One of my favorite towns on the Amalfi Coast is Ravello. Perched on high (365 meters above sea level) this is one of the places to enjoy the most stunning views of the Amalfi Coast. The town itself is devastatingly beautiful, has a fascinating history, and is a lovely place to either base your Amalfi Coast trip, or to devote a day (and night) to.
After a slightly hair raising drive full of switchbacks up a steep hill you turn the corner and the stunning view of the Tyrrhenian Sea just explodes in front of you. The Moorish architecture of the Villa Rufalo is one of the most famous and instantly recognizable Amalfi Coast landmarks, and from any of the many viewing places it feels as though you are floating, suspended between the sea and the sky.
Ravello is thought to have been built by a Roman colony fleeing the barbarians. In the 9th century a group of noble families from Amalfi moved up the hill seeking refuge from the control of the Doge. The town earned enormous wealth from the production of its “Celendra” wool, and the noble families gave it a deliciously aristocratic air. In the 11th century they nominated their own Duke and tried to sever ties with the Republic of Amalfi.
By 1200 Ravello was thriving and had a population of around 36,000, but financial decline soon followed, and by 1800 the population was so small that the town was absorbed back into the diocese of Amalfi.
10 Things You Must To Do In Ravello
Eat At Da Salvatore
This restaurant not only has one of the most amazing views anywhere on the Amalfi Coast, but also is considered to be one of the very best restaurants on the coast.
Located next to the bus stop it is super easy to find. If you want to enjoy the view but prefer to be a little more budget conscious they also have a fabulous sandwich and salad style casual restaurant when you first walk in from the street.
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You cannot come to Ravello and not visit this 13th century villa. Built for the wealthy Rufolo family, it was also the home of various popes over the centuries, as well as King Robert of Anjou.
From the Moorish architecture to the terraced gardens there is so much to see here. One of the Amalfi Coast’s most famous views is from the villa grounds.
The gardens and grounds are so beautiful they are every bit as famous in their own right as the villa itself.
Wagner stayed at Villa Rufolo in 1880 while he was composing Pasifal, and now every year Ravello hosts a Wagner Festival on the villa’s magnificent cliff terrace.
Every summer the Ravello Music festival takes place on the grounds of Villa Rufolo. An evening under the stars taking in one of these concerts is just spectacular! Make sure you are dressed for the occasion though. Ravello is very dressy and chic.
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Just south of the town’s cathedral you will find the Villa Cimbrone. Built in the 11th century by the Acconciajoco family, two centuries later it passed to the very powerful Fusco family, who were related to the Pitti family in Florence and the D’Angio family in Naples. The Fusco family owned the villa for more than 500 years during which time they completed major renovations on both the villa and the gardens. Recently a marble plaque commemorating this work, dated 1620 was found. The newly restored fresco on the first floor of the villa next to the entrance to the old building shows family members during the renaissance.
After the earthquake at the end of the 1700s the area started to decline, and with political and economic troubles through the 18th and 19th centuries the Fuscos lost significant wealth. On the 31st of August 1864 the family had to settle their debts by handing over the property to the Amici brothers.
Even though the property was abandoned for a while its gardens remained spectacular. In 1905 Ernest William Beckett, the 2nd Lord Grimthorpe fell in love with Cimbrone and bought it from the Amici brothers. Once again restorations were made on the villa and also the gardens.
After the second world war the villa was again abandoned, this time for a decade. At the end of the 1960s Marco Vuilleumier began painstakingly restoring the gardens step by step returning them to their original spectacular state, an ongoing job that is nearly complete.
Cimbrone is one of the most important cultural heritage sites in all of Campania and the gardens are world renowned.
Cimbrone is now a luxury hotel but the gardens are open to the public. One of the most famous and mesmerizing views is the belvedere, The Terrazzo dell’Infinito (Infinity Terrace). Over the past 2 centuries many well known artists, writers, musicians and actors have found their way to Cimbrone, some keeping it as their place of refuge, others never wanting to leave.
Twenty five years ago I was asked by an American magazine what was the most beautiful place that I had ever seen in all my travels and I said the view from the belvedere of the Villa Cimbrone on a bright winter’s day when the sky and the sea were each so vividly blue that it was not possible to tell one from the other.
