25 Feb Ravello, a Town of Beauty, History and Culture
Our destination was Ravello, high in the hills above the Amalfi Coast of Italy. For us to reach Ravello MV Aegean Odyssey docked in the harbour at Salerno 7.30 am , Friday 14th October 2016.
This was our 8th port of call, for 11 destinations.
The Amalfi coast is said to be one of the most beautiful in the world and it didn’t disappoint. However travelling for over an hour on the winding coastal road by bus was rather harrowing, given the narrowness of the road, the sheer drop to the sea and the lack of judgement exercised by oncoming motorists. Our driver had to stop the bus several times to instruct oncoming drivers on how and where to reposition their vehicles, so both cars and bus could proceed. He deserves an award for the way he handled the various situations.
Ravello is a small town 30 kilometers southwest of Salerno. It is perched in the coastal hills, 365 meters above sea level. From this view (below) it appears to be directly above the ocean.
The major attraction of this excursion was Villa Rufolo and its sumptuous gardens.
In certain directions it is difficult to know where Rufolo’s gardens end and others start.
While Ravello was established in the 5th century, Villa Rufolo was not developed until the 13th century. The initial construction was undertaken by the wealthy Rufolo family. There is a legend that one member of the Rufolo family gained his wealth as a pirate and buried his treasure within the walls of Villa Rufolo, however no pirate’s treasure has ever been found, despite some rather bizarre and macabre attempts by treasure hunters.
Scotsman Francis Reid must have seen the villa and its gardens as “a treasure” when he purchased it mid 19th century, embarked on a major restoration and in the process created the current layout.
It is difficult to imagine what the original Villa Rufolo looked like, given the extensive structural additions and renovations. Many aspects of it appear to be still unfinished.
Ravello, as a whole, is a very attractive town, currently housing a population of around 2500. Early in the 12 century the population was at an all time high of 25,000 inhabitants. As with most other places in the world, religion, politics and conflict shaped its history. And so it was that following a long period of prosperity and growth the Republic of Pisa conquered Ravello in 1137, initiating a steep decline in its importance, population and economic activity.
Ravello is definitely a resort town and has been a haven for musicians, writers and artists since the 14th Century.
In 1880 the German opera composer Richard Wagner stayed in Ravello and was so taken by the gardens of the Villa Rufolo that he used it as inspiration for completing his final opera, Parsifal. In Wagner’s honour The Ravello Festival has been held in summer each year since 1953.
There is much more to see and experience in Ravello. It certainly warrants an overnight stay, at least. We were there only half a day, so we didn’t do it justice.
In our next episode of “Voyage to Antiquity” we check out
Why a great escape plan didn’t save the people of Herculaneum
It is definitely worth knowing about this!
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