Ravello is just a few kilometres east of the graceful town, Amalfi. Founded in the 5th century, it was a shelter against Barbarian invasions when the Roman empire fell. Then, Ravello became an important port of the Maritime Republic of Amalfi in the 9th century. The inhabitants were involved in maritime trade with the Orient, and that gave it wealth and status. Those new merchants of that age had built castles, villas, churches, and civic buildings to present their wealth.
Today, located in the hills above the Amalfi coast, Ravello is home to many famous buildings, such as the Villa Cimbrone, Villa Rufolo, and the architectural design Oscar Niemeyer Auditorium. But, what makes it more famous to the outside is the Ravello Festival and its concert society, which gives Ravello the name “The City of the Music”.
Once, I saw a photo of the picturesque landscape from Ravello on the Amalfi coast, the enchanting mountaintop setting and its wonderful coastal scenery have since captivated my memory. Years later, during our family’s 7-day trip to the Amalfi Coast, I have finally made my way to Ravello. We had planned one day for Ravello and did a couple of things:
- Enjoy the coastline views in front of Oscar Niemeyer Auditorium
- Spend hours wandering around Villa Rufolo
- Have a pleasant lunch at the Garden Restaurant
- Join the crowds in Piazza Duomo
- Walk to the Ravello’s hidden neighbourhood
Enjoy the coastline views in front of Oscar Niemeyer Auditorium
We followed the parking sign and parked our car inside a building. The parking place was spacious and wasn’t even full on that day.
Stepped out of the parking lot, the festive coastline view was just in front of us. To the left side, the uncrowded seaside town, Minori, has terraced gardens up the rugged hillsides. It has a pleasant seafront with a wide cove. The sea was so clam. And, the soft clouds were slowly moving in the blue sky.
Followed the pedestrian walkway sign we saw this enormous building, the Oscar Niemeyer Auditorium, designed and named after the Brazilian architect Oscar Niemeyer. The building’s architecture presents a seamless curved line that looks like a sleeping beauty.
This Auditorium has three sections. The first one is the auditorium itself, which holds about 400 seats. The second one hosts the parking area in which we just parked. In the third section, you can find a snack area, a wide staircase, a book shop, and a ticket office. Today, the “Oscar Niemeyer” Auditorium is the setting of the “Ravello Festival”.
Enjoy the view from Villa Rufolo
Followed Via della Repubblica and passed a tunnel where Most buses and taxis stopped. The elegant and magnificent Villa Rufolo is behind the tunnel, on the left side. To visit Villa Rufolo, you can either join a tour or buy the tickets on-site.
The main sites of the Villa Rufolo are the Entrance Tower, the Main Tower, the terrace, the cloister in Moorish style and surrounded by some columns, and the most beautiful view on the Amalfi Coast. Strolling among the enchanting gardens, I couldn’t stop taking pictures, including the one that ever captivated my memory.
We had the wonderful overlooks over the Bay of Salerno. Many silent corners with benches provide a relaxing atmosphere. Its upper terrace gardens contain such as cypress trees, yuccas, and palms. I can imagine how the place had inspired German composer Richard Wagner to write the second act of his final opera, Parsifal. Every summer since 1952, the Ravello Music Festival, an open-air concert to honor Wagner, takes place in Villa Rudolph.
Lunch at the Garden Restaurant
We had spent several hours in Villa Rufolo until our stomachs started to grumble. The main square of Ravello is just outside of Villa Rufolo. However, nearly every restaurant was full.
So, we went towards the tunnel again and decided to eat in the Garden Restaurant which belongs to a hotel. The restaurant offers simple food but a wide variety of drinks. It is rather a bar than a restaurant.
The food is not cheap but the view over the coast is awesome. I could see that Ravello is like a natural balcony overhanging on the Amalfi coast. With a glass of wine and a plate of salad, I was relaxed in front of the silk blue sea.
The restaurant is just at the hillside of the coastline. Most guests were local people. The Garden restaurant wasn’t full. Therefore, it was a silent place to relax after hours of walking.
Join the crowds in Piazza Duomo
Like in many European towns, the spiritual and social center of Ravello is the Duomo (Cathedral of Ravello). Founded in 1086, the Rufolo family had supported the church’s construction. The Arabic-inspired church has a combination of Baroque and Romanesque styles. Besides, its bell tower shows Moorish and Byzantine influence.
From outside, it doesn’t look so outstanding. But when you take a close look, it has several special features. The central nave contains the “Pulpit of the Gospels”, which is supported by six spiraled columns sitting atop marble lions. The cathedral’s interior is made of sculpted white marble.
