South Coast of Salerno,
Lago Trasimeno street
Salerno - Italy
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Famous for its tranquil and serene atmosphere, Ravello offers architectural gems of rare elegance. The 11th
century Duomo, dedicated to San Pantaleone, is rich with artistic treasures like the grand bronze central door
adorned with 54 panels. To the right of the Cathedral a square tower marks the entrance to Villa Rufolo.
Immersed in a verdant park of exotic and mediterranean flora, the original structure dates back to the 13th century; and even today some of its arab-sicilian architecture is evident. The polychromatic arabesque colonnade is splendid. The garden is one of the most beautiful in Campania.
Nature and men’s touch compete to create a highly evocative atmosphere: villas lined by limes trees and cypresses, cascades of flowers. From the belvedere the sea seems infinite. Each summer, in the gardens of the villa, the concerts of the Ravello Festival are held. Wagner’s inspiration for the Klingsor Garden , in his opera Parsifal, came from the gardens of Villa Rufolo.
Villa Cimbrone was, originally, a simple hut. It was bought in 1904 by Ernest William Beckett who transformed into an exceptionally fascinating Villa. It has hosted many celebrated personalities, from Winston Churchill to Greta Garbo.
There is a very special feeling in the cloister of the villa, still showing elements of the ancient arab-sicilian style it was built in.
The belvedere is a terrace that gives on to infinity, and has no equal in this world.
San Giovanni del Toro and Santa Maria a Gradillo churches, both built in the 12th century, also merit a visit. The San Giovanni del Toro church has a pulpit rich in mosaic decorations.
The Coral Museum, which exhibits coral, cameos, decorated mother-of-pearl and shells from Roman times to the 1900’s, is also interesting. Scala is close to Ravello, one of the most picturesque site of the coast. Its Cathedral has a wooden Deposition from the Cross dating back to the 1200’s.
A charming seaside village, Minori, with its little pink houses over the beach, also offers splendid scenery. For its lovely position along the coast, it was where the ancient Romans dedicated themselves to relax, as witnessed by the many ruins, amongst which the Villa Romana, from the 1st century BC, a 2,500 sq mt archaeological complex containing a viridarium (garden), a nymphaeum-triclinium, and the splendid mosaics. At the Antiquarium Museum there are relics dating back to the 1st century BC.
In the centre of the village, near to the little port, is the Basilica di Santa Trofimena, patron of the city, built in the 12th century. Many others little churches and towers dot the area.
With its long beach and lovely shoreline, Maiori boasts the best hotels of the area. Ruins of castles and towers give testimony to its medieval splendour, when it was encircled and defended by walls and fortifications. The church of Santa Maria a Mare dominates the town and every year on August 15 festivities commemorate an event dating to 1204, when fishermen pulled a statue of the Virgin from the water after it had been dumped by a boat from Costantinople that was in trouble and had sought refuge in the Maiori bay during a tempest.
On the main altar there is a wooden sculpture of the Madonna and Child and a collection of art is cared for in the Sacristy Museum and the crypt below it.
The popular sanctuary dedicated to the Madonna delle Grazie has medieval origins, but was restructured in the 1700’s.
The unusual stone complex of Santa Maria Olearia, a benedictan abbey built around the year 1000 is worth a visit. In the buildings that hug the rock cliff, in one of the natural grottoes of the area, there are halls, chapels and small frescoed porticos.
A boat trip will take you for a visit to the Grotta Sulfurea and the Grotta Pandora. The first one is rich in sulfuric-magnesic water with therapeutic properties; in the second one the emerald-green scene, the stalactites and stalagmites create an unforgettable scenario.
Also around Minori one can find many signs of the past, a lovely seaside resort as well as a grand Roman villa.
A few kilometres from Maiori is Erchie, with a tower on a boulder which separates the two beaches. The benedictine monastery Santa Maria di Erchie, founded in 980 and destroyed in 1451, gave this place its name. This small village with the characteristically white houses, the delightful beaches and the crystaline sea is ideal for a moment of relax in contact with nature.
Just before Vietri is Cetara. This has always been a fisherman’s village and its name comes from the latin word “cetaria” or tuna fishing net. This village with its picturesque white architecture and its intimate beach is one of the jewels of the coast. In between the little square houses the church of San Pietro stands out with its majolica cupola and its bell tower from the 13th century.
