Gar­den in the sky

Get­ting to heaven can be tricky but it has to be done

Daily Mercury - - WEEKEND - TRAVEL with Ann Rickard Read more of Ann’s mus­ings at an­

FOL­LOW­ING on from the story last week about Italy’s Amalfi Coast and its be­guil­ing beauty (de­spite it be­ing over­run with tourists like me), let’s make our way to Ravello, the mother of all the beau­ti­ful towns on the Amalfi Coast. Ravello is one of those leg­endary places that must be seen to be be­lieved for its stag­ger­ingly stun­ning views over the Gulf of Salerno.

Sus­pended some­where just below heaven and the tips of the soar­ing moun­tains that sig­nify the Amalfi Coast, Ravello is most known for its ex­quis­ite vil­las, lush gar­dens and trans­fix­ing beauty. Get­ting there was never go­ing to be sim­ple, although it should have been.

From our rented-villa base in Pra­iano, mid-way be­tween Posi­tano and Amalfi, it was only a short dis­tance.

The bus came through Pra­iano ev­ery half hour to Amalfi, where a change of bus could take us high up in the moun­tains to Ravello. But it was get­ting on the crowded bus that posed the tricky bit, im­pos­si­ble with such sum­mer crowds. So we in­quired about hir­ing a car and a driver.

That be­came im­pos­si­ble, too, when we heard the cost – sev­eral hun­dred euros for a re­turn trip. How to get to this tan­ta­lis­ing place so close, so high in the sky, but seem­ingly so un­reach­able un­less a lot of money changed hands?

We even­tu­ally found a small pri­vate bus hire that would take us for a rea­son­able price.

The 7km drive up through the Valle del Dragone was a spine-tin­gling thrill of twists and turns and tight cor­ners and one breath­tak­ing view af­ter another over moun­tains and val­leys and end­less sky.

Way up there in Ravello, at 365 me­tres above sea level, we found stately vil­las in­ter­spersed with el­e­gant art gal­leries, ex­pen­sive shops, grand ho­tels, quaint cafes and the ubiq­ui­tous colour­ful ceramic shops of the area.

A day in Ravello is not enough. Just ex­plor­ing one of the vil­las gob­bles up the hours, so we chose care­fully and found our­selves in­side the gar­dens of Villa Cim­brone armed with a map and a de­ter­mi­na­tion to see as many of its high­lights as we could. The villa’s gor­geous restora­tion is due to an English politi­cian called Lord Grimthorpe who, in the early 20th cen­tury, was de­ter­mined to bring a gen­er­ous slice of gen­teel English style to the Mediter­ranean.

Wis­te­ria-cov­ered stair­ways, gar­dens of French and English roses, brim­ming flowerbeds, mar­ble foun­tains, hand­some ro­tun­das, moss-cov­ered door­ways, me­an­der­ing paths, mar­ble busts, lyri­cal stat­ues and views to in­fin­ity are all part of the land­scape, botany and cul­ture of Eng­land up there on the clifftops of Italy.

The seren­ity and still­ness when you are up so high add to the mar­vel­lous ex­pe­ri­ence. Look­ing down to the sea so far below in­stils a sense of won­der. Boats that are prob­a­bly speed­ing across the sea seem to be at a stand­still. The colours of the wa­ter vary from clear green to deep sap­phire with patches of dense navy.

We had ar­rived early be­fore the crowds and en­joyed rel­a­tive peace and space, cof­fee in the morn­ing with views over the val­leys, lunch at mid­day with views over the sea and moun­tains, and strolls in be­tween.

Ravello is like one large luxe float­ing gar­den in the sky, and worth a visit no mat­ter how dif­fi­cult or costly.


The view of the sea from one of the look­outs in Ravello, Italy, and, below right, the Villa Ru­folo gar­dens in Ravello.

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