RAVELLO, ITALY, November 18, 2017 — When it comes to scenery and dramatic picturesque settings, it is difficult to find any place in the world more spectacular than Ravello Italy. Even the worst photographer in the world becomes Ansel Adams in Ravello because there is a photo op in every direction.
Ravello is not a destination for first-time travelers in the sense that it makes a good base for sightseeing. It is a relatively remote location that is not difficult to reach, but neither is it convenient for travelers with wanderlust in their shoes.
No, this is a place for relaxation, contemplation and savoring the best life has to offer; a combination of sunshine, landscaping, superb cuisine and elegant wine all blended with a history that reads like a who’s who of celebrities who have discovered its charms.
Ravello is small with a resident population of about 2,500 people. It nestles above the villages of Amalfi, Atrani, Maori and Minori overlooking the scenic wonderland of the Amalfi Coast where mountains plunge into the sea to create a coastline that defies description.
Ravello Italy: A UNESCO World Heritate site
In 1996, Ravello earned a listing as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and the only question would be “what took them so long?”
Founded in the 5th century as a shelter against the barbarian invasions that marked the end of the Western Roman Empire, Ravello’s geographical location in the forested hills above the Amalfi Coast made it an ideal vantage point with natural protection from outside invasions.
Today, local SITA buses and taxis drop visitors off at the village’s main square, Piazza Vescovado, in front of Duomo di Ravello, the Cathedral of Ravello, where the open space is surrounded by shops filled with high-quality local ceramics small cafes, post office and a bank. This is the spiritual center of the city.
Ravello is also accessible by self-driven cars but be forewarned, the roads are narrow and twisting and can be difficult to negotiate for inexperienced drivers.
Upon arrival, most visitors check out the cathedral or Villa Rufolo (1270) after they are able to catch their breath from the breathtaking vistas that spread out before them.
The appeal of the two sites is initially due to their locations as the first things a visitor encounters. It doesn’t take long however, to realize that location is only the carrot at the end of the stick, because both offer far more than first meets the eye.
Villa Rufolo sits on a ledge that has attracted thousands of visitors over the years, thanks, in large part, to the inspiration it provided Giovanni Boccaccio in his Decameron and as the location where Richard Wagner composed the second act of his opera “Parsifal” in 1880.
Each summer since 1953 the “Ravello Festival” has honored Wagner with concerts held on the dramatic Villa Rufolo stage overlooking the Tyrrhenian Sea.
From Villo Rufolo, most visitors turn left through a narrow passageway lined with ceramics shops and cafes en route to Villa Cimbrone, about a ten-minute walk from the center of town.
Ravello Italy: An impressive guest list
Because of its location, Villa Cimbrone would have become well known in its own right eventually, but the catalyst for its notoriety came when Virginia Woolf and other members of London’s Bloomsbury Group discovered it as a retreat.
In 1938, reclusive actress Greta Garbo took up residence in Villa Cimbrone with the intention of marrying Leopold Stokowski, the musical genius behind Walt Disney’s “Fantasia.”
It’s not difficult to see how D.H. Lawrence drew inspiration from Villa Cimbrone in 1927 where he wrote Lady Chatterley’s Lover.
Be sure to meander through the lush forested gardens to view the “Terrace of the Infinite.” The row of white sculptures merely serves as an enticement that enhances the stunning vistas that spread out below and into the “infinite” horizon of the sea.
American author Gore Vidal lived in Ravello for 30 years, eventually earning himself the distinction as an honorary citizen.
The great English novelist, E.M. Forster, famous for “A Passage to India,” “Howard’s End” and “A Room with a View,” wrote his first short story, “Story of a Panic,” while staying at the Villa Episcopi.
Ravello Italy: Hollywood “Beat the Devil”
Other Hollywood legends have discovered Ravello as well.
The 1953 movie “Beat the Devil” was filmed in Ravello using a script written on the site by Truman Capote. The all-star cast included Humphrey Bogart, Gina Lollobrigida, Jennifer Jones, Robert Morley, and Peter Lorre, all of whom stayed at Hotel Palumbo
Situated beside a narrow entrance road that is only wide enough for one car and housed in a medieval palace dating to the 12th century, Hotel Palumbo preserves reminiscences of the original medieval structure of Palazzo Confalone offering a magical atmosphere with refined hospitality.
Ancient marble columns, mosaic-tile floors, and museum-quality antiques contribute to the intimate charm of this luxury.
Rooms at Hotel Palumbo have no numbers. Rather they are identified by names. Each is unique and each offers panoramic views of the Amalfi Coast that defy description.
The Confalone Restaurant features frescoed rooms including a stunning painting of San Giovanni Battista by Guido Reni, a student of Caravaggio. The terrace overlooking the picturesque landscape is almost too breathtaking to describe.
In addition, Hotel Palumbo produces its own wine under the Episcopio label. You can tour the Episcopio wine cellar but don’t expect a massive operation. The facility is almost toylike in its location, but never underestimate the quality of the wine it produces.
Take time to browse through the hotel guest book and you will know you have visited someplace unique when you encounter names such as Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie, General Dwight Eisenhower, who in World War II plotted the allied advance on Monte Cassino while staying at the Hotel Palumbo, Winston Churchill and Jackie Kennedy took a two week vacation in Ravello along with her sister, Princess Lee Radziwill.
Other celebrities include; Edvard Grieg, Tennessee Williams, Graham Greene, Leonard Bernstein, Sara Teasdale and, of course, Richard Wagner who composed on the piano in the lobby.
One final tip. As mentioned above, most visitors turn left when they arrive in Ravello and fail to explore the other side of the village. Big mistake.
As stunning as the views are from Villa Rufolo and Villa Cimbrone, they are equally dramatic at the other side of Ravello. Miss them and you have missed half of the city.
Visit Ravello Italy once to experience its charms, but be sure you return to savor its magic.
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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