At the base of the Amalfi Coast, on the side facing the Gulf of Salerno, Vietri sul Mare dominates from the small Valle di Bonea above, erected on the bastions of limestone and sloping down to the coast. With its small churches , their majolica-covered domes, and the small tile-covered houses, Vietri seems suspended between heaven and earth. In ancient times the town was Etruscan, but it was later dominated by the Samnites, the Lucanians and finally by the Romans. The church of San Giovanni Battista (St John the Baptist), dating to the 17th century, with its majestic dome and high bell tower, is located at the highest point of the old centre of town. The ceramics industry, for which Vietri is world famous, was already a booming business in the Middle Ages. Over the centuries artisans and artists have created prized works, a part of which can be admired in the Ceramics Museum , which is located in the belvedere-tower of the Villa Guariglia in Raito.
Villa Cimbrone is renowned for its exciting lookout terrace: Gore Vidal, the famous American writer and honorary citizen of Ravello, says it is the most beautiful panorama in the world. This villa had been bought in 1904 by Ernest William Beckett who in 15 years, with the help of local authorities, transformed it into a museum with both ancient and modern pieces of art. Among the most famous guests if his villa we cite: David Herbert Lawrence (author of the novel "Lady Chatterley's Lover") and Greta Garbo, during her elopement with Leopold Stokowski, as remembered by a marble inscription at the beginning of the path. In the garden, near the lookout terrace there are: a bronze statue of Mercury, the tea pavillon, several marbles and statues. Going on, there are the Eve's Grotto and the Baccus' Temple, where are the mortal remains of Lord Beckett.
Villa Rufolo was initially owned by some local noble family: the Rufolo, the Confalone, the Muscettola and The D'Afflitto. Finally it was bought by the Scottish Francis Neville Reid, who called to restructure it Michele Ruggiero, who after became the director of Pompeii Ruins. In 1975 it has passed under the control of the Provincial Office for Tourism of Salerno. Since 1953 in the garden of Villa Rufolo, which inspired Wagner for the magic garden of Klingsor in the 2nd act of the music drama Parsifal, is hosted a prestigious music festival, held each year in the first half of July. For the occasion it is active a service of buses joining all hotels on the Amalfi Coast.
At the town entrance we find the Romanic church of Santa Maria a Gradillo (12th century) where it was the noble parliament of Ravello. After the Arch of the Castle (a fortified palace form 13th century) we arrive in the large Piazza Vescovado (Bishop's Square) with its imposing pinewood. At the end of the square there is the wonderful cathedral of San Pantaleone built in 1087 by the noble family Rufolo. And also: the Confalone Palace of the 13th century, with a beautiful courtyard with point arches; the Town Hall, in the former Palace Di Tolla of the 11th century; the lookout terrace of the Princess of Piedmont, which overhangs the coast between Minori and Capo d'Orso.
Among the suggestive entanglement of narrow streets in the centre of Ravello we find also: the church of San Giovanni del Toro (St.John of the Taurus) with its pulpit covered with mosaic by Alfano da Termoli; the convent of San Francesco (St.Francis) built in the 13th century with its cloister and seat of a library; Piazza Fontana Moresca (Saracen Fountain Square). Unique and extraordianary is the Museum of the Coral: it has been founded in 1986 and collects coral manufats from the Roman Age up to the last century: and also cameos, inlaid pearl works, shells, all done in the centuries by the local craftsmen.
Other than Boccaccio (who in the Decameron spoke about the natural and artistic beauties of Ravello, giving evidence of the magic of this place) and Wagner, many artists have been inspired by this extraordinary atmosphere, especially during Romanticism. For example in 1819 the great English painter William Turner came here during his journey to Italy and his drawings of places in the Amalfi Coast are exhibited in the Tate Gallery in London. Today Ravello is also seat of the Europen University Centre for the Arts and Culture.
Villa Rufolo is very ancient, it was built approximately in 1280 by the ho-monymous family, one of the richest and most important families in Ravello. Even though it has been rearranged, the building still completely expresses an interesting Arabian-Norman style. Through a luxuriant garden, which is steeper and wilder than the well-arranged and elegant gardens of Villa Cimbrone, we arrive at roof-gardens hanging over the sea. Here, every year Wagner's concerts are celebrated as a memento of Richard Wagner's stay.
Apart from the musical quality, that is exceptional, the audience is enchanted to see the orchestra that plays as if it were suspended half-way up on a uniformly blue setting, represented by sky and sea.
This is the so-called Klingsor's Tower, traditionally named this way as memento of Richard Wagner's visit to Ravello. In fact it was Villa Rufolo's splendid gardens that inspired the very famous Klingsor's garden which
played a great role in the German culture and imagination in the twentieth century. As matter of fact, subsequently Mann, Hess and other writers will refer to it.
