A day trip to Ravello
Day Trip in Ravello 4th of April 2012
From Naples to Ravello by Car
We set off to Ravello early in the morning, amidst traffic jams of commuters, which became less intense as we got further from Naples. We followed the road advised by locals, which rather than taking you all the way to Salerno and then back along the SS163, exits at Angri, and goes to Ravello through the Valico di Chiunzi, which allows you to fairly quickly cross the Monti Lattari Natural Resrve.
Furthermore this way is in a much nicer scenery of terraced lemon orchards, tomatoes fields, vineyards and then pine and elm woods.
Driving through this country landscape we also had the chance to get a glimpse of a rural and seasonal routine indeed many men were busy cutting and pruning trees, probably to make wood for winter, but also to get rid of dead woods, which in summer are a real threat, as they easily catch fire and can cause huge damages. As I was sort of lost in these thoughts, we reached Ravello, and the most noticeable factor was how the road suddenly becomes so much narrower, and drivers who are not familiar with it really start to struggle.
The difference between accustomed local drivers and newcomers is incredible, and if who is driving does not start to panic it can actually be very funny! The trick to survive is to keep still and let the more expert do the whole thing, especially if you have large SITA bus coming your way!
Once we managed to get to Ravello’s town centre, our first worry was where to leave the car for the day, without leaving all our money there too. The parking spaces just by Villa Rufolo on via della Repubblica indeed charge a very expensive 5euros p.h fee, to pay when you leave the car. As we wanted to spend the whole day in Ravello and did not know how long we would have stayed for, this option was not really suitable for us, plus it would have been the highest expense of the day. So we asked local taxi drivers for a more affordable and flexible parking space and they directed us towards an equally close public parking space, just below Piazza Duomo’s square. The lot was literally 20 steps away from the Duomo and Villa Rufolo, the fee only 2.50 p.h to be paid on the way out, allowing us to fully enjoy our day without stressing about parking!
The steps lead right onto Piazza Duomo square, where the atmosphere was really joyful and relaxed, with local and foreigner children running around while their parents enjoyed a bite at one of the bars, or just wondering around the little shops, or sitting on the Duomo staircase.
To tune in with the collective laid back feeling we went for a coffee and spent some time people watching, until Ravello’s atmosphere caught us, and all our stresses simply disappeared. Now we were ready to go to Villa Rufolo, where crowds of tourists from all over the world, were gathered in front waiting for their group leaders, or just looking at the information panels just outside the villa. As I had thoroughly documented myself on the Villa we skipped the lingering at the entrance, and went directly to purchase our tickets. Admission is 5 euros, with reductions for students with ISC cards only. Villa Rufolo is literally a concentrated capsule of beauty, energy and colours.
As soon as we stepped crossed the entrance below the tower, and made our way to the first courtyards, we were filled by a rush of happiness, and amazement, everywhere we looked there was something to be enthusiast about: the flowers, the architecture, the music in the background and of course the gorgeous view onto the Mediterranean.
I spent a good hour changing prospective onto the view, running from one terrace to the other, looking out the sea from the flower vases, from porches, from inside the roofed parts, spotting the sea from tiny windows, and catching glimpses of the belvedere from the columns inside and around the villa. I myself am not much of a flower expert, but I would imagine that any gardening lover could easily spend the whole day gasping with joy at each flower bed, flower arrangement, wisteria porches and so on! Personally I was very interested in Mitraj sculptures exhibition, around the villa, and I was quite amused by the building works, that were being carried out in and around the villa, in the most subtle way possible, to let tourists and sculptures enjoy their stay in the villa.
The fresh air, the wild and colorful nature and my general enthusiasm made us quite hungry very soon, so on our way out from the villa we decided to stop for a sandwich in the square at the Panino Bar. Here we enjoyed a very basic sandwich trying to mingle a bit with the other tourists and being quite amused by the teenage school groups that were slowly taking over all the bar chairs around one single table.
Once our appetite was satisfied we went into the Duomo, that overlooks the Piazza, in a very discreet yet majestic manner. And this subtle yet grand feature is precisely its most intriguing aspect. Being one of the few Churches of the Coast that was not affected by baroque trends, the Duomo kept a very authentic Moresque feeling. Simple architecture enriched by glowing mosaics on the two pulpits. Also one thing that really impressed me, which I hadn’t seen in churches for a long time, was to see real candles lit in front of religious icons and chapels, rather than those awful electric reusable fake candles that I usually see in all other churches.
Ravello’s Duomo does mirror the atmosphere of town, by being simple yet with some gorgeous details that really make the difference and make it special.
Our next visit was to Villa Cimbrone, which allowed us to have a nice walk through the east part of Ravello, going along narrow alleyways, with sudden gorgeous villas popping out unexpectedly all over the place.
There is a huge variety of them, more rural ones, more elegant ones, more fashionable ones, really to cater for all tastes, and I finally understood the extent of the wedding business in Ravello. Every shop and villa and really anyone working with tourists seems to kind of consider any two people together as possible newly weds....
As we approached Villa Cimbrone the road became narrower and more secluded, as to announce something great that I about to be disclosed, and that is Villa Cimbrone, With a big sign on the entrance tower, and crowds of amazed tourists, the villa is simply unmistakeable. Admission is 6 euros, which can seem quite a bit at first in comparison with other local attractions, but as soon as you step in the garden, you will be so mesmerised and fascinated by the wild games of trees and flowers that you will immediately forget any monetary reflections. Walking in Villa Cimbrone is like stepping into a fairytale garden, you could expect Alice to be chasing white rabbits at any corner, and at the same time you wouldn't be surprised to see gorgeous XIX ladies with long robes walking around the garden, discussion the gossips of the moment.
And when eventually you are faced with Bacchus statue, it all fits back into place, Villa Cimbrone is the place for luxurious enjoyment.
No other activity should be carried out on those premises. We spent I don't know how long on the Infinite Terrace, and really I could have set up a tent there, to wake up and see such marvellous view. The tour in Villa Cimbrone can really last forever, so it's very difficult to give any time frame, as the huge amounts of trees, flowers, statutes, views and so on can justify you staying there the whole day, especially if you are there with your loved ones, you might be very tempted to take a room in the gorgeous and prestigious Villa Cimbrone Hotel, at the entrance of the Villa.
As we could not afford the hotel, we took in as much as we could from Villa Cimbrone, and made our way back to the centre of town. This time we walked on the other route that from the main square leads to the Villa. Halfway to the square, I had sort of planned it I must admit, we bumped into a great limoncello shop, where as soon as we stepped in they offered us to try some delicious limoncello, which we bought immediately, together with a typical fennel liqueur called, finocchietto, one of the best I have ever tried. Very proud of our purchases, we returned to the square, where a few people had arrived in nice elegant dresses, obviously going to one of the many concerts organised in the Niemeyer Auditorium. The sun was just starting to set, and in this late afternoon atmosphere we went to explore the opposite part of town, up towards the Principessa di Piemonte belvedere, where the city hall is found as well as some of the poshest hotels of Ravello. This part is very secluded and intimate, and it was really the perfect location where to take one last photo and say goodbye to the marvellous Ravello.
The trip back was fine, also because we managed to cross the Valico di Chiunzi, when there was still some sunshine, had it been later, it could have been quite tricky as there is virtually no street lighting along this very winding road.
The down aspect of going away around 19.30 is that inevitably we caught some traffic in Angri and then again going into Naples.
However Ravello had filled our eyes with so many beautiful views, and relaxing atmosphere, that we didn't even realise we spent at least 20 mins stuck in traffic jams!