The View Back UP the Hill, Ravello
We slept well. The bed at Basilius is firm without being hard. We headed out around 9:30 for colazione (breakfast) peering into the occasional cheese or fruit shop along the way. Ellen suggested getting a juicer and some fruit later. Sure, let’s not get one now ok?
Fruit In Hand
We settled on a small pastry shop with seating in the sun. With the warmth of the sun and a cold wind, we chose to sit in warmth. A woman was just getting her order as I was considering what to get for Ellen. A fellow ordered a number of items for his family. He was fidgety and seemed impatient. He was vary particular about each individual item. The barista, a tall striking Italian woman, was clearly getting annoyed by this fellow’s attitude. She said nothing. Time to pay, and his credit card would not go through. We’ve all be in this situation. It sucks. This fellow got insistent that the card was good, “try it again”. It failed again. He got more animated, “try it again”. The Barista called the manager over, they tried a third time, then after a full power reset, his card went through. He acted like he had been vindicated. After he left, the barista asked , “prego” I ordered in Italian as best I could and the barista glanced at the departing fellow, curled her lower lip, and made what I took to be a disparaging almost growl.
Outside with our order, that family had positioned themselves right beside Ellen and I. Our chairs were facing the street, directly facing the four of them. We turned our chairs.
Today we could either visit Positano or Ravello. We had stopped for an hour in Positano on the way to Amalfi. We hadn’t seen Ravello, “let’s go there”. Most people know Positano from the classic photos taken from the sea. Positano is picturesque, but to me it is all shopping and tourists. You even have to pay for a spot on the beach in high season. Off season, as it is not, locals frolic on the beach. It is free. Our espresso finished, we easily found the bus pickup along the (short) Lido. There was a long line waiting for the Ravello bus. A bus arrived, people packed aboard, and we were left waiting, first in line for the next bus. Surprisingly the next bus arrived in under five minutes! Our bus wound its way up around up and around for quite a while. At one point the bus could not make the turn and had to back up a bit and try a 2nd time. We were on the land side of the bus. The ocean side had quite a view of the sea and the drop-off.
The View from High Atop Ravello.
It was about 40 minutes from Amalfi to Ravello. Across from the bus stop sits a paved overlook with stunning views from the height of Ravello to the sea far below. We soaked in that view and took a photo or two as well. Ravello is gorgeous.
Fruit is Available Everywhere
Up the road perhaps 40 meters is the main square of Ravello. One side of the square has an open view across a gorge, Shops line two sides of the square.
We first walked down a series of steps to the left as you approach the square. The steps continued down and down. Past a chapel on the right, past private residences and small doors to B&B’s. Sometimes the view closed in with no panorama, simply steps and old building walls. Turning a corner an expansive view of the Gulf of Salerno may open.
Walking back up those steps, we found advertising and a brochure kiosk for the 2017 Ravello Concert Series. Each year the Ravello Concert Society presents an extensive series of concerts at Ravello. Some of the concerts would be held in this small chapel. Other open-air events are held in the Villa at sunset. For more information on the Ravello Concert Series: http://www.ravelloarts.org/festival/index.php. For us a trip to Ravello from Firenze is unlikely.
Just to the left past that first stairway just before you enter the square is the entrance to Villa Rufolo. You pay a nominal fee ( I assume for maintenance) to enter the villa. The upper garden and arched entries are dramatic as are the rooms of the villa. Sunlight and a sea view will draw you outside without even seeing more than a few rooms of the villa. The sight of the gardens, on descending tiled patios is stunning. I’ve forgotten most of the villa itself, It is the layout of the gardens, with stairways descending from one level to the next. The symmetry of the plantings. But most of all the view from high atop the hill will stop you in your tracks. It is hard not to be moved by this panorama. Ellen and I easily spent two hours walking, gazing, taking a photo or two (or too many).
Scattered around the grounds are video advertisements for the Ravello concert series presented in electronic kiosks. Even the advert was inspiring.
Here is an excerpt from Wikipedia about Villa Rufolo:
Originally belonging to the powerful and wealthy Rufolo family who excelled in commerce (a Landolfo Rufolo has been immortalized by Boccaccio in the Decameron), it then passed by inheritance to other owners such as the Confalone, Muscettola and d’Afflitto.
Around the middle of the nineteenth century it was sold to the Scotsman Francis Neville Reid who took care of a general restoration, resulting in today’s layout.
The villa is entered through an opening in the arched entrance tower, and after a short street a clearing is dominated by the Torre Maggiore: the latter facing the bell tower of the cathedral in Ravello, overlooking the terraces (upper and lower) as well as overlooking the Amalfi Coast and the Gulf of Salerno with flower gardens that are in bloom most of the year.
Of particular interest among the rooms of the villa is a large courtyard elevated like a cloister and some rooms forming a small museum.
The German opera composer Richard Wagner visited the villa in 1880. He was so overcome by the beauty of the location that he imagined the setting as the garden of Klingsor in the second act of Parsifal. In commemoration, every year the lower garden of Villa Rufolo hosts a Wagnerian concert.
I was mesmerized. I’ll let our photos speak to the beauty of this Villa. I could sit for hours as I am sure the Villa’s extremely wealthy owners once did.
