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Ravenna and Milan, November

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Nov 23rd, 2011, 05:27 AM
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Ravenna and Milan, November

DH and I flew separately over and together back for a week in Ravenna (mosaic workshop for me) and a 3 day weekend in Milan. The highlights, by category:

Airline/flying:

We used United miles for two RT FC tickets. Fabulous Lufthansa product over, especially for me, flying SFO-O’Hare-Frankfurt-Bologna.
SFO-Chicago: first row (7c) in Economy+ (I upgraded from Econ for this flight). FABULOUS seat. Bulkhead, and more legroom than FC. Would book it again.

O’Hare-Frankfurt: Not one but two FC seats assigned to each passenger for this leg on a 747-400. One made into a bed (they had jammies for me) and the other for sitting, reading, etc. Amazing product. DH had traditional FC seat from Sea-Tac-Frankfurt. Able to use his CPAP just fine.

Coming back: FC out of Milan, flew together—had a harrowing connection at LHR because of inbound delays (we flew MXP-MUC-LHN-SFO since we had award tix)—a ground crew agent met us and ran us over to the connecting flight just before the doors closed. United FC, flatbeds, good service; power port not working for DH to do some work so he got a couple of “compensation” tickets, not sure what.

Definitely preferring the United products (and partners) to Delta, where I have 300k miles but it looks very hard to use.

Airport Lounges: Fabulous FC Lufthansa lounge in Frankfurt—I think terminal B? At any rate, terrific service, food, facilities—took a bath while waiting for DH to arrive! Star Alliance lounge at MXP ok, nothing to write home about but had an espresso machine.

Hotels/Lodging:

Terrific value in Ravenna at Ostello Galletti Abbiossi, a former monastery, I believe – 60 eu a night for two including a very good breakfast. We stayed 6 nights, knowing that last night would be about half the Milan prices (where we were going next). DH hadn’t stayed here before and loved it. They’ve upgraded the wireless coverage which was 7x faster than DH’s Broadband card, important as he had to do some work while I was on the rockpile at the mosaic course.

Another good spot at Hotel Berna in Milan – an easy 5’ walk from Milano Centrale train station. Excellent service, great location – you take the Metro from Milano CF (train station) everywhere. Duomo etc. 5’ by Metro away. We got 2 day passes—I would just recommend the transit pass vs. Milano card which we didn’t get much use out of. 4-5 hotels are on this same street.

Night before flying out of MXP, we stayed at the Hotel Cardano, a 10’ shuttle ride from the airport. New, modern in design and amenities, free shuttle service. We took Milan Express from train station (Milano Centrale) to the airport and called for a ride, which came right away. Shuttle took us to the airport 6:30 a.m. next day. The only drawback was breakfast started at 7 a.m., which seems late for an airport hotel; however, the front desk attendant made us cappuccinos and gave us juice and croissants as well. Double glazed windows, no airport noise—far enough away. We would definitely stay here again.

Dining/Food:

Ravenna is in Emilia-Romagna, so food is excellent! DH frequently had fish, like Branzino, and reported it was excellent. I always had pasta and vegetables, and they were always excellent.

Restaurants: Ravenna: Ca de Ven, La Guardella, Bella Venezia, Albergo Cappello—would dine at any of them again. Previously I was not that impressed with Ca de Ven and their rather brusque service, which I attribute to the Rick Steves syndrome, but DH’s branzino was best he’d ever had, and the service was ok. The usual communal table dining set up. Milan: Used TripAdvisor with location service (i.e., finding spots near current location) and found #63 out of about 1500 rated restaurants in Milan, walking distance from hotel: L’Osteria del Treno – excellent neighborhood gem (booked up completely with locals, turning away numerous potential diners—hotel called for us about an hour before opening and we got a table in the very nice bar area). Excellent food, good service. We had a couple of expensive (relatively) lunches at the Galleria, at Bar Zucca and another similar galleria place, for decent food, great people watching.

Clothing/Fashion/Season: Mid-November; cold and dry in both locations. I had a black Scottevest trenchcoat; DH wore the lined Burberry trench I had given him years ago. We were very happy with this choice.

As noted elsewhere on this board, the puffy, sometimes shiny coats (dark colors) are very, very popular, as are car coat length wool coats (though not nearly as much). Our trenches worked out fine. I wish we had brought dh’s wool neck scarf which we forgot. We just buttoned up. We wore jeans all week in Ravenna and wore wool slacks/trousers mostly for the weekend in Milan. Footwear – boots of every variety, and a few spikey heels on women in Milan. A few colors but mostly still black, grey, etc.

Activities:

Milan: under-rated, IMO. In one day we saw the Duomo (DH attended Mass), La Scala (rehearsals in progress) and the Last Supper, through an afternoon tour I booked a couple of months ago. The piazza del Duomo was buzzing with activity and pigeons, reminiscent of San Marco in Venice. It was fun to see roasting chestnuts and the like, less fun to see the numerous small buzzing toy hawkers. The Galleria is lovely and had plenty of shopping experience for us; we skipped the golden quadrangle. Would have liked to wander the Brera neighborhood and Via Dante, but ran out of time and energy. We were very glad we took the weekend to see something of Milan, though my heart belongs to Venice.

Ravenna: as mentioned, I attended a one-week, 40 hour mosaic course, my second in Ravenna. Not a lot of spare time and I wish I’d had an extra day, though I’ve been to Ravenna now three times. Through the workshop we got a wonderful guided tour of several of the renowned mosaic sites/churches.

