RAVELLO, A JEWEL ON THE COAST
Its quiet charm and tranquillity and its splendid architecture have made many a composer, painter and actor fall in love. A musical city on the Amalfi coast, it hosts the summer festival dedicated to Wagner
A musical city on the Amalfi coast that with its quiet charm has made many artists fall in love
Ajewel on the Amalfi coast whose quiet charm and tranquility, small picturesque roads, splendid gardens and Arabian-Sicilian architecture recall its period of maximum splendour, when in, 200 A.D., its inhabitants benefitted from the trade between the East and Sicily. Ravello is far removed from the intense life which is common to other coastal centres. Situated high up in the mountains, Ravello is like a terrace (standing at an altitude of 350 metres) overlooking the Gulf of Salerno.The favourite haunt of jetsetting tourists, over the centuries, its beauty has inspired many famous artists including Arturo Toscanini, Leonard Bernstein, Mirò, Escher, Boccaccio (who described it in one of the novellas of his Decameron) and Richard Wagner, who lived there and likened the garden of Villa Rufolo to that of the Klingsor in his Parsifal. It is in honour of the German composer that, every year, the town offers visitors a multitude of concerts and the emotions of a natural paradise, overlooking the deep blue waters of the sea. Where takes you on a journey to discover the extraordinary charm of Ravello’s myriad beauties. In the square that still bears his name, the Duomo, dedicated to Saint
Pantaleone, was founded in 1086 by the first bishop of Ravello. The beautiful facade, graced by three marble portals, was reworked in the 16th century and is famous for its bronze doors which were designed by Barisano da Trani in 1179 and cast in Constantinople. Its interior was heavily modified in 900 when, during restoration works, its 18th century refurbishments, vaults and stuccos were removed. The crypt houses a small museum where you can admire sculptures and jewelry dating back to various eras (089858311). Also situated in piazza Duomo is the famous Coral Museum founded in 1986 by Giorgio Filocamo to preserve the precious heritage of the ancient artefacts passed down by his family. Those visiting museum might be lucky enough to take home a branch of coral which, as Giorgio Filocamo suggests, should be red, broken and given as a gift (089857461 www. museodelcorallo.it).
Piazza Duomo leads to Villa Rufolo, a series of buildings, of clear Islamic influence, perched on a terrace overlooking the sea. The terraced gardens of Villa Rufolo open onto spectacular views of the beautiful Amalfi Coast, embracing sea and sky and mountains. It is here that the famous Ravello Festival, dedicated to the composer, is celebrated. Known as the “garden of the soul”, it occupies two levels and can be accessed along a Victorian-style, tree-lined path (089857621 www.villarufolo.it). A few steps away from piazza Duomo is the Auditorium Oscar Niemeyer, named after the Brazilian architect who designed it. Today, the Auditorium hosts concerts and shows, attracting a vast audience with its 400 seats (089858360).
By walking along via San Francesco and then via Santa Chiara you will reach Villa Cimbrone. Located in a splendid panoramic position and surrounded by lavish gardens, it was built by William Beckett, one of the many English travellers who remained spellbound by the beauty of Ravello. An unforgettable setting, it features a meld of diverse styles and eras. The villa’s lush garden, brimming over with statues, small temples and natural caves, is considered one of the most important examples of British landscapes and botanical culture in Southern Europe. The high point of its luxuriants gardens, quite literally, is the Infinito belvedere, whose setting was described by Gore Vidal as one of “the most beautiful in the world”, offering visitors a magnificent view that stretches from Atrani as far as Punta Licosa (089857459 www.villacimbrone.it).
Ravello is also renowned for its delectable cuisine infused with fresh, local ingredients. Vegetables and herbs, such as rosemary and oregano, are frequently used to enhance its mouth watering dishes. An absolute ‘must-try’ are its ‘scialatielli served with seafood and fresh tomatoes. Ravello’s desserts are also extremely eclectic, enriched by the sweetness of honey, dried fruit and the scent of lemon which pair perfectly with that of cinnamon and orange blossom. Make sure to end your meal on a high note with a glass of iced limoncello.
Villa Cimbrone, courtyard