On the winding coastal road, we're all gazing wistfully over the Tyrrhenian Sea.
But cast your gaze upwards, towards the rolling, green slopes of the Lattari Mountains. It's here you'll find the lesser-known, idyllic beauty of this popular stretch of Italian coastline.
At 350m above sea level, Ravello is often overlooked by tourists on a schedule jostling between Sorrento, Amalfi and Positano, but take the turning just after Amalfi and breathe a breath of fresher air as you leave the coastal masses to wind terraced hills upwards, towards an elegant, spacious town.
Ravello, famous for its Music Festival, is named the 'City of Music'. Apart from this gorgeous yearly event backdropped against inspirational views, the Concert Society additionally runs regular concerts and musical interludes around Ravello, often featuring world-famous musicians, drawing a hint of glamour and fame to this hillside town.
Piazza Duomo (Vescovado) is the throb of Ravello's heart - a sprawling piazza juxtaposed between sea, trees and sky gives you the feeling you've stepped up in the world, if not just up from the coastal road.
The piazza is lined with cafés, bars, pizzerie and gelaterie with tiny shops on the side streets where you can pick up some of the local ceramic work. There's usually space to sit, breathe and take in the views from behind your sunglasses while quietly sipping your coffee.
The Duomo is a combination of Baroque and Romanesque architecture and stands in prime position on the piazza. Built in the 11th century, it has undergone numerous modifications and restorations throughout the years, resulting in a fascinating example of religious architecture. With its cool exterior and a bishop to boot, the Duomo is absolutely worth a visit, especially in July. Dedicated to Saint Pantaleone, the Chapel covets a small vial of the venerated saint's blood which is said to liquefy on the anniversary of his martyrdom every summer.
Two enchanting villas
Villa Rufolo - don't miss this exquisite array of Italian botanical opulence. It's from the panoramic terrace of curated flower beds and pergolas dripping in blooms that you'll feel like you're finally standing at the window of the Amalfi Coast, positioned above the jugged coastline of the Mediterranean Sea with the sun, warm on your forehead.
Scottish botanist, Sir Francis Neville Reid, visited Villa Rufolo in 1851 when it was rather run-down. Seeing past her dilapidated balconies, he fell in love with the villa's Moorish beauty and sea views, deciding to make her the masterpiece she is today. One can feel his love for the place walking through the gardens he tended.
When the German composer, Richard Wagner, visited the villa in 1880, he too became smitten and chose to spend the last 3 years of his life finishing his opera Parsifal there, an opera he'd been working on for over 20 years. His spirit lives on in the annual Music Festival, centered in the gardens on a stage jutting out over the coast below.
Villa Cimbrone - this 12th Century Villa is a luxury hotel and while you'll be limited to just the gardens (unless of course you're a hotel guest), these belvedere balconies and terraces might become the most memorable thing you see on your trip. It's not just the sparkling marble busts lining the Terrazza dell’Infinito (Terrace of Infinity) or the expanse of azure seascape before you; the Viale dell’Immenso (Ally of Immensity)'s pergola in wisteria or the little temples you'll discover exploring these classically kept grounds, it's the sheer opulence and escapism stepping onto manicured paths where you leave the world behind you and feel like you're on a movie set. And it's not just you, this villa has enchanted the likes of Virginia Woolf, Winston Churchill, E.M Forster and D.H. Lawrence, who wrote Lady Chatterley’s Lover from these inspiring gardens in1927.
Beautiful Greta Garbo once escaped here with her then-lover, conductor Leopold Stokowski; hoping to secretly marry, their steamy encounter was abruptly extinguished when word leaked of their stay at the Villa Cimbrone in February of 1938.
There are many magnificent palaces, now exclusive hotels, including Villa Episcopio, Hotel Caruso Belvedere and Hotel Palumbo, to name a few, all with fine dining and serendipitous views of the Amalfi Coast, drawing the likes of Woody Harrelson and Pierce Brosnan to the small town.
Ravello is small in size but big in fame and grandeur. Make a day of it and take your time to really appreciate what this town has to offer. There's a carpark at the base of the town so everyone is on foot which adds to the relaxed, stylish atmosphere.
'Some of the best Italian food ever tasted'
We love to dig into local cuisine when we travel, sampling street foods and asking restaurant staff what to order, it's a sure way to get to really know a place. When we visited Ravello, we stayed in Scala, apparently 'the oldest town on the Amalfi Coast' and a few kilometres away, it's a haphazard ensemble of very narrow roads from which Roberta runs an impeccable establishment, Guest House Malù. We asked her to cook us dinner and she contentedly agreed, pulling out all the stops, repeating often how much she loves cooking for her guests.
Some of the best Italian food ever tasted included fried artichoke, burrata, pizza rossa, melanzane alla parmigiana and torta pasquale. If you ever get the chance, get Roberta to cook for you, disappointed we couldn't finish her delicacies, she sent us on our travels with pizza rossa and leftover melanzane to feed us for days. The guest house rooms are spacious and light, tiled in local ceramics with terraces gazing out over the coastline and a breeze blowing through them. Roberta is an excellent host and her guest house an excellent option for accommodation near Ravello.
Do tell us if you've been to beautiful Ravello and look out for our blog post on what to order on the Amalfi Coast.