I came to Ravenna when I was 20 to look at the mosaics and get a tan. I saw the mosaics, but it rained and I never got that tan. I had no idea then who the Byzantines were or how the later Roman empire was divided between east and west. I couldn’t put names or dates to things. That holiday in Italy was something of a purgatory: wandering around churches and galleries, aware that these things were significant but not knowing how or why. Like Rita in “Educating Rita”, I wanted to know more. I spent much of that summer at my desk reading histories of the Roman empire during slack times. And, like Rita, I now know something about the stuff I see.
I spent a lot of time in the Uffizi that winter getting to know Simone Martini’s Annunciation – always the first painting I came to. I still don’t care for the Virgin’s sulky face, but eventually I found the rest beautiful
But I did like those Ravenna mosaics from the off.