Another attraction is the cathedral’s two-room museum. It is accessible through a side entrance on the Via Richard Wagner. The museum’s collection features marble bust and slabs decorated with mosaics.
After our lunch break, we had a walk around the square. Restaurants and shops selling local products dominate the square. One snack bar is called “Klingsor”, a memory of Richard Wagner as well. But the centre wasn’t so appealing. So, we left the square after a short stay and went to the Ravello’s neighbourhood.
Walk to the Ravello neighbourhood
Just followed Via S. Francesco behind the Hotel Rufolo, we entered the Ravello’s backstreet area. Passed an arched walkway, a little church (Chiesa S.Francesco dei Frati Minori Conventuali) on the right came to our sight.
The street is narrow and only allows pedestrians to pass. Several restaurants, bars, and hotels are alongside the street. Compared to the busy square, this area was too silent. Cats were sleeping on the street, on the wall, and at the corners. They were more than the countable tourists.
Soon we came across Via Santa Chiara. This is a panoramic small pedestrian path which leads to the other famous site, Villa Cimbrone. There was a farm which grew organic products. Surprisingly, I saw Loofah, a type of vegetable I ate in my childhood. At that time, my grandfather planted Loofah in our rooftop balcony. The Loofah could grow long vines and thus formed a natural sun shed of our balcony. When the vegetable is fully ripened, it is fibrous like a scrubbing sponge. Therefore, we used it to clean the bathroom.
Then, we saw a sign “1500 steps to Atrani”. Since we didn’t plan to walk there, we turned back and followed Via Santissma Trinita. Several hotels are also located on that street. Some streets are divided into two parts, one is a flat slope and the other is with stairs. The flat part is the street for a type of narrow carts. Local hotels use those carts to deliver such as goods and luggage.
The street meets Via S. Francesco and Via Dei Rufolo. From there we came back to the square.
Other things to do
Villa Cimbrone is an old historical building with beautiful flourished flowers enriched with countless ornamental features, temples, pavilions, magnificent gardens, stone statues. The most famous site is the famous Terrazzo dell’infinito. Today, it is a 5-star hotel.
Hiking from Amalfi to Atrani
There is a wonderful coastal hiking route between Amalfi and Atrani. It isn’t known by many tourists. Only the locals use it to commune between Amalfi and Atrani.
Join a local concert
The Ravello Concert Society organizes concerts and performances in the Amalfi Coast throughout the tourist season. Check the website to find detail information about the concerts and ticket selling.
Hiking the Path of the Gods
The Path of the Gods, or Sentiero degli Dei in Italian, is a clifftop hiking trail above the Amalfi Coast. its main section is between Bomerano (in Agerola) and Nocelle. The main interests are the beautiful sea views and coastal towns along the way.
Where to stay
Next to Amalsi or Salerno, Ravello is a good place be a base to explore the Amalfi coast. All hotels are withi walking distance from the centre.
This is luxury hotel and is a perfect venue for special events or anniversary. Hotel Villa Cimbrone offers elegant rooms with free internet access. This 5-star hotel offers an outdoor pool with hydromassage corner, panoramic gardens and a private helicopter pad. Guests can relax on the terrace in deck chairs whilst overlooking the Amalfi landscape. Wi-Fi is free in public areas.
Hotel Graal enjoys an enchanting position just 100 m from Ravello town centre and offering spectacular views over the Salerno Gulf. Discovering Ravello and the beautiful coastal towns nearby is easy from Hotel Graal. The hotel has good car access and on-site parking, and buses to the station leave from nearby.
How to get there
Join a tour
Many oversea tourists tend to join a local tour to visit the Amalfi coast. Some budget tours offer good values:
- Small Group Tour to Positano, Amalfi and Ravello with Lunch
- Amalfi and Ravello Tour from Positano
- Positano, Amalfi, and Ravello Tour on a Luxury Bus from Naples
Tours are available from other location as well. Please check here to find the one that suits your need.
Take SITA buses from Salerno, Positano, or Sorrento and arrive at Amalfi. Then you can change to another SITA bus to reach Ravello. Or, walk up the hill to Ravello.
While SITA buses are an excellent alternative to cars when traveling the Amalfi coast, they can become very crowded during the high traffic summer seasons. Make sure to check the bus schedule ahead.
The main highways in this region that go along the Amalfi Coast are SS145, SS163, and SS373. From Atrani, you can take Via Castiglione to arrive at Ravello.