From Skyscrapers to Lemon Groves: Part 4 -
A place of historical charm and timeless beauty to enjoy views of the Mediterranean Sea
Ravello is a small, peaceful and picturesque town situated above the Amalfi Coast, directly overlooking the towns of Minori, Marmorata, and of course the Mediterranean Sea. Like the other towns along the coast, Ravello is rich in history and culture and has been a vacation spot for famous names such as Jacqueline Kennedy, Tennessee Williams, and Gay Talese.
One of the most famous attractions that Ravello boasts is the beautiful Villa Rufolo, a magnificent villa dating back to the 11th century; the entrance to which is located on left side of Ravello’s small piazza.
Villa Rufolo is named after the family that built it, the Rufolo family. The architecture is a perfect fusion of Arabic, Sicilian and Norman design. One of the major aspects of the villa is the Torre Maggiore, a large tower of thirty meters that looms over the town and the sea. It was built to signify the wealth and prominence of the Rufolo family.
The gardens of the villa are also notably one of the most beautiful in the world and are said to be the inspiration for Richard Wagner’s opera “Parsifal”. They are full of cypresses and exotic plants and flowers.
The height of power for the Rufolo family was in the 13th century. They were largely involved in the trading industry and after the battle of Benevento in 1266, the Rufolo family swore allegiance to the new conquerors, the Angioini. They became very active in the reign of the region.
However, after the war of the Vesporo in 1283, the Angioini power began to fall. Some of the Rufolo family members were captured and eventually sentenced to death by Prince Charles of Salerno, who wanted to seize the fortune. He succeeded, and the Rufolo family did not recover, losing all power in the 15th century. Over the centuries the villa has been left in ruins and restored, most notably by Scottish botanist Francis Neville Reid.
Now it is a peaceful attraction through which one can stroll and feel the magic of history while overlooking the grandeur of the Amalfi Coast. It is also home to the famous Ravello Festival, a series of concerts held in the villa as well as other sites around Ravello. Talented musicians and performers travel from around the world to perform for guests under a sky full of stars and a backdrop of jagged coastline. The New York Ballet and the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra are two of the big names that have performed here this August.
I had the pleasure of sitting down with the director of Villa Rufolo, Dottore Secondo Amalfitano, who provided me with some of the history and insider information on the villa. Their webcam, he told me, is one of the ten most watched webcams in the world! The villa is also open all year round, a rarity on the Amalfi coast. Aside from the famous Ravello Festival series in July and August, there are also concerts held here year round.
In addition to the rich history and undeniable beauty of the Villa Rufolo, Ravello is full of quaint shops and cafes, with a cool wind coming up from the sea through the mountains, offering a quiet respite from the summer heat.