Villa Rufolo | Ravello, Italy

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I’ve seen some spectacular places on the planet, but when I think of gardens few places have the legacy of beauty that Italy has. This past fall I returned a third time to the Amalfi coast to enjoy a different season in Ravello, and in particular to visit for the first time the gardens of Villa Rufolo.

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It was built by a wealthy merchant family in the 13th century and in its prime, it was one of the largest and most expensive villas on the Amalfi Coast. In the 14th century the Rufolo family hosted banquets for King Robert II of Naples and other Norman royalty

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When Sir Francis Neville Reid, a Scottish botanist, visited the villa in 1851, age and neglect had taken a toll on the villa and many of the rooms had fallen into ruin. Reid fell in love with the Moorish towers and the expansive views and purchased the villa, undergoing an extensive renovation of the gardens and the remaining rooms.

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Richard Wagner, the famous German composer, visited the villa in 1880 and was so inspired that he stayed in Ravello long enough to write the second act of Parsifal, an opera that he had been working on for over two decades. If he had not visited the Villa Rufolo, he might never have completed the opera, for he died just three years later.

The town has become known as “la città della musica“, the city of music, and for the past several decades the Villa Rufolo has been the center of an annual summer concert series that features piano concerts, chamber music, and a grand orchestral performance on a stage built jutting out over the Mediterranean Sea and the rugged Amalfi Coast below.

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The gardens and grounds of the Villa Rufolo are open year around and attract visitors from all over the world. Juxtaposed against the sea, the sky, umbrella pines, and the Church of the Annunziata below, the gardens, with their profusion of flowers, have a magical quality to them. It’s no wonder that Wagner found them so inspiring. The villa itself contains two large towers and the larger of them (Torre Maggiore) stands next to a magnificent Moorish style cloister.

Definitely worth a visit. Some of my favourite images from this oasis perched high above Amalfi on the Tyrrhenian Sea.

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