Ravello, a Town of Beauty, History and Culture

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.

Sunrise over Salerno’s Harbour
A section of Salerno’s port from MV Aegean Odyssey – the substantial highway and bridges shown here turn to narrow winding roads outside of city boundaries

This was our 8th port of call, for 11 destinations.

Our voyage so far – Map courtesy of Google Maps – Map Data ©2017 GeoBasis-DE/BKG (©2009)

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.

Looking northeast from Ravello – The winding Amalfi coast road can just be seen along the bottom edge of these mountains and hills
Looking northwest from Ravello’s main square, showing the last part of the road we travelled to reach Ravello (note the tight bend in middle of photo)

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.

View of Tyrrhenian Sea from Villa Rufolo, with domes of Chiesa di Santa Maria della Grazie (church)

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.

Rufolo Gardens, Hotel Rufolo and Church of San Francesco behind

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.

Villa Rufolo, large entry tower partly obscured by trees
Entrance to Villa Rufolo from Ravello’s main square
View across an internal courtyard from a first floor walkway, showing the Moorish architectural influences
Another internal courtyard viewed from ground level
Old internal walls are partly obscured by more recent concrete arches. The outside ground level, visible through internal 1st floor arch, reveals the split level nature of “the villa”

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.

Catholic Cathedral (Duomo) built in 11th Century, with the bell tower behind from 13th Century, has undergone extensive modifications over a long period. Villa Rufolo’s entrance tower to the right.
Clothes and souvenirs aplenty
Wine & Drugs (of the legal type of course) left, Duomo’s bell tower in background
No shortage of cafes, restaurants and hotels
Entrance to Rufolo Hotel and Sigilgaida Restaurant

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.

The Final Ravello Photo Call

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!


If you would like to comment on the information or photos in this blog, please scroll down to the bottom of the page. Factual corrections are welcome as some information was difficult to verify.

  • Kevin @ Bev G.
    Posted at 13:35h, 26 February Reply

    Alister, your photos and your insightful comments certainly did handsome justice to the spectacular city. You have captured an air of modernity emanating from the life and brightness of those ancient treasures!
    I’ve saved all the photos. I love the colours and the contrasts. Thank you.

  • alistairstravel
    Posted at 16:07h, 26 February Reply

    Thank you for your wonderful comment Kevin. I’m pleased that you gleaned so much from this “post”.

  • John (Woodsy) Wood
    Posted at 12:41h, 27 February Reply

    Alistair – the bus trip anywhere along the Amalfi Coast is “exhilarating” to say the least. Our guide explained that the No Parking signs strategically placed on difficult corners and extra narrow road areas to allow busses to pass are only there “as a suggestion”
    Great post, how was the lemonella?
    Kind Regards, St John

    • alistairstravel
      Posted at 14:33h, 27 February Reply

      Thanks St John
      I don’t think we were told the information about the No Parking signs, although Maggie seems to remember something about it. We had some limoncello somewhere, but don’t think it was at Ravello (maybe in Naples). It was a little too sweet for me so only tried it once.

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