We skipped walking through the villa’s interior, choosing instead to walk Ravello, the town.
Ellen and I are not shoppers. We do not willingly walk down the main shopping street of say Capri and oh and ah at the pricy goods. We do appreciate excellent materials and artistry in the design of “some things”, actually most things. As we walked down Ravello’s shopping street just past the square, I ran my fingers down fabrics on display. Quality is in the feel of fabric. One fabric in particular had an wonderful hand; it was unusually fine materials. I was going to say something to Ellen, who was just a few steps ahead of me when she disappeared into this shop, Ricordi di Ravello.
Ricordi di Ravello, Wonderful Linen & Cashmere Clothing
The shopkeeper was an unassuming, direct woman about Ellen’s height. Ellen went right to a light gray-blue shawl on and asked if they had this material in her size. The owner (she was the shop owner) pulled down a garment that fit Ellen quite well. Not surprisingly this was the same material with the excellent hand. “That material is the best quality cashmere from Firenze. We purchase the material there. These are all our designs.” Me, “Where do you manufacture the clothing” “On the peninsula, about 20 minutes from here. We have a small factory.” It was unlikely we would find these designs in Firenze.
One Splendid Walkway
One Splendid Walkway
Another Splendid Walkway
There was a dark blue 3/4 length light weight coat in the same material that I asked Ellen to try on. It did not hang well on her. We both preferred this color. Ellen tried on a poncho, a shawl, zippered sweater, and the 3/4 length coat. She preferred the poncho. The price was high, but not for this quality. Ellen left happy to have a warmer article of clothing. Evenings and even some days had been cold and we would soon be heading north.
Main Square, Ravello
We walked Ravello. Toward the end of the street we found “Wine & Drugs”. Funny I thought, but I plan to save wine tasting for Florence. We are still nomadic and do not need the weight. The shop-gal popped out. We greeted her with “Buona Sera”, good afternoon/evening, and we had a conversation in broken English and Italian.
Wine and Drugs
Communication is not that difficult, unless it’s about ideas. Wandering on we climbed some steps to find the Chiesa di San Giovanni del Toro and the Belmond Hotel Caruso, named for Caruso the great tenor. The hotel sits on a promontory with views to the east and west. It has an understated elegance that exudes exclusivity. Dinner or sunset drinks here would be fun, but we want to be back to Amalfi for Da Gemma and our reservations for dinner.
The Belmond Hotel Caruso, Ravello
Dining Patio, Hotel Caruso, Ravello
One ristorante on the piazza had outdoor tables at an overlook in the sun. Perfect. I relaxed with a birra alla spina (draught beer) and Ellen had aqua naturale. The sun came and went. At this time of year, the sun is very warm but the wind is very cold. We alternately baked and froze all while listening in on two 20 something couples joking around in Italian. Eventually the cold got the better of us (or my beer glass was empty).
A Quite Unusual Beer!
We queued at the bus stop to go back to Amalfi. It was now about 4:20. Time passed, the queue grew, a few busses for other towns came and went, but there was no bus to Amalfi. It was now 5:20 and the queue was a crowd. Finally, 15 minutes later the Amalfi bus arrived. People were aggressively getting aboard. Ellen got on with me right behind her, but at least five other people crowded ahead of me. Wondering where the boundary between politeness and rudeness is, I intentionally cut off some young girls pushing through and boarded the bus. On board I encountered a frantic woman pushing forward past me. We could have gotten a room, it was that intimate. It turns out she boarded the bus, but her husband (probably a nice guy) didn’t make it. She found he was not aboard, and exited the bus. That could easily have been Ellen were I less assertive.
On the Bus to Amalfi
We left about half our number at the bus stop. On the windy way down we did not see another bus come up the route. Those people left behind were in for a long wait. This was not high season. I wonder how bad it could be then. My thought? Stay in Ravello and visit Amalfi and Positano bus and/or by ferry.
Polipo Arrostito con Pomodori, Roasted Octopus
We walked back up our familiar route to drop our cameras and freshen up ahead of our second meal at Da Gemma. Our reservations were at 8 PM. This time we were seated by the window. Oddly the table and chairs tilted. After we ordered, we switched chairs as Ellen was uncomfortable with the tilt. Ellen’s back bothered her less after we switched. Tonight had the grilled octopus appetizer; we both ordered spaghetti con vongole and a glass of house wine. The spaghetti was mixed with nearly creamed broccoli. The waiter made it a point to correct Ellen, “No, this is not broccolini, it is broccoli. No broccolini.” He was being funny. When time came to clear the table, he kiddingly tried to whisk my two smart phones onto his crumb plate. He mentioned a fellow who took his Rolex off at diner and almost lost it to the crumb plate. His eyes followed the Rolex as it slid across the table.
For dessert we had a hard time deciding. We chose the chocolate with chili dessert, which sounded unique. We were very surprised and had a good laugh when the same dessert we had had last night was placed at table. “No, this cannot be what we ordered” It was.
The broccoli detracted from the spaghetti con vongole. We enjoyed our meal, but not with the sense of ecstasy we had last night. We met almost no one as we walked “home” and to sleep.
We absolutely loved Ravello and Amalfi. Tomorrow we must say, “Ciao Amalfi” and push on to Torre del Greco.