Ravello: a practical guide to discover one of the most beautiful location of the Amalfi Coast and how to get around by scooter!
Ravello is a place that certainly deserves a stop. It is located on the coastline that links Sorrento and Salerno, perched on a promontory at only 7 km from Amalfi (just follow the SS 163 and turn at the junction for Ravello). The road is easy going and by scooter you do not even have the problem of the parking!
Little bit of Ravello history
The legend traces the origins of Ravello back to the 5th century when the Barbarians responsible for the sack of Rome founded a refuge on the hills. However, it is certainly more probably that they found an already populated centre and decided to stay there. The history of Ravello acquires a greater documentary consistency starting from the creation of the Maritime Republic of Amalfi in 839, when all the territory around the coastal centre became a Duchy. The town grew thanks to the art of wool and with the help of the trade towards the Mediterranean and Byzantium, and reached its highest splendour from the ninth century, under Amalfi and the Principality of Salerno.
Having a walk through the streets of this enchanted village, you immediately notice an elegant and refined style. The Arab-Sicilian taste of the palaces and churches recall the time when trade with the Levant was flourishing and the town was considerably more inhabited. In the secondary streets you discover a quieter dimension, linked to rural traditions, with gardens bordered by dry stone walls, rich in vegetation and well-kept gardens.
4 places you can not absolutely miss in Ravello
1 Duomo of Ravello
The Ravello Cathedral is located on the eastern side of the homonymous square. Completed in 1086, based on the model of the abbey of Montecassino, it has gone under various alterations over the centuries: the facade is from the 16th century, while the central bronze portal, one of the few lefts in Italy, dates back to 1179.
Particularly interesting is the pulpit, a work of 1272 of Bartolomeo da Foggia. It is supported by six twisted columns, decorated with polychrome mosaics, which rest on marble lions. Mosaics and typical medieval iconography, such as peacocks and other birds, enrich the decoration of the panels.
The seventeenth-century chapel of San Pantaleone, on the left of the presbytery, houses the relics of the saint, patron of the city.
Moreover, a careful observer could not avoid noting the particularity of the floor, which is inclined towards the square: a particular technique used during the construction to emphasize the perspective effect of the church.
2 Villa Rufolo
South of the Duomo there is Villa Rufolo, a splendid historic residence famous for its gardens overlooking the sea. The Villa was built in the thirteenth century from the Rufolo family, which for over two centuries was the symbol of the economy and the political leader of medieval Ravello. The power of the family ended in 1285, when they went against the Angevins at the time of the Sicilian Vespers. The Villa was built by mixing the Arabic and Byzantine architectural and decorative typologies, with elements of the local culture and, over time, it was also used as a residence by various popes and by King Roberto D’Angiò. In the nineteenth century the Villa was abandoned but then the Scotsman Francis Nevile Reid decided to buy it and completed the restoration creating the spectacular terraced gardens enriched with splendid flowers (which reach their maximum splendour in the period from May to October). Someone says that, after visiting these gardens, the famous composer Richard Wagner was so impressed that he took it as a model for the setting of the second act of Parsifal.
The thirteenth-century Torre Maggiore currently houses a museum that illustrates the history of the Villa, enriched by an exhibition of works of art, archaeological finds and ceramics. An internal staircase leads to a terrace which offers a splendid view of the Amalfi Coast.
Today Villa Rufolo hosts every year the famous summer classical music festival.
3 Villa Cimbrone
From the centre of Ravello, with a 10-minute walk taking the pleasant streets of S. Francesco and S. Chiara, you reach this marvellous 11th century residence that today is a luxury hotel. Until the 1970s the villa was known as a place frequented by artists, actors, and illustrious guests including Virginia Woolf, Winston Churchill and Salavdor Dalì, and Rossellini with Brgman and Grace Kelly, Jackie Kennedy and many others.
From the famous Belvedere Cimbrone (also called Belvedere of the Infinite) you can admire one of the most beautiful and evocative views of the Amalfi Coast, framed by classical busts with a background of coast and colourful villages. The gardens were redesigned at the beginning of the twentieth century thanks to the precious contribution of the English botanist Vita Sackville West and are characterized by rose gardens, temples and even a Moorish-style pavilion. It is one of the most important examples of Anglo-Saxon landscape and botanical culture in southern Europe.
4 Camo Coral Museum
The place can look like a shop-laboratory that sells cameos of precious workmanship, made mainly with coral and shells. Instead, it is a small museum that houses a collection of some valuable pieces, such as a Roman amphora of the third century AC, a Madonna Assunta of the sixteenth century and a Christ of the seventeenth century, both in Italian coral. The museum was founded in 1986 by the will of Giorgio Filocamo, who makes available his professionalism in working coral in his workshop under the Cathedral and his generosity in sharing with the public the valuable heritage that his grandfather left him.
Where to eat in Ravello
3 simple solutions for an enjoyable meal!
Contrary to all expectations, in Ravello there are not so many places where to stop to eat, but the few restaurants available assure good food and a pleasant atmosphere!
In addition to the spectacular panorama that its terrace offers, Da Salvatore offers fabulous dishes, prepared with local products, with creativity and elegance, accompanied by a wide choice of wines. In the evening, part of the restaurant becomes an informal pizzeria serving excellent wood-fired pizzas, considered by many to be among the best in the area.
Concerning pizzas, the Ristorante Pizzeria Vittoria also offers exceptional specialties: you can choose from 16 different varieties of pizza or high-level seafood dishes.
Finally, at Cumpà Cosimo, an ancient family-run trattoria from other times, you will find simple but very tasty dishes, such as rabbit with cherry tomatoes and grilled shrimps.
Ravello Festival: a summer of music and … more!
Music and typical products
From the first days of July to September, the centre of Ravello becomes the stage of the Ravello Festival, inaugurated in 1953 and dedicated to the composer Richard Wagner. In this period symphonic and chamber music concerts, ballets, film screenings and art exhibitions are held, often in suggestive places with the sea as a backdrop.
Since the Middle Ages, the Amalfi Coast was rich in lemon groves.
Lemons started to be used in the diet when it was realized that they could be curative for scurvy, a disease caused by vitamin C deficiency. Since that moment it has been part of the Mediterranean diet and is used for condiments, sweets and liqueurs.
The famous Limoncello, in fact, is a liqueur obtained by soaking the lemon peel in a solution of alcohol, water and sugar.
It is usually served cold, as a digestive, and has quickly spread to the rest of Italy and abroad.
Itinerary suggestions in Ravello
A couple of walks from Ravello
Ravello is the starting point of a large number of trails, some of which follow ancient itineraries on the surrounding Lattari Mountains.
- More trained hikers can descend to Minori, following a graceful path made up of steps, hidden paths and olive groves that passes through the picturesque village of Torello: it takes about 45 minutes for about 2.5 km of road, starting from Villa Rufolo.
- Alternatively, you can decide to go the other way, towards Amalfi, passing through the ancient village of Scala, known for being the oldest settlement on the Amalfi Coast. This small village was once a thriving religious center that had more than 100 churches. Today it is a tiny and silent inhabited centre, just 2 km from Ravello.