The architectonic pattern of arches is very much present on the Coast and above all in Ravello. We have both lancet arches with three-lobed columns in the Arabian tradition, or arches with a short curve, of Byzantine or going further back, of Roman origin.
However, there are elements that are present in almost all the monuments of Ravello's glorious and rich past. On the other hand even in nature, due to wind and sea erosion, this architectonic element is present: along the entire Coast there are, in fact, many natural arches both along coasts and inside steep gorges.
We cannot but visit the already-quoted Villa Cimbrone. It was built in the twentieth century and was commissioned by the English nobleman William Bechett. This villa imitates classicized and medieval styles and forms. Its celebrity is due to the already-quoted "Terrace of infinity", that is really one of the most charming places on the Coast. But the beauty of the Villa consists in its gardens, decorated by statues, busts and marble groups, among them we have to remember the temple in Doric style with the marble statue of Cerere; Bacchus's temple, with a bronze sculptural group and a reproduction of David by Vernocchio. In the cloister, just on the left of the entrance, there is a bas-relief reproducing the seven deadly sins.
...it is like one of those cities in the Holy Land , disputed between Rome and the Islam with the iron of man , then is the style of the stone : silent
solemn, with a thousand year old soul which inspires awe …which narrates ..
When you get to the tunnel turn right and carry on until you reach the church , here turn right again and keep going until you get to the car park. Return to the roadway by foot and go towards the church of Santa Maria a Gradillo which , because of an ancient privilege of Ravello , was the church in which the Dukes of Amalfi used to be queathed their Dukedom . Upon leaving the building turn left and carry on until you reach the roadway. As you walk you will come across the church of Sant’Angelo
Dell’Ospedale which is home to a 3rd Century pulpit and a painting of the Madonna with Child and then the 18th Century fountain in the piazza that bears the same name as the church.
At the far end of the piazza, Via Lacco leads to the ancient city gate , to the church of Santa Maria del Lacco and then to the Monte neighbourhood where you will find the church of San Martino ( St Martin ) Vescovo . Via
Santa Margherita ( to the right of the Hotel Parsifal ), on the other hand , is where you will find the D’Affitto Mansion ( now a Hotel ) , whose portal comes from the Basilica of Sant’Eustachio in Pontone , and the church of San Giovanni del Toro founded in 975 and later restored in the 13th Century , it is home to a mosaic decorated pulpit, work of Alfonso da Termoli which dates back to the end of the 12th Century and, in the crypt , to some 4th Century frescoes which depict Christ surrounded by angels Saints and evangelist symbols .
After leaving the church the road leads pasta number of medieval buildings which have been transformed into hotels. Here follows the Belvedere Principessa di Piemonte ( Princess of Piemonte’s lookout ) and the Casa di Tolla , the town hall. When you get to the crossroad, turn right onto Via Riccardo Wagner , which leads to Piazza Duomo . Originally Ravello was known as Toro , it was not only the seat of the nobility but was also the cradle of the opposition in the heart of the Amalfitan alliance
a role which carried a substantial amount of political and commercial autonomy and therefore caused it to develop a strong presence along the coast of Calabria , Sicily and Puglia . It became incredibly wealthy …
a cost looking out over the sea , full of gardens and fountains, of rich and
astute merchants …
( Boccaccio : Decameron , fourth novella of the second day ), and ever more independent , in 1096 it did not hesitate in siding with “ The Guiscardo” , in opposition to the Amalfitans who had rebelled against the
Norman King . Overpowered , the rebels were harshly punished , Toro , by that time known as Rebello, on the other hand , was lavishly rewarded by the king and earned a number of privileges , amongst other the Episcopal seat . Its fortunes continued under the rule of the Angioini who granted privileges and guarantees to the people of Ravello so that in their gardens they could continue producing the rose water which was so well appreciated in the French Courts .
Successively , the conflict between the Angioini and the Aragonese and also between the opposing internal hamlets ( Angiò and Durazzo ) , caused the village to engage in the most ruthless feuds , which determined its political self-destruction . And therefore the Nobile families abandoned their land and moved to Naples and Puglia , hereby allowing the darknees and the oblivion to envelope its glorious stones until the first half of the 19th Century , where the great Romantic travellers restored them to their former charm and international renown . precious Byzantine influenced mosaics.
