On the back of my previous travel blogs for Venice and Rome I was invited to visit Emilia-Romagna on the East coast of Italy to see for myself how part of the region is rebranding itself as the Wellness Valley. This initiative is supported by Technogym, a big local employer and the official supplier of gym equipment to the Rio 2016 Olympic Games.
My journey started with a flight from my home town of Bristol to Bologna that got diverted to Parma because there was a hole in the Bologna runway. Stuff like this happens and so my afternoon exploring that fabulous city turned into a long wait at Parma airport on a Sunday for a coach to complete my journey, finally arriving in Bologna after dark.
The next morning my tour guide and driver Maria Teresa Romolo met me at my hotel and took me to the coastal resort of Marina Romea.
01. There was plenty of running and stretching to be done on the beach despite the overcast skies on the morning of day one. Warm humid days with thunderstorms in the afternoons gave me very calm, high key views of this wonderful place.
02. Marina Romea is the place for a simple getaway. Some Italians have cool shacks by the water at Pialassa Baiona and while away their days fishing and relaxing. This place has a very Caribbean feel about it with driftwood construction and quaint charming wooden boats. By night the local hotels including 5 star options contrast well with the day activities.
03. The evening light at Punta Marina brought out the visitors that give this place the name Wellness Valley.
04. By night the eerie sea of sun beds and parasols was a spectacle in itself to be explored after an excellent dinner of locally caught fish at the famous Marlin Beach restaurant.
05. I stood on the terrace of Terme Beach Resort at Punta Marina just before breakfast to capture this shelf cloud on my iPhone. This weather front signalled the start of three days of changeable weather starting with strong winds and driving rain followed by an unseasonal overcast period. We were in the Piallassa Baiona region of Italy normally known for its glorious sunshine and as a commercial photographer on a tight schedule I have to take the flat light as I find it.
06. The sun did break through from time to time when we visited the elegant town of Ravenna so I made good use of my picture taking opportunities. We decided to do the tour of the historic sights before visiting Casa Spadoni to indulge in the special pizza of the region which is small, round and with a very deep soft base.
07. Ravenna has some of the finest preserved Roman streets and here the cobbles glisten after the showers.
08. In the 5th and 6th centuries Ravenna took over as the capital of the Western Empire as Rome’s power declined. The church of San Vitale dates from this period.
09. The frescoes look impressive until you realise they are mosaics set high into the ceilings and on the floor beneath your feet. It’s then that the sheer scale of these masterpieces of early art become apparent. These mosaics date from 1000 years before the time of Michaelangelo and the glaze has preserved their colours and richness.
10. The ceilings of stars in the tiny Mausoleo di Galla Placidia frame the wonderful mosaic of the good shepherd on the end wall. Thinly cut slithers of alabaster fill the window voids and give a marbled light. The window recess (bottom right) could have dated from any period even as late as the 1960s.
11. On our route to see the 5 key museums of art in Ravenna we stopped for coffee and watched the Italian life pass us by.
12. I’m no plasterer but I can appreciate the complexity and precision of this trade when I see courtyards like this that adjoins the Tomba di Dante. Dante, the famous poet was exiled from Florence and eventually settled in Ravenna. After his death, the city of Florence regretted its treatment of Dante and provided an oil lamp to hang in his tomb. It is still there today and runs on oil given by the city of Florence.
13. Ravenna is an attractive town of old streets, sleepy piazzas and fine boutiques. I love to look at details when I travel and I often find the best ones are to be had by looking up. I love a good font too and the one created for this coffee brand is simply fantastic. It’s not in use by the brand of Italian coffee today but this vintage illuminated sign caught my eye.
14. This fine mosaic depicting the baptism of Jesus is the jewel in Ravenna’s crown. It is in Battistero Neoniano, the oldest monument in the town and dates from the mid 5th century.
15. After another downpour we visited the small botanical garden in Ravenna.
16. Behind almost every door in Italy there is a surprise.
17. Bicycles are everywhere as people enjoy a healthy way of life here.
18. Local produce is everywhere like these melons from Ferrara, also in the region. That reminds me to visit Maranello, the home of Ferrari and it too is in Emilia- Romagna. I’ll do that on my next visit.
19. We ventured out of town to the salt flats to see the vast area of evaporation lakes where the sea is allowed in to flood the area and then evaporates to leave the fine salt deposits.
20. The area is a conservation zone. Wildlife photography and fishing are a few of the pastimes on offer.
21. Apparently all the salt at the Salina di Cervia is owned by the Pope. I hope he doesn’t eat it all at once.
22. The lovely Maria at the bottom of this picture grid was my tour guide and driver for the trip. One of the great things about having a guide is getting access to factories and urbex locations without having to go over the fences. I love a bit of rusty metal and peeling paint.
23. Our next stop was the town of Censenatico with its high class feel. Villas and boutiques adorn the main roads and I checked into the five star hotel Grand Hotel Da Vinci. Dinner was at a restaurant Capo Del Molo that adjoins this quaint lighthouse on the waterfront.
24. The view from and the Torre San Michelle itself in Cervia.
25. One of the little surprises I had on my trip of the Wellness Valley region was a back stage tour of this restored theatre dating back to 1864 and dedicated to the Opera composer Errico Petrella. Our guide for the tour was Emiliano from the tourist office in the town of Longiano.
26. Many famous people from the world of entertainment have performed on this stage.
27. Eliseo was the theatre caretaker and has been well remembered by the visiting artists and performers within their kind messages on the changing room walls.
28. Our journey through the region took us on many small lanes meandering through the hills graced with vineyards and olive groves.
29. We stopped off by the beauty spot that is Lago Di Acquapartita and had a lunch of local specialities; piadina, salami and tortelli alla lastra.
30. The mountain lake parks are a great place to walk, run, refresh the mind or just relax.
31. A short walk down from the car park took us to this impressive cascade at Cascata dell’Alferello. It’s worth taking a wide angle lens for your camera when you visit.
32. It was a good spot to do a bit of yoga :)
There it is. My vision of a wonderful part of Italy undergoing a relaunch as the Wellness Valley. I am now taking bookings for travel commissions in 2017 and 2018. My next adventure takes me to Iceland. Next up on Prophotonut is my blog from my Italian portrait workshops.