We had an early start today with Domenico taking the wheel in his Ford Fiesta – the locals have learned that small cars are the way to go on these winding roads – they are packed with Fiats and surprisingly even small Japanese cars, and of course the ubiquitous Vespa – driven by people of all shapes and sizes – I am amazed at the number of Nonnas who get on one and speed away at a rate of knots!
Our first stop was Ravello which we entered via the Piazza Vescovado. Built in the C11th, the stunning Cathedral in the Piazza was setting up for a wedding so I was reluctant to go in, but Domenico insisted it would be fine. Approaching the entrance the first thing that catches the eye is the sturdy bronze door created by in 1179 by Barisano da Trani. It is reminiscent of the Gates of Paradise doors on the Baptistery in Florence. As we walked up towards the altar past the people dressing the pews and the florists setting up beautiful floral displays, we were able to take in the grandeur and beauty of the church. The pale colour palette is soothing and beautiful. The umbrella rib dome is gorgeous, the pulpit is massive and is supported by ornate marble columns – and strangely, the floor slopes up towards the altar.
Domenico knew the local priest who happened to be on site and were invited to view the side chapel housing a phial of the blood of the martyr San Pantaleone, which is said to liquefy each year in July – in fact we even went behind the altar to see the alcove containing the precious relic. Domenico is Catholic and it was so interesting having him explain church rituals, festivals, the stories surrounding Saints, and relics and much more.
The wedding in the church was due to start so we had to leave and progress on to see the amazing C13th Villa Rufulo. We entered via the Torre Ingresso, which features a stunning ribbed dome:
Moving on we passed the Torre-Museo, the refurbished tower which has just been opened to the public, apparently offering panoramic views from the third floor. Before progressing further, Domenico insisted that we watch a documentary in a delightful little theatre and it proved very interesting, covering the history of the Villa until the present day and focusing on the Annual Ravello Music festival, where concerts are held on a temporary apron stage erected just above the Belvedere. Coincidentally, the stage for the recently held festival was being dismantled as we stood and took in the spectacular panoramic view.
Having seen the informative documentary, we entered Villa and discovered it has a distinct Moorish influence.
The gardens are magnificent, with many varieties of colourful flowers in bloom, though sadly the bougainvillea had seen a bit too much sun. It contains of course, the iconic the umbrella pine – it was real thrill to see that tree!
We could have spent more time in the Villa but Amalfi was also on our itinerary for the day, and Domenico was keen to take us to the terraced restaurant nearby which provided a wonderful panoramic view. We had a delicious meal there – the prosciutto and melon was superb and the meal was made even more enjoyable by the incredible vista surrounding us.
It would be easy to spend a lot more time in Ravello and I would love to have seen Villa Cimbrone, but time was limited so we had to move on to Amalfi…
Next Post – Amalfi