“An Artistic Refuge”
Located 350 meters above the sea at the top of the Dargone Valley, Ravello’s stunning scenic beauty has long made it a popular tourist destination. Founded by the Roman aristocracy in the 5th century as a shelter against the barbarian invasions that marked the end of the Western Roman Empire, it soon became a very wealthy and powerful town between the 10th and 13th centuries. Like Amalfi, Ravello owed its prosperity to extensive commerce throughout the Mediterranean, particularly with regard to its strong textile industry.
The fall of Ravello’s wealth and influence came with Ruggero II and the Normanni domination. This was furthered by the Pisani invasion in 1337, which deprived the entire Amalfi Coast of its independence and political power. Now home to approx. 2,500 inhabitants, it earned a listing as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1996.
Its stunning views and powerful atmosphere have made it a favorite respite and inspiration over the years for artists, musicians, and writers alike, including composers Wagner, Grieg, and Bernstein, conductor Toscanini, painters Escher, Turner, and Miró, and literary legends Truman Capote, Tennessee Williams, and Virginia Wolf, to name a few. It is currently home to one of the longest running music festivals in the world. The Ravello Music Festival was founded in 1953 by the Ravello Concert Society to celebrate Richard Wagner, who composed his opera Parisfal while visiting the gardens of the Villa Rufolo, recording in the hotel guest book that the “magic garden of Klingsor has been found.”
NOTABLE “MUST-SEE” SITES
• The "Duomo" - Erected in 1086, it dominates the Piazza del Vescovado with its splendid, triple-arched marble portal and magnificent bronze door created in 1179 by Parisano da Trani. The cathedral's museum houses the splendid marble bust of Sigligaida Rufolo, widely considered to be one of the most beautiful works of 13th century art.
• Villa Rufolo - Constructed in the latter half of the 13th century by the powerful Rufolo family, both Moorish and Norman influences can be seen in the staggering towers and cloisters. The magnificent cliff edge terrace, perched directly above the sea, is the venue for Ravello's annual Wagner Festival.
• Villa Cimbrone – Purchased and remodeled by Lord William Beckett in 1904, this beautiful architectural phenomenon is an eclectic mix of styles and eras, archeological relics and souvenirs of Beckett’s own extensive travels. The luxuriant garden is filled with decorative elements including fountains, small temples, pavilions, statues, and paths which culminate in the “Terrace of the Infinite," known as one of the most beautiful views in the whole world.
• Oscar Niemeyer Auditorium - A controversial international design legend, it is a powerful work of modern architecture whose 400-seat amphitheater has been likened to a “sheet of white paper blowing in the wind.”