Think of a celebrity. Certainly, he/she has visited Ravello. The greatest names in literature, music, movies, characters of economics, finance and politics, up to less or more famous television stars, all have a souvenir photo in Ravello. The town is a classic seaport for elite tourism, although the village is not by the sea, it rather overlooks it. Indeed, it stands on a cliff 315 meters high with a direct view over Maiori and Minori. In turn, behind Ravello stand the Scala Mountains, excellent for walking and trekking. The beach of Ravello is located in the hamlet of Castiglione. This is one of the largest beaches on the Amalfi Coast, 100 meters long and nearly 30 meters wide.
In ancient times, Ravello was a refuge for people fleeing the coast from the raids of pirates and enemies. Even before the year 1000, the inhabitants were famous producers and weavers of wool, with important trade relations with Byzantium. In the 9th century, the town was the flagship of the Maritime Republic of Amalfi and in the 12th century, it reached the peak of its fortune with a population of over 25 000 inhabitants. However, at the same time, it began to decline, as it was sacked and destroyed by the Pisans. It took several centuries before Ravello had recovered from the disaster, but by the end of 1800, it’s on everyone’s lips again. Ravello is synonymous with Amalfi Coast, but especially with “very elegant and glamorous location.”
The surrounding landscape boasts a unique, pristine beauty, but it is in the narrow village streets, in the squares, amid the bar tables, that Ravello offers its best. Between Piazza Duomo and Viale Richard Wagner, or in via Castiglione, in via dell’Annunziata or in via Trinità, there are clubs and pubs, pizzerias and restaurants, antique shops, boutiques, and delicatessens. Those same streets, in the summer evenings, turn into stages for music bands playing jazz, folk, rock, and classical music.
But Ravello is not “open” only in summer. A witness is provided by American writer Gore Vidal, who answered the question “what’s the most beautiful place you have ever seen” with: “The view from Villa Cimbrone’s Belvedere, on a bright winter day.” During Christmas and New Year, the town is famous for its market stalls and outdoor discos where people warm up by dancing.
The nickname “City of Music” is mainly related to the Ravello Festival, one of the most important cultural and social events in the Amalfi Coast. Every year, music lovers and musicians flock to this corner of paradise to celebrate the rite of outdoor concerts. The Belvedere of Villa Rufolo, with its 800 seats, is the heart of the Festival, but also other villas and gardens, in small and evocative locations, become stages for classical music.
The idea of the music festival came up around the 1930s, yet since 1880 Ravello’s fate of becoming a “City of Music” was already affirmed. During those years, Richard Wagner stayed in the village and the gardens of Villa Rufolo inspired his work, Parsifal. Therefore, the Ravello Festival comes under the patronage of the great German composer, and many musical moments are dedicated to him within the Wagnerian concerts section of the event. But the Festival is not only Wagner. In time, it has become a top event in the world art scene. The venues that host the events, Villa Rufolo, the gardens of Hotel Caruso, Hotel Palumbo and Hotel Giordano, the terraces of Villa Cimbrone and Villa Eva, the halls of the auditorium Oscar Niemeyer, have hosted symphony orchestras led by renowned conductors, as well as exceptional soloists, famous composers, dancers and choreographers, actors and directors of international renown. Ravello Festival has thus become a multidisciplinary and multicultural appointment, but also quite mundane.
The first thing you should do once you arrived in Ravello is to walk around the town. The natural light reflected by the houses, the narrow streets of the historical center and the views that open suddenly, have no equal. The proof is the sketches of the landscapes of Ravello by English painter William Turner displayed at the Tate Gallery in London. The second thing to do in Ravello is to take part in the town’s social life and nightlife, which reach their peak between June and October. The bars, clubs, restaurants in Ravello are places of pleasure, where to have fun, chat, watch and be watched. Shopping in Ravello is a must, among antique shops and sea-fashion boutiques.
Ravello is surrounded by woods and mountains. At the Proloco tourist office, located in Via Roma 18, brochures with walking and hiking trails on the slopes of the Scala Mountains are available. Many nature walks branch out directly from Piazza del Municipio, snaking through narrow cobbled streets you arrive in the woods and reach places with breathtaking views. Do not miss the walk through the staircases, ancient medieval ruins, citrus groves and lemon trees leading to the sea.
This town on the Amalfi Coast has a rich historical and cultural value. The Duomo of Ravello was founded in 1086, has a bronze door made in Constantinople and is dedicated to St. Pantaleone, of which are preserved the relics (blood in a glass). The cathedral hosts the Museo del Duomo, with Roman objects, sculptures and sarcophagi. Other holy places to visit are the Church of San Giovanni del Toro, dating back to the year 1000, with treasures arcades with mosaics, the Church of Santa Maria a Gradillo from the 11th century, and the Church of the Annunciation, now used for the meetings of the Cuebc, European University for Cultural Heritage, which is based in Villa Rufolo. The latter is one of the jewels of Ravello, along with Villa Cimbrone.
Villa Rufolo is a historic building dating back to the 12th century, extensively renovated in the mid 19th century and famous for its cloisters and terraces overlooking the Amalfi Coast. Inside the villa, there are works of art, furniture, and furnishings of inestimable value. The structure of the building, so harmonious and decorative, earned it the nickname of little Alhambra.
Villa Cimbrone is another marvel of Ravello. It was renovated in the early 1900 and today is a hotel with a beautiful garden open to the public. On the alleys that surround it, there are Gothic and neoclassical architectural elements, immersed in gardens of valuable and colorful plant species. The way leading to the Terrace of Infinity is a lovely place to stroll in hot summer and very attractive in winter afternoons.
Do not miss the Museum of Coral in Piazza Duomo, built-in 1986 by Giorgio Filocamo, heir of fishermen and craftsmen of the precious material of animal origin. It is a hidden place where are kept more than 600 works of art of extraordinary craftsmanship.
Have a nice time in Ravello!