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Ravenna

Ravenna is the first port of call for the travellers on their way to Venice. The walled city, recently conquered by the Venetians, is filled with beautiful churches, early Christian mosaics and monuments and many magnificent works of art. Ravenna was the capital of the Roman Empire in the 5th century and then of Byzantine Italy until the 8th century.

Luca and his companions pay a visit to the tomb of Galla Placidia, who was the daughter of the Roman emperor Theodosius I and a major force in Roman politics for most of her life. The mausoleum, built by Galla Placidia for herself and her family during the fifth century, is a small, unassuming building containing breathtaking floor to ceiling mosaics depicting scenes of Christian iconography.

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It was a small city, tightly enclosed within the encircling walls, the great castle dominating the jumble of shabby roofs around the castle hill. The morning was bright and sunny, the early frost melting from the red tiled roofs. Rising to the blue sky, at every street corner, were the tall bell towers of great churches. A shallow canal flowed into the very centre of the town, where a market sold everything on the stone-built quay. The city had been the capital of the ancient kingdom, and the great stone-built roads running north and south and east and west across the whole of Italy crossed at the very heart of the old city.

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Every part of the arched interior was glistening, almost as if it had been freshly painted. The walls, the floor, even the curved ceilings were rich with bright mosaics. Isolde gazed around her in amazed delight, Ishraq could not take her eyes from the roof above their heads, which was deep sea blue, studded with hundreds of golden stars. It was like a silk scarf sweeping over their heads and down into the arches on all four sides.