The Secret Soul of Southern Italy

Of all the places around Naples, I like Ravello the best.  Sorrento is marvelous.  Positano is improbable.  Capri can take your breath away.  But Ravello sneaks up on you, beguiles you, and steals your heart. 

The "Money Shot" of Ravello   

What is it about Ravello?  Well, the town is small and improbably situated.  The only way to reach Ravello is over the mountainous spine of the Sorrento peninsula, or to climb 7 km of the most unlikely of roads from the town of Amalfi.  The entire town is built on a promontory overlooking the Amalfi coast.  At the edge of the promontory one can see the cars far below you, shuffling back and forth along the Amalfi coast highway.  They remind you of what you have left behind.

Above and around you are the high mountains forming the spine of the Sorrento peninsula.  The hills have been terraced over the centuries; each retaining wall speaks of the centuries of labor and indomitable spirit required to make Ravello habitable.  The hills remain so difficult to farm that donkeys are still the main means of transportation. 

View of Ravello from the back of St. Francis Cathedral

What I notice in most Italian cities is the noise of the cars and the always present scooters.  In Ravello I noticed the quiet.  Everyone walks everywhere.  The town is small enough that being without a car is not a burden, but large enough to hide delights around each new corner.  If you rush things you can see all the major sites in a day, but we decided to relax, take things as they came, and save some sights for another day.  It's that kind of place, a place you know you'll come back to again and again.

So, what is there to see in Ravello?  Once you arrive in the main Piazza, look to your right.  There you will see , the recently renovated medieval church. 

Ravello_Cathedral.jpg (15772 bytes)    Duomo1.jpg (38936 bytes)   

To your left you will see the famous Villa Rufolo.  Pay a few euro, visit the villa, and tour the grounds.  The Villa Rufulo has some spectacular scenery, including the most famous view in Ravello, (found at the top of this page.)  Looking at the picture below, you can see almost exactly where the "money shot" is taken.  The Villa Rufolo is also the home of a famous concert series.  Only the chamber music and recitals are listed---call them to find out about their Philharmonic Concert series that takes place over the summer months.

Famous gardens of Villa Rufolo

Then pass by the ceramic shops and continue up the hill until you come to the church of San Francesco, (Saint Francis of Assisi.)  Following the walkways you will come to Villa Cimbrone, a renovated villa with spectacular gardens perched on the edge of the promontory.  This cost about 5,00 to enter, (in 2003,) but is well worth it.  The view from the edge promontory is breathtaking.  Don't go near it if you are at all afraid of heights.

Villa Cimbrone1.jpg (61012 bytes)                   Statue X.jpg (65926 bytes)

Click here for another perspective on Ravello.

Last edited on December 31, 2005