Thanks to the Ravello International Music Festival (Festival Internazionale di Musica di Ravello), Ravello has become famous all over the world. Ravello is a very quiet and chic town and from the terraces of Villa Rufolo and Villa Cimbone, visitors can admire a wonderful panorama that once enchanted Richard Wagner and the great Greta Garbo. Ravello had very prosperous trades during the XI and XII centuries, afterwards it was included in the territory of Amalfi. Ravello is like a terrace over the sea: It boasts wonderful look-outs, the so-called belvedere, as for example the one dedicated to Princess of Piemonte, from where the whole coast can be admired. Ravello is situated on the Lattari Mounts characterized by a wonderful vegetation, on a cliff dividing the valleys of the Dragone and Reginna streams. From a height of 350 m above the sea-level Ravello dominates the blue sea of the Amalfi Coast. Giovanni Boccaccio charmed by the beauties of these places described them in his work “Decameron”. The main character of one of its short stories comes from Ravello, Landolfo Rufolo: he was a
nobleman who had chosen to be a pirate. He shipwrecked but found, thanks to his abilities and good luck, a great treasure. In 1819 the famous English painter William Turner visited Italy and spent some time in Ravello. His sketches of the Amalfi Coast are now exhibited in the Tate Gallery in London. Ravello has a quiet, silent atmosphere that enchants all the people coming to visit it, and boasts beautiful villas which are the most famous buildings of the town: Villa Rufolo built in the XI century, with its terraces on the sea and Villa Cimbrone with its wonderful belvedere. During the XIX and XX centuries many artists, painters, musicians were inspired by the beautiful landscapes of Ravello, as for example Ruskin, Miró, Vedova and Escher; André Gide set in Ravello some episodes of his work “The immoralist”; Lawrence wrote there “Lady Chatterley’s Lover” and Graham Green “The third man”; Wagner imagined that the beautiful gardens of Villa Rufolo were ‘the magic garden of Klingsor’ in his masterpiece “Parsifal”. The most important monument is the Cathedral, built in the XII century.
History of Ravello
Ravello was probably founded in the sixth century by Romans colonists who ventured among the mountains, a good shelter to escape the destruction of the Vandal barbarians; the first certain information about Ravello date to the ninth century, when all the towns of the Amalfi Coast are united in the state. Around the year 1000 the town was populated by a group of nobles of the Maritime Republic of Amalfi, who rebelled against the authority of the doge. The city quickly prospered, thanks to a flourishing wool spinner activity, once called “Celendra”.
In the eleventh century, the inhabitants of Ravello tried to break free from their bonds to Amalfi: the village was surrounded by walls and patrician families started building their sumptuous mansions, electing its own Duke. In 1086 Ravello also became a bishopric. With the Norman conquest, and their success in the South the decline of Ravello began, which has become part of the kingdom in 1131. In 1137 the Republic of Pisa devastated Ravello for three days: despite this, the inhabitants of Ravello, clever merchants, had also conquered the Arabian markets, between the twelfth and thirteenth centuries and the city reached about 36,000 inhabitants.
During the Sicilian Vespers (1282-1302) the French occupied Ravello, which redeemed itself with 135 ounces of gold. Led by Judge Giovanni Frezza, Ravello supported Ladislas of Durazzo in his struggle for the reconquest of the kingdom and occupied the town of Scala, which instead supported Louis II of Anjou. In the following centuries Ravello began its decline and its population reduced. In the seventeenth century the plague further weakened the town and decimated the population; in 1818 the diocese of Ravello was suppressed and aggregated to the archdiocese of Amalfi.
Monuments – Art
The Cathedral dedicated to Saint Pantaleone
The Cathedral, founded in 1086 by the first bishop of Ravello Orso Papirio. The bronze portal by Parisano di Trani was realized in Constantinople in 1179 and was brought to Ravello by sea; it is divided into 54 squares portraying Saints, the Passion, lions and gryphons. The pulpit inside the Cathedral is by Bartolomeo da Foggia (1272) and is dedicated to Saint Pantaleone, the patron Saint of Ravello, where his blood is kept still today.
Villa Cimbrone: on the left you can admire a courtyard, an artistic imitation of the Cloister of San Francesco, embellished with mullioned windows and arches developing from columns. A door on the left leads into the so-called “crypt” – “an open terrace to the sea.” On the right there is a squared defense tower of four floors. It is part of a “castle” decorated like Villa Rufolo. Down the avenue, surrounded by ornamental statues and temples (like that of Bacchus), the ‘Belvedere di Mercurio’ opens to the most salient point of the ridge on which Ravello lies, boasting one of the most breathtaking views in the world.
Villa Rufolo, built in the second half of the 12th century, with its two towers of Arab-Norman style. From the vestibule of the entrance tower, decorated with entwined arches in the walls and the vault and boasting four large statues symbolizing Charity and Hospitality, values assiduously practiced by the Rufolo family, you get to the three-storey building through a tree-lined avenue. On the left there is the main tower, the ‘Torre Maggiore’, almost 30m high, and on the right there is the squared courtyard, similar to a small cloister. Through a charming boulevard, you come to the terrace of Richard Wagner, so called because here, on May 26th 1880, the “music of lights and colors” inspired the musicians imagination: the vision of the scenic garden of Klingsor, the magic garden of Klingsor in the second act of his masterpiece “Parsifal”. The gardens of Villa Rufolo and the breathtaking view are the background of the important annual Ravello International Music Festival held every summer: the Wagner Festival. The garden rich of coloured and wonderful flowers boasts a Moorish cloister. The Antiquarium set in the ancient chapel of the complex collects relics and fragments recovered in the second half of the 19th century.
- The Church of Saint Giovanni del Toro built in 975, boasting an ambo of the 12th century based on finely decorated round arches supported by four columns, each with a different capital. The crypt is finely decorated, too.
- The Church of Saint Maria a Gradillo of the 12th century, where nobles used to meet to discuss public affairs. This church boasts three naves divided by columns.
- The Church of the Annunciation, now meeting centre for conferences organized by the Centro Universitario Europeo per i Beni Culturali (the European University Centre for Cultural Heritage).
- The Curch of ‘San Francesco‘, in Gothic style with a monastery and a cloister, founded by Saint Francis on his way back from the Far East.
- The Former Augustinian Monastery with a restructured church.
- The Monastery of San Trifone.
- The Church of Saint Chiara with a fresco of the 14th century portraying Christus Pantocrator, and boasting a majolica-floor of the 16th century
The Belvedere of Princess of Piemonte.
The ‘Gonfalone’ Palace, with a wonderful courtyard.
The ‘Tolla’ Palace, today the seat of the town hall.
The D’Afflitto Palace with Middle Ages features.
The Museum of the Cathedral, which is located in the crypt. There are Roman cinerary urns and sarcophaguses and many other interesting sculptures, such as the bust of Sigilgaida Rufolo, one of the most beautiful sculptures in Western art of Southern Italy, or the shrines of the Saints Barbara, Lawrence and Thomas.
The Coral Museum founded in 1986, collecting artifacts in coral such as cameos, and engraved mother of pearl and shells, from Roman times to the last century.
Rocky and sandy beach.
- The small beach (about 100 m.) Is accessible from the road 163 by a staircase of nearly 200 steps. High cliffs surrounding it and this implies that already in the early hours of the afternoon is in shadow.
The Marmorata beach has a very beautiful rocky shore where guests can swim.