ravenna

Class Day 5

The final class day. I arrived at 9 AM and we immediately set to work to release my classic mosaic from the cheesecloth, trimmed the cloth as much as possible, and then poured water across it. Very quickly the glue melted and we were able to peel off the cloth. Finally, we scrubbed the front of the mosaic to release any bit of glue or lime stuck in the crevices between the tesserae. Here’s a video produced by the school showing the entire double reverse mosaic process we followed for our much smaller classic mosaics. It is narrated by our teacher, Luciana, and demonstrated by the other staff, Daniela and Luca.

http://mosaicschool.com/art/double_reverse/

While waiting for the mosaic to dry, Gabriella — the translator from Day 1 — shared much of the same material as Luciana discussed with NJ yesterday. We reviewed the various materials and adhesives. A major consideration in choosing materials for a mosaic is where it will live: Floor, wall, or ceiling? Outside in the weather? Indoors and protected? Gabriella demonstrated how to use a chisel to set a hardie in a block of wood, discussed pricing of tools, and where to buy them. At this point, Gabriella usually escorts the class to a local hardware store to buy hammers and hardies if they like, but I chose not to do so.

A final step: I washed the cement of my classic mosaic with green “stain”—water with a tiny bit of powdered pigment— to tone down the color of the cement peeking through between the tesserae. Luciana joined us and was embarrassed that we were done and it was just 10:30. We chatted longer, Luciana concluding that now I know how to create mosaics—yes, I’m slow, but I don’t need to take another basic class. (There are specialized classes in floors, portraiture, and micro mosaics.) She gave me an official certificate of participation. She invited me to return and visit to say hello, or return to do special projects. If I have an idea, I should send the details to them and they will suggest day rate based on the materials needed and length of time. And always I should feel free to write with questions.

We wrapped my two mosaics in bubble wrap and placed them with my mosaic school apron in a mosaic school tote bag that was just the right size. I thought this was a nice touch, to provide a sturdy bag to travel with your mosaics. Once home, I can choose to paint the background and frame surrounding the mosaic.

Since it was still early, Luciana offered to drive me to Classe to visit the basilica and mosaics there, offering to wait if my visit is brief. I’ve been to the Basilica of Sant'Apollinare in Classe on previous trips and had hoped to visit again, so I accepted her offer but I planned to return by the local bus that stops near the church.

On the drive to Classe, Luciana shared a story of her one visit to New York. Her group decided to make their trip easier by hiring a local Italian-speaking guide while in New York City. They had a fine morning, and then stopped for lunch at a restaurant the guide chose. As they tried to understand the menu, the guide explained that he eats only raw food, and this was a special restaurant that serves only raw food. The group managed to get through this unexpected lunch. At the end of the day, the guide suggested a place for dinner. One of the travelers said, “Oh, I’m too tired for dinner. I’m going to my room.” The other travelers agreed — too tired for dinner. Thirty minutes later, they called one another and went down the block to a restaurant where they had the biggest steaks they could find.

Luciana told me to meet my tour guide outside Self Service Sant'Apollinare Nuovo at 2:15 PM. My guide will be her daughter, Silvia, who happens to be an official guide of Ravenna — “If I have to pay someone, I’d rather it be her.” She insisted I have the full experience and not feel bad that I'm alone. Two kisses and we parted.

Classe is a small town just outside Ravenna. The terrain is totally flat, the church of Sant'Apollinare in Classe set by open fields. On this sunny day, I enjoyed the expanse and quiet, especially the cast iron sculptures of cows in a field across from the church. For me, a visit to this church is all about the apse, a beautiful quarter-sphere mosaic of Jesus and sheep on a green and gold background — an ancient echo of the modern cows outside. My binoculars helped me study the details as I tried to understand the Italian commentary of the high school class also visiting the church.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Ravenna_BW_4.JPG

I’d begun to question the idea of this side trip to Classe, carrying two mosaics getting heavier by the minute. At the local bar to the side of the church I grabbed a coffee and bus ticket, then waited at the bus shelter for 20 minutes, enjoying the sun. I decided to ride the bus all the way back to Ravenna train station to see another part of town. Then I returned to the B&B to unwrap my mosaics and set them out to dry more fully. I was delighted to see the new B&B mosaic mounted at the door.

After a simple lunch at Self Service Sant'Apollinare Nuovo, I met Silvia, a pleasant young woman and knowledgeable guide. She was surprised that I’ve visited Ravenna before — “That’s so unusual. Most Americans just visit Venice, Florence, and Rome.” This is exactly what her mother had said on Monday. Silvia is even more impressed that I am from New York City, the place where she spent her honeymoon. “You live in Manhattan! In the East Village!!! I love it!”

We spent the next three hours touring four different sights (I had to purchase my own tickets), three I had already visited but appreciated anew with Silvia’s insights. Silvia did a wonderful job of setting the historic scene of 5th and 6th century Ravenna. Beginning with the Basilica of Sant'Apollinare Nuovo, she explained its use first as a receiving room in the ruling Arians palace, then its conversion to a Byzantine church and pointing to how the 5th Century mosaics were edited in later centuries to match the religious beliefs and political powers of the day. She explained that the churches of Ravenna were built when the Christian church was newly accepted and so Christ was depicted as a pleasant fellow welcoming all so as not to make waves, no dead dying Christ, the lamb the only hint of sacrifice. (Me: “Of course, Constantine was not so long ago!” Silvia: “Yes. Exactly!”) We had an interesting discussion, with give and take and she seemed surprised by and appreciated my knowledge of history and Christian symbolism (“Very unusual”), and I learned a lot from her and found her presentation engaging.

We strolled through town to the Basilica of San Vitale and continued our history lesson, plus I was able to spot MY bird—my classic mosaic that I copied—half way up the right wall. (I snapped a very blurry photo in the low light.) Then even more history in the Mausoleum of Galla Placidia. New to me was the Domus dei Tappeti di Pietra, sections of 5th and 6th century houses and mosaic floors that were discovered in the 1990s when excavating for a parking garage and opened to the public in 2004.

In between history lessons as we strolled through town, Silvia shared her dreams of returning to NYC. She has two small children and doesn’t know how to manage it. She asked for my contact info and I gave her my card, so perhaps someday I’ll show her around my hometown. We parted with two kisses. She said she had enjoyed this more than usual.

To cap this pleasant afternoon, I stopped at Milk for gelato and frequent buyer punch 3, choosing a scoop of white chocolate with ginger and lemon, and a scoop of caramel. I made a quick visit to the Neonian Baptistery, one of my inspirations for wanting to make a mosaic that shows the transparency of water. The streets were beginning to pulse as the Friday evening passegiata began — or pulse as much as they could in a town the size of Ravenna. I decided to go to the train station and purchase my tickets for the next day’s trip to Rome — first class all the way!

Michele greeted me when I arrived at Trattoria La Rustica soon after 7 PM, and I couldn’t resist having those tortelli verde in walnut sauce again. Why not? I won’t find anything like them at home. My next course was Spiedone “Rustico” con Verdure Gratinate, mixed grill of meats on a skewer with breaded broiled vegetables of the season. I was feeling happy and content over my meal, warmed by the red wine and my “dessert” of passita. (€30,00 total, another discount) Michele and I shook hands and bid each other farewell.

As I walked back to the B&B for the last time, I thought about my week. What worked? What didn’t? This sleepy town, especially sleepy in early March, would not be the spot for everyone to spend a week. For me, it was a fine choice because I had the class and I’m easily amused. I would have liked more people in the class to interact with during the day and perhaps in the evenings. I wished a like-minded friend had been available to take the class with me. On Day 2 of the class I was wondering if I’d made the right choice — it was so challenging — but by the last evening I was wondering about possible mosaic studios near my home, thinking about the rocks I might find on my local beaches to cut cut cut into tesserae.
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Old May 24th, 2014, 02:49 PM
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Thank you Ellenem for such a descriptive report, and the video on double reverse technique. I have made three mosaic table tops, although only one survives to this day, being out in the weather was too punishing for the other two.

Might we see a photo of the piece you made ?

Thanks again, thoroughly enjoyed this.
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Old May 24th, 2014, 04:47 PM
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Funny you should ask, sartoric. I finally had some time to spend posting and labeling my photos to my Shutterfly site. I haven't added all of Rome yet (nor labeled them), but here's a link so you can see the photos of the mosaic.

Be forewarned: I do not take photos of everything on vacation, only when inspired. So on one hand I was too busy making a mosaic to think about photographing the process. On the other hand I felt compelled to attempt to photograph the historic mosaics in situ, even though I knew the photos would be blurry — just as you will see they are.

Enjoy!

https://ellenem.shutterfly.com/
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Old May 24th, 2014, 06:17 PM
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Thanks again Ellenem - your photos have inspired me to revisit a few regional Italian cookbooks lurking on my kitchen bookshelf.
The mosaic looks lovely, well done you !
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Old May 25th, 2014, 03:30 AM
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Thanks, sartoric. I'm pleased with my bird mosaic. Still trying to decide where to hang it in my home. Glad you liked the photos as well.
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Old May 26th, 2014, 09:41 PM
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I'll add more photos to my A butterfly site later in the week and label them better as well. Working on my Rome entries, though I was there only briefly--not much to tell.
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Old May 28th, 2014, 05:26 AM
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What a wonderful read. Ellenem, you said something that resonated with me: "I'm easily amused". To me, that's the secret. Thank you for sharing.
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Old May 28th, 2014, 07:20 AM
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Glad you've enjoyed the report, Treesa. Yes, I find most things interesting in some way ("Look how they put out their garbage here!") which makes for entertainment around every corner.

I'm sure Ravenna is much busier in the summer, between seaside vacationers and tour bus day visitors. My previous visits were in June and September, and there were many more visitors.
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Old Jun 11th, 2014, 04:30 AM
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"Later in the week?" Sometime soon I'll finish this report and add the remaining photos.
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Old Jun 11th, 2014, 07:26 PM
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ellen- great job on the mosaics! I especially love the fish bowl!

I hope you follow through on doing more of them! Maybe you could then have a gallery show!

Thanks for sharing!
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Old Jun 11th, 2014, 08:03 PM
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Thanks,sarge. Actually I've been eyeing this one wall in my kitchen . . . A mosaic would solve a number of issues . . .
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Old Jul 28th, 2014, 06:04 PM
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ellenem, I can't believe I missed this report, except that I had a heavy work schedule when you posted it.

I've taken 3 of Luciana's courses -- the basic, 3D, and a partial class doing another 3D on hand-formed substrate.

You've written an outstanding report of Ravenna and of the course!

You're right that it is A LOT more engaging and fun with a full group; when I've gone there have been 5-10 people working.

I'm going to a conference in the Netherlands later in August and then going to stop in at the Mosaic School again for a 3 day. I've noted your restaurant choices as well, so thanks a mill!
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Old Dec 13th, 2014, 12:00 PM
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Just realized I never finished writing this report, perhaps because my final few days were in Rome and I mostly spent hours walking. I'll take a look at my notes to see if I have any new ideas to share, as opposed to the same old Rome details.

annw, I made my decision to take the course around this time last year, and all of a sudden my fingers are getting itchy to cut some smalti . . . who knows . . .
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Old Dec 13th, 2014, 12:57 PM
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ellenem, BRAVA! The video of the process is entrancing--her piece is stunning. Your photos are great and I love the posture and the legs on your bird very much. Amazing. Will go back and savor the photos. DH and I loved Ravenna but didn't get to the church you saw. Sigh!
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Old Dec 13th, 2014, 10:10 PM
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Hi ellen, my friend and I are doing a personalized course @ Luciana's workshop in March -- we miss the regular course by a week so are doing 3 days, March 16,17,18 -- join us if you can!
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Old Dec 14th, 2014, 02:19 AM
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Just found this report and will go back and read in detail. It sounds like it was another magical trip. The mosaics class sounds wonderful and to have both you and annw to have taken classes there - huge endorsement! I hope yo follow in your footsteps one day.
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