Amalfi Coast Excursion



Ravello

Ravello was founded in the 6th century A.d. by Roman colonies who arrived on the shores of the coast searching for high ground from where the could defend themselves against the aggression of their attackers, the invading Unni, Goti, Visigoti and Longobardi people. These new inhabitants of Ravello recognised the fundamental need to trade and so sailed ships containing their merchandise (mainly cloth) to the Orient. The history of Ravello was initially entwined with that of the Maritime Republic of Amalfi. It enjoyed robust economic development as part of the Amalfi Republic, but Ravello rebelled against the Republic when the Amalfi people betrayed the Norman King Roberto Il Guiscardo in 1081, electing their own Doge. Ravello refused to follow the Amalfi people in this betrayal and received the appellation of Rebello by the Amalfi population. However on this occasion, it had the support of Pope Vittore III who redeemed it from subordination to Amalfi, making it a bishop’s palace and subsequently making it an Episcopal seat. The city quickly prospered and became an economic power, thanks in particular to the flourishing woollen mill, known in olden times as the "Calendra", to successful agriculture and to the intense trade carried out on the Mediterranean sea routes, especially with the Arabs and the Byzantines. As a result this contact left indirect testimonies in a great number of artistic treasures of churches and villas. Ravello was rediscovered by a variety of writers and artists who, between the 18th and 19th centuries, chose it as one of their key destinations on their Grand Tour of southern Italy. Ravello is a shining example of beauty and culture, and as such one of the most celebrated places in Italy. In the gardens of Villa Rufolo and Villa Cimbrone as well as those of private villas an extraordinary variety of plants and shrubs with vivid and sweet-smelling flowers grows. The entire town is almost a monument itself with something to please every visitor: a simple stroll through the streets and alleyways reveals a little gem full of churches, chapels and noblemen’s residences, traditional eateries and cratsmen while in the coast is home to traditional dwellings and spectacular views.
Villa Rufolo is the most important monument of art and antiquity in Ravello. This palace villa was the dwelling place of the noble Rufolo family in the 11th century. It's function in days gone by was purely ornamental and never for defence purposes. This monument is a unique example of classical art combined with Sicilian, Arabic and Norman styles. On 26th May 1880 the composer Richard Wagner is recorded as saying "Here I have found the magic garden of Klingsor" (for his opera Parsifal). Every year Ravello, in memory of his visit here, brings together famous Italian and foreign orchestras to perform in the Wagnerian Music festival. Each orchestra assembles on a specially built platform, which extends from the lower level of these marvellous gardens and appears to be suspended over the sea far below. The setting is truly spectacular.
On entering the Villa Cimbrone, directly on the left we find the cloister built in a style imitating that of the cloister of S.Francesco. This however, is of a Sicilian-Arabic style. Inside the cloister we can admire wooden statues, medallions, workings in wrought iron, marble remains and decorated terracotta amphorae. Most important of all are the panels, one in stone depicting the seven deadly sins, the other, in wood, depicting nine Norman warriors. Taking a set of steps we descend into the crypt built in Gothic style comprising 22 stone columns. Returning to the upper level, we can see the beauty of the castle of this Villa where over the years many great personalities have stayed: Greta Garbo, Chamberlain, Marconi, Eden, the Dukes of Kent and Windsor, Maestro Stokowski and Macdonald to name just a few. A long pathway takes us away from the castle and into the gardens of the Villa. On the left as we walk along this pathway we can admire ornamental bronze statues set amongst colourful flowerbeds. On the right the garden has a more varied aspect - trees and exotic plants in a less formal setting. At the end of this pathway we come to the ‘’Belvedere’’ by passing beneath a small Doric temple guarded by a statue of the goddess Cereres. Again from here we can admire the singular beauty of the coastline. Further into the gardens we come across a bronze statue of Mercury Still a little further on and we find the temple of Bacchus. Eight columns in Vesuvian stone support the roof of this temple. Descending another nearby pathway we come to a natural cave wherein we see the marble statue of Venus. Retracing our steps to the statue of Mercury we then come to a lane lined with tall cypress trees and on the way encounter still another temple the dome of which is worked in wrought iron and supported by six columns. From here we can return to the Villa entrance.