Ravello Festival

As one of the oldest festivals in Italy, it is fitting that Ravello, which has been dubbed the city of music, found its home in the beautiful village 65 years ago.

Ravello, Italy

Make your way to the balmy, peaceful village of Ravello this summer for one of the biggest musical festivals in Italy. Beginning from the 17th of April and ending October 20th, this annual festival sees all types of musical genres and art performances taking place in areas all over the town. There will be two music sections including ‘Orchestra Italian’ which features the Italian Symphony Orchestra and ‘La Meglio Gioventu’ that showcases young performers who are fresh on the scene playing original pieces. There are 13 concerts hosted at the Belvedere of Villa Rufolo, seven midnight concerts in the Villa Rufolo and 5 concerts of organs at the grand Cathedral of Ravello.

As one of the oldest festivals in Italy, it is fitting that Ravello, which has been dubbed the city of music, found its home in the beautiful village 65 years ago. So, if ever you find yourself on the Amalfi Coast during the summer period, be sure to head to one of their outdoor concerts. There is much more happening apart from big open-air concerts and high calibre performances, there is also jazz and pop concerts, dance performances, art exhibitions and film screenings. The Ravello Festival also honours Richard Wagner, a famed German composer who frequented visited the Ravello area during his lifetime.

Ravello

The town of Ravello has origins that date to the 6th century and once held a prosperous economy due to a wool milled that was called ‘Celendra’ which saw trade routes opening across the Mediterranean Sea. It’s first recorded as being a part of Amalfi in the 9th century however 200 years later, nobles fled to Ravello from Amalfi and began their own leadership of the town. At the height of their golden era, Ravello was home to over 30,000 inhabitants. The prominence of the town led to it becoming its own bishopric, holding just as much prestige as its counterpart; Amalfi.

The charming town is perched on an elevation of 365 metres and though the economy fell drastically in the 17th century due to invasion and the plague which ravaged the town, Ravello slowly recovered. The town may not be as prosperous as some of the larger towns on the Amalfi Coast however its stunning views and architectural jewels left over from the 12th century have attracted throngs of tourists. Tourism is now the town’s biggest economic draw in, however, Ravello has long caught the eye of literary figures; the Bloomsbury group from London is known to have frequently made trips to the area. Along with writers, musicians and actors also known to have visited Ravello, inspired by its quiet beauty. More recently in the early 20th century, it was home to the passionate and tumultuous love affair of actress Greta Garbo and Leopold Stokowski, an orchestral composer.

The medieval town of Ravello is much less touristy than Amalfi which makes it a perfect base for those wishing to have a more authentic experience. Venture down cobbled laneways to street markets lined with merchants selling aromatic lemons and ornate ceramics. Or, lose yourself in the many vineyards, and lush gardens that Ravello is revered for. The town is surrounded by mountains, differing from the more coastal towns that the Amalfi Coast is famous for, so a day trip to Ravello is great to discover a greener and more dramatic landscape.

Villa Rufolo

The jewel of Ravello is the Villa Rufolo, built by the wealthy family of the same name from 1270 to 1280. Throughout its tumultuous history, it passed through the hands of many noble families until it was bought in 1851 by Scottish botanist expert Sir Francis Nevile Reid. It was his restorations of the villa that many admire today as he introduced many new rare and unique plants to the gardens. It’s also here that composer Richard Wagner draws inspiration for the setting of his opera Parsifal in 1880 when he visited the illustrious grounds. It’s this factor that puts Ravello on the musical map and ever since the 1930s, Ravello has been the home of chamber music concerts on the property of the Villa Rufolo. In 1975, Villa Rufolo was bought by the Salerno Tourism Board whose purpose is to conserve the historic site, as well as look after its grounds and host events such as the festival of music.

Villa Cimbrone

With origins dating back to the 11th century AD, this beautiful villa is best known for its infinity terrace that makes the traveller feel as though they are floating halfway between the sky and sea. It was boasted by acclaimed American author Gore Vidal to be the most beautiful vista he had ever seen. It has also seen the likes of Virginia Woolf and was the secret hiding place of lovers Greta Garbo and Leopold Stokowski.

What you see of the villa today is mostly the work of Lord Grimthorpe, an English nobleman and keen botanist who rejuvenated the grounds and added rare plants to the gardens in the late 19th century. Based off the architecture of nearby Villa Rufolo that had been renovated itself decades earlier, Lord Grimthorpe and expert gardeners went to work on the Vila Cimbrone, adding the Temple of Bacchus and Grotto of Eve to the illustrious grounds.

Related article: Where to Stay and Eat in Ravello?