When you come on a Best of Romagna FAM trip you’ll meet an extraordinarily powerful woman and have a unique, maybe life changing, experience with her.
Nestling in a Ravenna garden there is a small plain golden stone building...
Step inside with us and you will encounter an extraordinarily exquisite interior. Everywhere are glistening mosaic religious pictures and patterns bathed in the soft light of the ancient alabaster windows. The effect is instantaneous and long-lived.
This tiny space inspired Cole Porter to write “Night and Day”, Gianni Versacci to design a beautiful range of materials, both Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung had spiritual experiences here, Byron and Wylde were also deeply affected. Klimpt saw visions of new paintings.
This is the last empress of Rome’s mausoleum which she built herself over 1600 years ago to send us and others deeply spiritual messages.
Galla Placidia, Empress of Rome, Queen of the Goths, hostage, widow, woman, fighter - the world’s most powerful person of her epoch... lives here in spirit.
This is her amazing story of death, power, sex and intrigue - no wonder the mosaics glow!
When General Theodosius grabbed the Roman empire he summoned his two year old daughter Galla Placidia to his court in Milan.
He granted her the title of “Most Noble Girl” and gave her her own household and independence. He died when our noble heroine was just three.
Her father dead, the empire split between her half-brothers, Honorius and Arcadius, Galla Placidia then joined the household of Stilicho (who was half Vandal) and his wife Serena (her cousin) she learned embroidery and had a classical education. On Stilicho's insistance, she became betrothed to Eucherius, his son.
Stilicho was military boss of the whole Roman empire . When Arcadius died he was succeeded by his son Theodosius II who was only 7 years old. Stilicho decided to help Theodosius rule - and told Honorius to stay at home in Italy.
As a result, Stilicho was accused of trying to take power and was executed together with his family including Galla Placidia’s betrothed Eucherius.
Galla Placidia managed to escape to Rome - and into further danger. Rome was under seige and she became hostage to handsome Ataulf, king of the Goths. She spent the next three years in the Goths wandering battling camp. Finally the Goths prepared to take Marseille and offered Galla back to the Romans in return for grain.
Although the Romans said they’d give the grain they reneged on the deal and Atauf decided to keep Galla Placidia for himself instead. By now Galla Placidia’s brother Honorius had become Roman Emperor.
Ataulf agreed to marry her and the deal was settled by the delivery of the heads of two of Honorius' enemies to his new Imperial Capital - Ravenna.
At that time, Ravenna was a very special place. Built on islands in the Adriatic lagoon with access via a golden gated causeway and with a massive military island port with sea and marshes all around it - it was totally impregnable.
Galla Placidia and Ataulf’s wedding was enormous - in a grand mansion near Narbonne, full of food and drink all kinds of strange people Ataulf was clothed as a Roman general - Galla Placidia in glorious silks. The bridegroom presented the bride with a hundred handsome young men dressed in silk clothes each bearing aloft two massive platters - one full of gold the other precious stones - all looted from Rome!
Happiness then disaster! After two years of wandering as the Gothic King and Queen, Ataulf was slaughtered by his rival Sigeric while bathing in Barcelona. All his six children by a previous marriage were brutally murdered too. Galla Placidia was forced to march in procession with other captives in front of her husband's murderer.
Seeing her plight was one of the factors that made the Gothic population now kill Sigeric and replace him with Ataulf's relative Walia.
Emperor Honorius had always lusted after his beautiful half-sister and now arranged a marriage for her with his friend, soldier and politician Constantius to bring her to Ravenna.
She returns to Ravenna, lives with Constantius and they had two children Justa and Valentinian.
Then Constantius was proclaimed Joint Emperor with Honorius making Galla Placidia Empress consort.
Unfortunately, Constantius died within months therefore leaving Galla Placidia Empress. However, due to the blatant sexual relationship between her and her half-brother Honorius, Galla Placidia and her children were exiled from Ravenna, running to her relative Theodosius I who was ruling the Eastern Roman Empire from Constantinople.
It was a terrible stormy journey from Ravenna to Constantinople and Galla Placidia and her little family just avoided death. Galla Placidia prayed to be saved, she promises to build a church for St John if they all get to Constantinople safe and sound, which they do!
A year later Honorius died and there was a power vacuum in Ravenna. A usurper called Johannes grabbed the power. In Constantinople, Theodosius prepared Galla Placidia's son Valentinian III to be emperor and shortly Galla Placidia and her family took the land route for Ravenna. They sent another force by sea commanded by General Ardaburius.
Two galleys of Ardaburius' fleet were captured by forces commanded by Johannes. As an aristocratic prisoner, Ardaburius could wander the streets of Ravenna - he took the opportunity to open the gate letting in Galla Placidia's troops who proceeded to cut off Johannes' right hand and then execute him.
Galla Placidia then took the throne in Ravenna as Empress-Consort to her son Valentinian III. She ruled for 12 years from 425 until 437.
In Ravenna she created a great Imperial Capital in the lagoon with glorious basilicas, fabulous palaces, beautiful parks, canals and grand administrative centres.
She built the church of St John to give thanks for her safe passage to Constantinople and her "mausoleum" a cruciform chapel originally adjoining the the Church of the Santa Croce which she also built in Ravenna.
So for 12 years Ravenna was the glorious island city at the heart of global affairs ruled over by the last Empress of Rome - Galla Placidia.
Special, really small FAM trips for very special people - all include foodie experiences, learning experiences and meeting fascination people.
We’ve just released our exclusive tiny group familiarisation program for 2021. Why not join it and fall in love - you and your clients will have the times of your lives!
Very small exclusive FAM trips will run next year on March 28; April 4; 11; 25 (full) May 2; 9 (full); 16; 23; 30.
Here are a few travel agents reports on our first FAM trips - click on the image to hear their story!
Valere Tjolle is the travel and tourism insider. An entrepreneur, consultant, developer and journalist, he has been in at the beginning of almost every tourism development for the last sixty years. There is no one better placed to expose the seedy side of tourism nor its enormous opportunities to unite people across the globe.