Ravello, the city of music and coral
E s’è dinchiuta ‘e smeralde na grotta,
na varca…po’, na pittura scarlatta…
na roccia penza ch’a mare se vótta…
stanno, ‘e tterrazze ‘e limone, a gialliá – Popular song
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, but 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, a hundred meters long and nearly thirty 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 IX century, the town was the flagship of the Maritime Republic of Amalfi and in the XII century it reached the peak of its fortune with a population of over 25 000 inhabitants. However, at the same time it begun 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. 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.
Ravello, the city of music
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, in fact, 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, in fact 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.
Town, country walks, monuments & villas
The first thing you should do once arrived in Ravello, is to walk around the town. The natural light reflected by the houses, the narrow streets of the historical centre and the views that open suddenly, have no equal: the proof are the sketches of the landscapes of Ravello by English painter William Turner displayed at 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 also nature and landscapes. The town, 300 meters a.s.l., is surrounded by woods and mountains. At the Proloco tourist office, located in Via Roma n. 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 Year 1000, with treasures arcades with mosaics, the Church of Santa Maria a Gradillo, XI century (an ancient place of public assembly) 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 the XII century, extensively renovated in the mid XIX 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 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.