Serene and charming, even during the busy summer months, Ravello is perfect for a quiet getaway on the Amalfi Coast. Located about an hour south of Naples, it also makes an excellent base for exploring the best spots in Campania, such as the archaeological ruins at Pompeii, the amazing Greek temples at Paestum and the island of Capri.
The town of Ravello sits atop a promontory commanding incredible views of the Amalfi Coast and the Bay of Salerno. While this rugged coastline is usually associated with seaside villages, Ravello’s unique position, perched high in the mountains, offers a different atmosphere – and outstanding views! The heart of town is the Piazza Duomo surrounded by cafés and with a terrace overlooking the neighboring town of Scala across the valley. Locals go about their shopping and stop to chat with friends while the young kids take advantage of the open space to kick the soccer ball around or learn how to ride their bikes. It is a peaceful setting – elegant and familiar at the same time.
The visual centerpiece of the Piazza Duomo is the town's Cathedral dedicated to San Pantaleone, the patron saint of Ravello. Don’t let its simple white façade trick you into thinking that it’s not worth stepping inside. Ravello was a wealthy and prominent town in the Republic of Amalfi in the Middle Ages and was home to many important merchant families. The Duomo, as the church is called, is a wonderful place to begin your visit in Ravello. Walk up the short staircase and look at the bronze doors. They were created by Barisano da Trani in 1179 and cast in Constantinople before making the long voyage back to Ravello. The 54 panels on the doors depict scenes from the Passion and saints.
Inside, the nave of the church has been restored to reveal some of its medieval appearance, including ancient columns supporting the arches running down both sides of the central nave. On either side are two magnificent works of art from the Middle Ages. On the right is a Pergamo created by Niccolò da Foggia in 1272, which is covered with beautiful mosaics and supported by six spiral columns sitting atop marble lions. Opposite is an Ambone dating from c. 1130 with mosaic decorations showing Jonah and the Whale. To the left of the main altar is a chapel dedicated to San Pantaleone. Here a vial of the saint’s blood is held, which liquefies on May 19 and August 27, the important religious festivals for San Pantaleone in Ravello.
Just across the piazza from the Duomo a medieval tower marks the entrance to the Villa Rufolo. This large estate was built in the 13th century for the wealthy Rufolo family. Although changed many times over the centuries, the villa and beautiful gardens offer a wonderful glimpse back to the medieval splendor of Ravello. Walking through the gardens, you’ll spot Arab-style architectural influences, especially the decorative black and white interlacing arches in the peaceful courtyard.
The views are what most people come for, and they are simply stunning from the garden terraces at the Villa Rufolo. Walking through the gardens, think back to 1880 when the German composer Richard Wagner walked along the same pathways and was so struck by their beauty that they inspired the Magical Gardens of Klingsor in his opera Parsifal. The sublime and tranquil charm of Ravello has inspired countless artists, writers and poets over the centuries.
Located at the tip of Ravello’s promontory is the Villa Cimbrone, a large estate with peaceful gardens and extraordinary views looking out over the Amalfi Coast and Bay of Salerno. Walk all the way to the end of the garden where you’ll find the Terrace of Infinity – the perfect spot on the Amalfi Coast for photographers, dreamers and lovers. If you haven’t already fallen in love with Ravello, this is where it will happen.
Other Photo Credits: Laura Thayer