Monday, January 2, 2012
Port of Ravenna, Italy – Mosaics and the Albana and Burson Grapes
Sept. 2011 – Our ship arrived in the port of Ravenna in the late morning. The day was overcast with a potential for slight drizzle, but the air was warm. We paid to take the bus into the town because it was too far to walk and the docks were in an ugly industrial area. However, once we were dropped off in the city center, we found the pedestrian-only downtown to be delightful. It was filled with old squares, outdoor cafes, fountains, and small streets lined with shops.
Ravenna, established in the 400’s, is a UNESCO world heritage site famous for its amazing mosaics which decorate many of its ancient churches and buildings. We made our way immediately to the Basilica of San Vitale and had to wait in a long line to purchase tickets to see the mosaics – but it was worth it. Commissioned by the Emperor Justinian who ruled Ravenna when it was part of the Byzantine Empire in the 700’s – and one of the few bright places during the Middle Ages – the mosaics in the church are a glowing massive work of art. They cover most of the ceilings and walls and are incredibly bright and realistic with scenes of Jesus and other religious stories. A definite must stop place for all who love art and history.
Piadina Bread with Albana and Longanesi Burson Grapes
After the tour we made our way to a small wine bar and restaurant called La Mariola Casa & Bottega which was recommended by the Ravenna tourist office as a good place to taste local wines, cheeses, and meats. Ravenna, being located in the region of Emilia-Romagna, is one of the few parts of Italy that is not known for any particular wines, but is instead, world famous for Parmesan cheese and prosciuttos. Despite this reputation, we found that the owner of Mariola was very proud of the local wines he offered, and indeed we found them quite delightful.
He served us a large plate filled with different cheeses, meats, and the local flat bread called “piadina.” These were all delicious and fun to try, and paired beautifully with the DOCG white wine made from the local Albana grape. It had a lemon citrus/floral nose, and on the palate had a crisp acidity and some minerality. It was unoaked and refreshing. The brand was Zerbina 2010 Albana Secco DOCG at $12 euros per bottle. Mom had the Tremonti Chardonnay Ciardo 2010 with a hint of botrytis. It was full-bodied and off dry ($16 euros per bottle).
Probably most interesting was the red wine made from Longanesi Burson, which the owner said was an ancient Italian grape. This was a big complex earthy wine with some oak aging. It was blended with a little sangiovese and graf noir. As it had been open for two days, I found it a little oxidized with some strange carmel notes, but it was pleasant with big, smooth tannins, full-bodied, and dried cherry tones. The brand was Augusto 2003 IGT Ravenna Rosso for $17 euros per bottle.
We spent a delightful two hours at the bottega and then visited a few tourist shops in Ravenna before making our way back to the bus and ship. After visiting Ravenna, I swore that when I returned to the States I would buy a mosaic kit and try to make a small patio table top – to commemorate my visit to such an amazing place.