RAVELLO, ITALY, May 6, 2017 — Greta Garbo discovered it. So did Richard Wagner. Gore Vidal liked it so much he lived there. Others who fell under its spell include D.H. Lawrence, E.M. Forster, T.S. Eliot and Winston Churchill.
The tiny commune of Ravello, which has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1996, sits perched 1,000 feet above the coastal village of Amalfi, and it was the ideal place for Ms. Garbo “to be alone.”
Actually Garbo was not always “alone” in the true sense of the word as she stayed at the Villa Cimbrone on several occasions in the late 1930s with her lover conductor Leopold Stokowski including one 1938 visit that was memorable enough to be merited with a plaque.
Of all the stunning places along the Amalfi Coast, Ravello arguably claims the most panoramic vistas for photos or just watching the day go by.
Despite that, the village is far less crowded and cramped than the island of Capri which is an hour and a half by boat from Amalfi.
The reasons are relatively simple. To begin with, Ravello is not on the sea, an immediate drawback for sun worshippers. Next, though there are fabulous restaurants catering to every culinary desire in the world, other than dining, taking the sun by the pool, doing a bit of shopping or enjoying a massage, you have pretty much maxed out the activities available to guests.
Finally, towns like Amalfi, Positano, Maori, Minori, Atrani and Vietri all nestle along the coast with easy access to Capri or Ischia, not to mention Salerno and Sorrento.
Thus Ravello is pretty much a spot for day-trippers except certain times of the year when it plays host to a one of a kind classical music festival in honor of Richard Wagner.
Since 1953 the venue for the festival has been a clifftop aerie jutting eastward from Villa Rufolo toward the Lattari Mountains that plunge into the sea with their ragged, yet majestic, coastline.
Founded in the 5th century as a shelter from invasions which ultimately ended the Western Roman Empire, Ravello began to flourish on its own about four centuries later as Amalfi became an increasingly important maritime center. Ravello thrived as a wool merchant’s community that supplied the Mediterrean between 839 and 1200.
Best known for two landmarks, Villa Rufolo and Villa Cimbrone, many of the rich and famous guests came during a time when Ernest William Beckett was doing considerable alteration to Villa Cimbrone in the early part of the 20th century.
Villa Cimbrone was sold to the Vuilleumier family in 1960 when they initially used it as a home. Today it operates as a hotel with its gardens that must be experienced to be believed. Another must-see is the scenic belvedere known as the “Terrace of Infinity.”
The Vuilleumiers meanwhile have moved in to the village where they operate another five-star family property called Hotel Palumbo. Palumbo is a hodge-podge of Moorish buildings that somehow blend into one of the most incredible mixture of nooks and crannies that lead to majestic views beyond imagination.
D.H. Lawrence found great inspiration for “Lady Chatterly’s Lover” during his time on the grounds and Gore Vidal once wrote “Twenty five years ago I was asked by an American magazine what was the most beautiful place that I had ever seen in all my travels and I said the view from the belvedere of the Villa Cimbrone on a bright winter’s day when the sky and the sea were each so vividly blue that it was not possible to tell one from the other.”
Villa Rufolo, on the other hand, is more centrally located near the center of town. Enter the villa through an opening in the arched entrance tower and shortly thereafter you will come to a clearing dominated by the Torre Maggiore.
Enjoy the garden, cloister, and small museum before checking out the setting in the garden of Klingsor which is commemorated in the second act of Richard Wagner’s “Parsifal.”
Ravello is a multi-visit trip. First, take it in as a day trip. After that you will never want to leave, choosing instead to return, again and again, and….
About the Author: Bob Taylor is a veteran writer who has traveled throughout the world. Taylor was an award winning television producer/reporter/anchor before focusing on writing about international events, people and cultures around the globe.
He is founder of The Magellan Travel Club (www.MagellanTravelClub.com)
His goal is to visit 100 countries or more during his lifetime.
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