Duomo di Ravello
( Cathedral of Ravello ) , Built in 1087on request of Rufolo family its has magnificent bronze doors , shinning with cooper and decorated with 54 panels depicting saints and scenes of the Passion of Chist Barisano da Trani invented the technique of embossment for their creation ( until that moment the technique of inlay had been used to work with metals) a technique that was replicated on the doors of the Duomo of Trani and the Cathedral of Monreal in Palermo . The inside is formed by three naves divided by eight pairs of columns ; originally it was entirely decorated with frescoes , as the few surviving fragments of the contra facade demonstrate .
The right hand nave is home to a 4th Century sarcophagus and the polyptych of San Michele ( St. Michael painted in water colour in 1583 by Giovan Antonio d’Amato . In the central nave there are two very precious ambones ( raised stands ); to the left is that of the Epistle , datable between the 11th and the first half of the 12th Century , it is beautifully decorated with precious Byzantine influenced mosaics which depict two peacocks and the prophet Giona being swallowed by the whale , that of the Gospel , on the other side , dates back to 1272 and is the work of Nicolò di Bartolomeo of Foggia . There couples of lions support mosaic decorated twisted columns, upon which stands a cage , this too is mosaic decorated , over which towers the eagle of Svevia . At the far end of the left hand nave in the chapel of San Pantaleone , you will find an ampoule containing the blood of the saint .
About halfway down the nave is entrance to the Chatedral’s museum .
It occupies two floors ., on the first floor are cinerary urns columns and findings from the Roman era , on the lower floor are holy vestments , fragments of works that have been destroyed , the bust of Santa Barbara , a silver reliquary that holds the head of the saint and lastly the bust of the noble lady Sigilgaida Rufolo, an object of rare beauty , this too is the work of Niccolò da Foggia … Lastly , the sacristy is home to a 14th Century plate depicting the Madonna Vetrana , a San Sebastiano and a Santa Maria
Maddalena which is the work of Criscuolo from the half of the 16th Century . Upon leaving the Cathedral turn left in the direction of the square tower which acts as the entrance .
Built in the second half of the 13th Century by the Rufolo family , where they left Ravello it was left in a state of abandonment until 1881, when it was bought by the Scotsman Francis Neville Reid who gradually restored it to its ancient splendour.
The vestibule of the tower is decorated with little bows entwined with nature motives and adorned with statues depicting “Charity “ and “ Hospitality”, virtues assiduously practised by the Rufolo” .
A tree lined street leads to this distinguished building and to the main tower . To the right is the cloister in Arabic – Sicilian style and futher on the gardens.. enchanting and wonderful place .. where Richard Wagner , on 26 may 1880, imagined .. the magic Garden of Kingsor , where he set the second act of Parsifal . From July to October the villa is the backdrop to Ravello Festival .
Upon leaving Villa Rufolo , turn left and after passing the arch on the right turn onto Via San Francesco which leads to both the like named convent and the church of San Francesco da Assisi ( St. Francis of Assisi). The convent was founded in 1222 by San Francesco who arrived in Ravello following upon his stay in Amalfi , where he had already founded that which is now the Hotel Luna . Kept in the church is the body of the blessed Bonaventura of Potenza and a marble sarcophagus which dates back to the 3rd century . On leaving the convent carry on up hill and then turn left at the next crossroad, onto Via Santa Chiara , keep going until you reach
Villa Cimbrone Hotel
This history of this villa is tied to the meeting between Nicola Mansi , a Tailor from Ravello who had migrated to England , and Lord Ernest William Beckett . The noble man, after hearing from Mansi that the most panoramic spot in Ravello was falling into a state of utter ruin , decided to came and see it, at which point he succumbed to its beauty , bought it and moved there . With the help of Mansi and the local workers he transformed that spot into a marvellous villa which stupefies the visitor with its unique beauty and the variety of its furnishing .
As soon you enter you will find the cloister and the crypt to the left . After which the “Viale dell’immenso “leads to the “Tempietto di Cerere “and to
the “Terrazza sull’infinito” ( The Terrace over Infinity) : leaning out over this balcony you have the sensation of vertigo , but when you eye makes
contact is where you feel that you no longer wish to step back from the endless contemplation .
