Paradise Lost, Paradise Found

What is that we always complain about? What is that makes our nights sleepless, our working days infinite, our worries bigger and heavier? Life is becoming faster, crazier, more and more stressful. And it costs us ever more energy to keep the pace …

‘Where’s that?’ – a suntanned fisherman from the Amalfi coast in Italy would ask, with his eyes fixing you suspiciously.

‘Not in Ravello, for sure!’ – he would answer himself with a cheerful laughter.

Strange may it seem to us, big cities’ residents and commuters, but such places do exist. The places where any stress is scorned, where life runs slowly, at the pace of a human being, where there is time to breathe in some sea breeze, to have a meal with your family, to laugh for no reason and be happy just because you are alive.

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Among the numerous jewels of this world, in constant search of the lost paradise, the eyes of a curious traveller should certainly be set on Ravello. At a half an hour distance from the noble Naples, this flower of the Mediterranean, enclosed within the splendid frame of the Amalfi coast and suspended between the blue of the sky and the turquoise of the sea, is the paradise of colours, smells and senses.

Ravello, a true inspiration for many, including many of the great, such as Richard Wagner and David Herbert Lawrence, to mention a few, is a treasure all to discover.

The two main beauties of the place, apart from the amazing natural scenography itself, are the Ravello’s villas – Villa Rufolo and Villa Cimbrone (the latter hosts a fabulous 5-star hotel and the gardens that can be accessed independently).

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Once in Ravello, you’ll find yourselves on its main square hosting the city’s cathedral. To its right – the walls and the entrance tower of Villa Rufolo appear. The villa was created and owned for a long period of time by the influential Rufolo family, while the revival of its decayed grace at the turn of the 20th century was due to the work of the Scottish industrialist Francis Nevile Reid. The uniqueness of the place is made up by the charming beauty of its gardens and a subtle and well-balanced mixture of Moorish, Norman and Gothic architecture, the influence of Romanticism and the natural splendour of the Mediterranean. The terrace gardens dominating the limitless horizon of the sea take one’s breath away, producing exactly the effect it had on such prominent minds and hearts as those of Boccaccio or Jaqueline Kennedy.

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After the visit to Villa Rufolo, keep on climbing the hill till you see the gateway leading to the famous gardens of Villa Cimbrone, a place conceived to enjoy a pleasant walk among the nature and inside the history.

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This very special location is the perfect example of the important imprint left by the Anglo-Saxon culture in the Mediterranean.

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‘Cimbronium’, a vast plot of land covered by rich vegetation and fertile soils and overlooking the sea, was known already to the Romans. Once abandoned and forgotten, the place found its new life and glory thanks to the English traveller Ernest William Beckett, Lord Grimthorpe. The beauty of Ravello helped the prominent man to overcome the loss of this young beloved wife and the depression that followed. The Lord paid his due to ‘the most beautiful place in the world’ by means of his unlimited admiration that trasformed the uncut diamond of Ravello into the most splendid jewel.

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The gardens of Villa Cimbrone are a harmonious union of the English traditional landscape design with that Italian, a marriage of local and exotic plants, a twine of numerous fountains, small temples and statues, becoming a modern interpretation of a Roman villa.

One of the most divine views in the world opens from the Terrace of Infinity, a true symbol of Ravello, a natural balcony decorated by marble busts and filled by that amazing sunlight reflected by the limpid waters of the sea.

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Some tips on visiting Ravello:

1. If you are looking for a perfect place for meditation and relax, think no more, choose to stay directly in Ravello and enjoy the calm and even life of its summer.

2. From here it is possible to reach some other Amalfi coast locations on foot (the towns of Minori and Maiori, for exapmle). It’s quite a hike, though!

3. If Ravello seems too expensive, you could stay in Naples, for example, hire a car and come here for a day. One day is more than enough to fall in love with Ravello!

4. Ravello offers several toll parking lots with some clear indications helping to find them.

5. There are two roads leading to Ravello from Naples.

  • One of them is in the mountains (via Valico di Chiunzi): take the Napoli-Pompei-Salerno highway till Angri Sud. Leave the highway at Angri Sud e follow the indications “Valico di Chiunzi” and “Costiera amalfitana” till you reach Ravello. This way is shorter and has less traffic, but the road is narrow, with very bad asphalt at some points and the danger of occasional  landslides.
  • The other road runs along the coast: take the Napoli-Pompei-Salerno highway till Vietri sul mare. Leave the highway at Vietri sul mare e follow the indications “Costiera amalfitana” and “Ravello” till you reach the latter. This road is a serpentine between the rocks and the sea, very narrow, with some heavy traffic especially in summer and on weekends, but it offers some unforgettable, simply stunning views. Great to enjoy in a cabriolet and when you are not in a hurry!

6. Ravello is famous for its ceramics. As they say in Italy, there’s an ’embarrassment of choice’ of it here in the city.

7. Try some limoncello, an alcoholic liquor with great digestive qualities typical of the whole area and made of some amazing local lemons.

8. Music lovers, before planning your trip to Ravello, check the program of its renowned Music festival, maybe you’ll have a chance to enjoy some wonderful music in this amazing natural concert hall.

9. Ravello is one of the diamonds in the crown of the Amalfi coast. Do not miss the others, either (Amalfi, Positano, Sorrento just to mention a few)!

10. Watch out! There’s some amazing food everywhere! The whole area is one immense culinary tradition. Postpone any eventual diet and throw away any worry or concern, just enjoy every flavour, every smell. Here the culture of ‘buona tavola’ (good meal) makes part of the game.

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Some say the paradise is lost. Those who saw Ravello know to have found it. Think no more, go and see it with your own eyes!

Photo credit: Machs Gut ©.

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