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 a vital 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. What makes Ravello known 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 remarkable coastal scenery in the picture 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 the highlights of the day were:
- The coastline views in front of Oscar Niemeyer Auditorium
- Unique Amalfi coastal view from Villa Rufolo
- A pleasant lunch at the Garden Restaurant
- Watch the crowds in Piazza Duomo
- Ravello’s hidden neighbourhood
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 was not even full on that day.
Stepped out of the parking lot, the joyful coastline view was just in front of us. The sea was so calm. And, the soft clouds were slowly moving in the blue sky.
Bellow us, Minori, the uncrowded seaside town, has terraced gardens up the rugged hillsides. It has a pleasant seafront with a wide cove.
Next to the pedestrian walkway, we saw this enormous building, the Oscar Niemeyer Auditorium, designed and named after the Brazilian architect Oscar Niemeyer. The architecture of the building resents a seamless curved line that looks like a sleeping beauty. Today, the “Oscar Niemeyer” Auditorium is the setting of the Ravello Festival.
Unique Amalfi coastal 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 Ravello private walking tour or buy the tickets on-site.
The main sites of the Villa Rufolo are the Entrance Tower, the Main Tower, the terraces, 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.
Many quiet corners with benches provide a relaxing atmosphere. Its upper terrace gardens contain such as cypress trees, yuccas, and palms. I could imagine how the place had inspired German composer Richard Wagner to write the second act of his final opera, Parsifal. Since 1952, the Ravello Music Festival, an open-air concert to honor Wagner, takes place in Villa Rudolph every summer.
A 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. Nearly every restaurant was full.
We went towards the tunnel again and decided to eat in the Garden Restaurant that belongs to a hotel. The restaurant offers simple food but a wide variety of drinks. It is more a bar than a restaurant.
The food was not cheap, but the view over the coast was impressive. I could see that Ravello is like a natural balcony overhanging on the Amalfi coast. I relaxed in front of the silk-blue sea while drinking a glass of wine and eating a plate of salad.
Watch 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 construction of the church. The Arabic-inspired church has a combination of Baroque and Romanesque styles. Besides, its bell tower shows Moorish and Byzantine influence.
From the outside, it does not look so outstanding. But when you take a close look, it has several features. The central nave is supported by six spiraled columns sitting atop marble lions. The interior is made of sculpted white marble.
Another attraction is the two-room museum. It is accessible through a side entrance on the Via Richard Wagner. The collection of the museum features marble busts and slabs decorated with mosaics.
Restaurants and shops selling local products dominate the square in front of the cathedral. One snack bar is called “Klingsor, a memory of Richard Wagner as well. But the centre was not so appealing. We left the square after a short stay and went to Ravello’s neighbourhood.
Ravello’s hidden 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 the sight.
The street is narrow and only allows pedestrians to pass. Several restaurants, bars, and hotels are alongside the way. Cats were sleeping on the ground, on the wall, and at the corners. They were more than the countable tourists.
Soon, we came across Via Santa Chiara, a panoramic small pedestrian path leading to the other famous site, Villa Cimbrone. There was a farm that grew organic products. Surprisingly, I saw Loofah, a type of vegetable I ate in my childhood. At that time, my grandfather planted Loofah on 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 on that street.
Some streets have 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 Via Santissma Trinita meets Via S. Francesco and Via Dei Rufolo. From there, we came back to the square.
Where to stay
Other than Amalfi or Salerno, Ravello is also a perfect base to explore the Amalfi coast. All hotels are within walking distance from the centre.
Many international tourists tend to join a local tour group to visit the Amalfi coast. Some budget tours offer good values, such as Positano, Amalfi, and Ravello Tour on a Luxury Bus from Naples.
How to get there
- Take SITA buses from Salerno, Positano, or Sorrento and arrive at Amalfi. Then 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.