the ideal rout will take you in succession to “Poggio di Mercurio” (Mercury’s Moundi), the “Tempietto di Bacco “ ( Temple of Bacchus) , the “Grotta di Eva “( Eve’s Grotto ) and the “Giardini delle Rose ( Rose Gardens) which bring you back to the entrance . Upon leaving the villa go back to the monastery of Santa Chiara , here you turn left and follow Via dei Fusco until the roadway , Via della Repubblica . If you wish to continue by going to the right you will reach the sanctuary of the Saints Cosma and Damiano . If . on the other hand , you turn left, you should follow the road back up –hill until the church of Santa Maria delle Grazie , here you turn right onto Via San Pietro a Costa . After passing the church of San Pietro turn left at the end of the roadway and follow the steps which lead to Torello, a magnificent medieval hamlet which rises around the church of San Michele Arcangelo. The wonderfully panoramic steps of Via Torello lead to Minori…
Not to be missed is the feast of Torello on 20 September , Beautiful luminaries , set out around the houses , provide the little hamlet with a fairytale atmosphere , which in turn is the backdrop to an evocative pyrotechnical display which alternates between fountains of light and classical music.
Go back the way you came and upon reaching the roadway take the flight of steps .
Village of Pontone ( Scala , ss 373)
On the internal side of the road which lead you back up to the main road , ss 373 ( the street comes from the coast , skirts Ravello through the tunnel and continues towards Tramonti and the Valico di Chiunzi ) . At this point turn left onto Via Giovanni Boccaccio which leads you back towards Piazza Duomo .
The steps on the outside of the piazza lead to the car park . Once back in your car leave Ravello by Following the road down hill for roughly a couple of kilometres , turn right at the first crossroad and keep going until you get to a little car park. Leave you car here and take the steps to the right which will take you to the Piazza San Giovanni , in the heart of Pontone.
A commercial and artisan centre , famous for the production of woollen cloth , in medieval times Pontone was appreciated by the clergy and the nobility for its wonderful position and the peace which even nowadays governs the area . Numerous aristocratic building and three bell towers dominate the little village , the first to the right is the bell tower of the church of San Giovanni Battista
( St. John the Baptist ) Founded in the 12th Century but renovated more than once, the column which is embedded in the facade guaranteed the protection of the Church in medieval time, and therefore impunity from the empire , to those who sought refuge in its shadow.
Another peculiarity of this church , as with all of the other churches of Pontone , is the “peacocks tail” plasters which are visible at the base of its vaults. Within you will find numerous paintings , amongst which a beautiful Circumcision by Aniello Iannicelli (1590) take first place , Filippo Spina’s tomb stone ( 1346) , and , behind the high altar , an impressive screen decorated with Episodes of the life of San Giovanni and a beautiful statue of the Saint .
The steps in front of the church lead to the Casa Vescovile ( Episcopal House ) and to the church of San Filippo Neri. Built in the 10th Century and later renovated in the Baroque period , within you will find a plaster Crucifix which dates back to the 14th Century . If you were to keep climbing you would reach Minuta , instead by turning back and taking a right onto Via Noce you will reach Palazzo Campanile and Casa (Verone Mansion ) , with facades inlayed with black and yellow tuff ( volcanic rock) A little further on you cross Via Fritto which leads to the ancient towered houses. Carrying on along Via Noce in succession you will come across ; the ancient city gate , the agricultural area of Pestrofa and , after about an hour’s walk the Valle delle Ferrerie ( Ironworks ‘Valley), the road comes out near the hydropower station.
From the Piazza San Giovanni pass under the bell tower then continue to the right until you get to the roadway . On the other side of the road the steps of Via Torre lead to the church of Santa Maria del Carmine .
Of Romantic foundations , later renovated in the Baroque period , this church represents the only example along the coast of a portico covered by vaults . After passing the church the road leads to the Tower of the Ziro and the ruins of the Castello di Scalelle ( Scalelle Castle), and then converges with the flight of steps which leads to Amalfi . The Scalelle Castle indicated the lower limit of the fortifications of Scala , which was protected to the north by the Castello dell’infratta or “ Scala Grande”on Monte Castello .
Torre dello Ziro
( Tower of the Ziro ) The period of its construction and the origins of its name are unknown , but in the era of the grand Tour this palace became the target of a true and proper pilgrimage for foreign writer and artists who had heart of it thought literature.
Upon leaving Pontone continue down hill and once you get back to the “bivio di Castiglione “ go to the left. Pass Marmorata , one ,of Ravello’s hamlets , and after a series of curves you enter Minori…
Founded in the 6" century, its history is strictly linked to that of the Sea Republic of Amalfi. It is the birthplace of the blessed Gerardo de Saxo, who founded the order of the Knights Hospitallers, the present Sovereign Military Order of the Knights of Malta.