On the eastern side of Piazza Vescovado you will find the Ravello cathedral. Originally built in 1086 it is easily identifiable with its triple arched façade and its spectacular bronze door. The door was created in 1179 and is one of only about 2 dozen bronze doors still in use in Italy.
The cathedral has a fabulous museum that amongst other things contains a marble bust of Sigligaida Rufolo, that is considered to be one of the most beautiful pieces of 13th century art.
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Belmond Hotel Caruso
This beautiful hotel is at the opposite end of town to Rufolo. It is worth while taking some time to wander around the property.
The view from the infinity pool is stunning, the hotel itself is lovely, but my favorite thing is the piano bar. I love having a glass of wine in the piano bar just before sunset. The arabesque windows are gorgeous, the view wonderful, the service is fabulous and the experience is priceless.
Walk And Walk And Walk
I love to just wander up and down all the little streets, up and down the stairs and walkways, basically just wander all over. Ravello is charming and lovely and full of history. You will find so many things to photograph and you will burn off lunch while you are at it – Ravello is quite steep!
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Belvedere Princess of Piedmont
The villas in Ravello are famous for their gardens, but there is another spot to stop at that has a gorgeous garden and a sensational view. Just along from the Caruso on the via San Giovanni del Toro you will see an old stone arch that leads into Belvedere Principessa di Piemonte.
This is a small garden with trees that provide welcome shade on hot days, fragrant seasonal flowers, and benches to sit enjoy it all from. The view looks out over Minori and Maiori.
This is actually a very popular spot for weddings. I love wandering over there when I want a break from the tourists that congregate at Villas Rufolo and Cimbrone. Most of them don’t know about this Belvedere, making it a lovely place to get a little peace and quiet with some shade and a view! If you are staying in Ravello it is the perfect spot to read a book or a newspaper.
The Church of San Giovanni Del Toro
This little church is worth a visit. Named for John The Apostle and “Il Toro” the aristocratic neighborhood it was built in, it translates to St John of the Bull. Built in 1089 and then restored in 1715 after the earthquake, the church fell into disrepair at the end of the 19th century and then again in the early 20th century. It has been restored now and has some interesting things for art and history lovers to come and see.
The pulpit dates back to the 13th century and has some wonderful and fascinating mosaics as well as some frescos that are well worth seeing.
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The Ravello Music Festival
If you are planning a trip to the Amalfi Coast during the summer months you should try to spend an evening in Ravello at the music festival. The schedule is posted months in advance so you will have plenty of time to choose an event and buy advance tickets.
The concerts all happen on the grounds of Villa Rufolo, weather permitting, outside under the stars. Once when a storm was on the horizon they moved a concert I was attending indoors, which was equally spectacular, being the first time I had ever been to a concert in a 12th century villa perched on a hill overlooking the Amalfi Coast!
Most of the concerts are classical music/orchestras/chamber groups etc. Even if you don’t see your type of music or something that you would specifically like to see, I still recommend going just for the experience.
One year the only night that I could go to the festival there was a Russian violinist playing with a pianist in one of the smaller outdoor areas. It wasn’t anything I was particularly interested in, but I wasn’t willing to miss the experience.
It was amazing! The violinist was in her early 20s, with long blonde hair, dressed top to toe in black Dolce and Gabbana, (so I didn’t have incredibly high expectations, thinking she looked more like a supermodel than a classical musician). As it turned out she wasn’t just fascinating to watch, but was completely sensational! The experience was priceless and I would not have missed it for the world.
Other larger concerts are held on the infiniti stage, with the unimpeded view of the Tyrrhenian Sea stretching out as far as the eye can see.
If you are going to attend a concert at Villa Rufolo make sure you dress appropriately. It is quite chic!
Best Places To Take Great Photos With A Spectacular View
Villa Rufolo gardens
Villa Cimbrone Belvedere Terazzo dell Infinito
Belvedere Principessa di Piemonte
For more things to see and do in the area check out my Pinterest Board Amalfi Coast, Naples and Capri Travel Tips
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If you have some other “must do’s” in Ravello, please add them in the comment section below!
The following videos are not my own. They are from You Tube, and are well worth watching: