Rick Wright and Marco Valtriani will co-lead VENT’s Italy: Birds & Art in Venice & the Po Delta tour, October 24-November 1, 2016. Join us!
None of the documents that survive from the Ostrogothic Kingdom of northern Italy suggest that birding was an especially popular hobby.
But the rich artworks preserved in Ravenna, the capital of Theoderic’s realm, tell a different story.
Consecrated in the late fifth century, the city’s Archepiscopal Chapel is the oldest surviving Christian oratory anywhere. Its marble walls are paved with some of the finest and most famous mosaics in Italy, studded with 1500-year-old images of some 99 species of birds.
Some are purely whimsical, but many of the birds are identifiable as of the very same species that still abound today around the ancient churches and tombs.
Others recall the great numbers and variety of waterfowl, shorebirds, and raptors that winter around the nearby delta of the mighty Po River.
From Venice to Ravenna, we retrace the steps of the Ostrogoths as they slowly absorbed much of the western Roman Empire. And we retrace the steps of the anonymous artists who, 1500 years ago, recognized that there was a lot to see outdoors in Italy, too.