Mechanics/issues: we melted two transformers purchased at Amazon.com – borrowed one from hotel and found an electrical gadget store through the mosaic people, right near the workshop. They had everything! DH was able to purchase exactly what he needed.

Sprint: our Kill Bill moment – dh spent hours (on my iphone!!) on the phone trying to get the European coverage the sprint people in the US had ASSURED him was set up on his phone. Be warned; Sprint is new to dealing with Iphone/overseas coverage issues. My ATT iphone coverage went off without a hitch. I also had data plans for Iphone and Ipad.

I went over recovering from a cold and picked on up in our 24 hour, 4 countries day yesterday.

Never could get the VAT stamp there on some purchases – at Milan and Munich they said I had to do it in London; in London we had inbound delay from fog and so a gate agent ran us to the connecting flight. Sigh. Did get US customs to stamp the thing but doubtful it will help.

Summary: Love Italy, enjoyed seeing a bit of Milan; love getting to know the locals a bit through travel courses/workshops especially in a manageable town like Ravenna, enjoy expanding my skills, glad DH could get away a few days even if he had to work remotely—would have been easy for him with a working phone. Now to get rid of this cold….
annw is offline  
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Nov 23rd, 2011, 05:34 AM
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Hope you feel better soon, annw. Sounds like a fun trip. What a great place for a mosaic workshop!
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Nov 23rd, 2011, 05:35 AM
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Thanks, Marija -- it is "Mecca" for mosaics, along with Venice!
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Nov 23rd, 2011, 04:44 PM
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Interesting report annw, thank you. I am trying to plan our next trip to Italy and Milan is a place my husband and I would really like to see.

Would you recommend Ravenna?
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Nov 23rd, 2011, 06:55 PM
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Sounds like it was a lovely time, annw! Can you tell the name of the mosaic workshop? How did you get into taking courses?

It sounds wonderful! Are you especially pleased with the work you did?
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Nov 23rd, 2011, 07:47 PM
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Hi rainycitygirl, personally I absolutely recommend Ravenna; it's about an hour and twenty minutes by train from Bologna, which is a substantial hub for airport and train. It's got a pedestrian-only ancient center (but people ride bikes as well as walk); a wonderful passagiata, very good food (not one poor meal there), and relatively much more affordable lodging and food than, say, Milan and Bologna (and certainly much more reasonable than my favorite, Venice).

You can pay more, but you can get a quite good place for, as I mentioned, 60eu a night in shoulder or low season (for 2 people, includes breakfast). At same season I paid over double in Milan for a fraction of the room (and would have paid much much more during conventions, etc. in either Milan or Bologna). The outer edges of the town have suburban sprawl/some industry, and there's fairly close access to the sea. I would stay near town or in the old center. Byron Centrale is indeed central; the Ostello I mentioned is a 5 minute walk from town/Piazza del Popolo.

But the not-to-miss sights in Ravenna are the up to 1500 year old mosaics, from late Roman, Ostrogoth, and Medieval periods. Google images of San Vitale Basilica or Galla Placidia to get an idea.

Smalti, I initially read about Ravenna workshops on line, and it might even have been here, but I first went to Venice for a workshop (I had read about them) and came to Ravenna last year and again this year. The workshop I went to is Mosaic Art School, run by Luciana Notturni. She's very well known and has done some important mosaic restorations as well as teaching and commissions. The workshop (5 days) is very well staffed, and you definitely come away with good skills.

Part of the reason I started with workshops is that DH can't get away often, but due to the nature of my work, I really need to take breaks, so rather than do completely solo trips (which I have done and am ok with), I would go to a conference with friends part of the time, or do a workshop like this one (last year I rolled both into one trip, and unfortunately had to depart ASAP after the workshop due to a crisis back home). Fortunately no drama during this trip.
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Nov 23rd, 2011, 07:53 PM
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Here's the website for the mosaic course -- I find their website a little basic but their Facebook page is a bit better:


http://www.sira.it/mosaic/studio.htm
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Nov 23rd, 2011, 07:58 PM
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This article is actually more informative, I think:

http://articles.latimes.com/2000/jan/09/travel/tr-52196
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Nov 24th, 2011, 01:38 AM
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Great report! A perfect combination of informative and evocative.

We went to Ravenna at the end of September, sort of thinking that it might be a once in a lifetime visit. We were astonished by the art (I had always thought 'mosaics -- meh') and charmed by the town and would love to go back again. Your lodging and dining notes will be very helpful, though we were happy with our hotel (Centrale Byron).
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Nov 24th, 2011, 05:57 AM
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Hi Ackislander, we (my 4 sisters and I) stayed at Centrale Byron on a previous visit and, of course, the location was perfect! Since last trip was 6 nights and Ostello was so much less we holed up there instead.

Glad you enjoyed Ravenna too. It's off the Venice-Florence-Rome tourist access somewhat, and you find yourself actually surrounded by Italians, which is nice. If you stay at Byron again you have 3 excellent restaurants steps away and several more a 5 minute walk away. And as you know the art is unparalleled.
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Nov 24th, 2011, 08:41 AM
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Thank you annw, I am adding Ravenna to the list.
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Nov 24th, 2011, 11:21 AM
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Thanks for the information on classes, annw! You took part insomething really special!

And what you say is true--the art of Ravenna is unparalleled!
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