Villa Rufolo in Ravello
Just over 15 kilometres from our boutique hotel is Villa Rufolo, the jewel in the crown of the extraordinary architectural and historical heritage of the Amalfi Coast. The prestigious complex, located in the historic centre of Ravello, has enchanted poets, writers, artists and musicians. The famous German composer Richard Wagner found inspiration here for his last and perhaps greatest opera, Parsifal.
The villa, whose initial layout dates back to the 13th century, is composed of a vast complex of structures dating back to different periods and styles. It is named after the wealthy Rufolo family, who were its first owners and for over two centuries were the symbol of Ravello’s economic and political power. After the Rufolo family fell into ruin, the villa passed in succession to other important families. It belonged to the Confalone, Muscettola and D’Afflitto di Scala families and, after a period of disastrous neglect, was purchased in the 19th century by the Scottish botanical expert Francis Neville Reid, who had it completely restored, giving it the enchanting appearance we can admire today. The villa is currently managed by the Ravello Foundation.
The tour of the complex starts from the entrance tower, which directly overlooks Piazza Duomo. The structure, restored in 2012, is surmounted by a dome decorated with interlaced arches. Once inside, continue along the tree-lined avenue to reach the beautiful Moorish Courtyard or Cloister, which features a double order of columns with Arab-Sicilian decorations. Leaving the cloister, a flight of steps leads to the mighty Major Tower, one of the oldest parts of the complex. From the top of the tower, thirty metres high, one can admire a wonderful view that sweeps from the mountain to the sea.
But the centrepiece of the villa is the garden, also known as the Garden of the Soul. Its beauty is owed to Neville Reid, who designed it and started a real school. The garden, where plants and flowers are accompanied by breathtaking views, is spread over two levels. The lower garden is where every year, between the end of June and the beginning of September, the Ravello Festival is held, the oldest musical event in Italy after the Maggio Musicale Fiorentino. The upper level, on the other hand, houses the Belvedere, from which one can enjoy a splendid panorama of the entire Gulf.
Descending along the northern side of the garden, one can appreciate the remains of the Balnea, the area destined for the baths, which was brought to light during restoration work in 1997. At the foot of the staircase that connects the Belvedere with the lower level of the garden is the Turkish Bath, where the remains of the water channels are visible. At this point, heading towards the exit, it is worth stopping at the so-called Chapel located next to the entrance, which still has the Moorish decorations of the façade. Various exhibitions and events are held inside.