CityProfile: Ravello (Amalfi Coast Series)

Dear Friends and Readers,

Many of you asked me about tips to travel to the South of Italy and in particular to the Amalfi Coast. I decided to dedicate a series of posts to the area that I visited so often as a kid. But to talk to you about the real local experience I had to recruit a real expert. Brunella Sarno Caruso is near and dear to my heart because I have known her all my life. She is a family friend that feels more like family. Along with the fact that she is a great chef and a wonderful person in general, Brunella owned Villa Eva a beautiful villa in Ravello and is a real insider especially when it comes to planning a wedding…

Let’s say that my mom, Vanna would have had a hard time planning my wedding without Brunella insightful advice and good taste.  So I asked Brunella to write a CityProfile on Ravello and she raised to the challenge with ease (writing runs in the family as her first son Luigi Caruso is a journalist in Rome). Without further ado, this is Ravello through the eyes of a local. How to get to the Amalfi Coast.

How to get there

Ravello is a gorgeous town in the midst of the Amalfi Coast and it is famous for its villas and the beautiful gardens. It is secluded from the hectic night life of the other towns of the coast because it is on a mountain top.  Reaching Ravello can be quite an adventure if it is the first time you visit. My recommendation if you are landing at Capodichino (the airport in Naples) is to ask your hotel to pick you up at the arrivals.  Since the town is not on the water, you may choose to get to Amalfi or Positano by ferry (from Capri for example) and take one of the local buses to Ravello. Either way you will be amazed when you finally see the view from the mountain top!

Where to Stay?

Ravello is famous for its hospitality and peaceful environment. You won’t find any other town of the Amalfi Coast as focused on making you feel at home as Ravello. It is not mystery that many artists, authors and actors chose Ravello as their retreat, and this is because of the friendly population and the attention to the needs of visitors and travelers. Depending on your budget you may choose to stay at some of the deluxe hotels, such as Palazzo Avino (Formerly known as Palazzo Sasso)Villa Cimbrone (where Serena and Kurt got married) andHotel Caruso.  They are all great choices if you want to get pampered and stay in the lap of luxury, but they also come with a hefty price tag. My favorite options are Villa Maria and Hotel Giordano (owned by the same family that is often featured in a Canadian cooking show hosted by David Rocco), along with Hotel RufoloHotel Graal and Villa Fraulo.  If you are on a budget, my recommendation is to try hotels such as Villa AmoreAlbergo Garden or B&B such as Il Ducato di RavelloBoccaccioPunta Civita and Auditorium Rooms.  If you are planning on staying for a little longer you may want to consider renting an apartment at Villa Casale or Il Roseto.

What to do in Ravello?

There are so many things to do in Ravello! Aside from visiting the beautiful churches like il Duomo built in 1086 and San Francesco Church, you can visit the gardens in Villa Cimbrone and Villa Rufolo.  There is nothing more relaxing than taking a stroll in the old Medieval streets of the town and then finding yourself in front of a breathtaking view of the Mediterranean from the belvedere where you can be surrounded by water and fruit trees. These beautiful gardens inspired Wagner who called Ravello the City of Music. In his honor every year from June to September, there is the International Music Festival and the tickets for the amazing performances (from chamber music to modern jazz) are the most sought after in the area.  Many authors, as the late Gore Vidal, spend the summer in Ravello to make their creative juices flow: there is a very interesting series of events with Italian and international writers called “Tea with the Author”. More than a simple book signing, these events are an opportunity to meet and talk to the authors and learn about their creative process.

What is your favorite itinerary in Ravello to experience shopping and sightseeing?

My favorite itinerary departs from the main Piazza (you will recognize it because there is the Duomo on the South West side of the square). You can grab a quick breakfast or lunch at one of the cafes before you start your stroll.  The city center has tiny alleys with many stores selling traditional pottery (Sorrentino and Cosmolena are my favorite) and limoncello. There are several art exhibits that change periodically but you should definitely check out the coral master Giorgio in his store Camo: he makes amazing jewels but the most impressive are his sculptures, for example you can see nativities integrally made of coral. Walking up from Piazza Duomo towards Villa Cimbrone you will understand why the handmade sandals created by Duska at the Carla’ Boutique are so popular. People in Ravello walk up and down this street many times a day and stay in great shape because of this workout! Further along you can visit Villa Eva, a beautiful location from weddings and ceremonies with a view of the Southern Coast, and the Santa Chiara Church with its painted pottery tiles.  When you finally arrive to Villa Cimbrone, you will see why Greta Garbo never wanted to leave the magnificent terrace.

You can also visit the late Gore Vidal’s house in Ravello called Villa La Rondinaia. This Villa is not currently open to the public but if you are staying at Villa Maria and Hotel Giordano, the owner, Vincenzo Palumbo, may be able to arrange a tour. It was built by the same architect who designed Villa Cimbrone and the view is spectacular!

However, if you get tired of looking into the endless Mediterranean you can ask your hotel to plan a horseback riding tour in Scala and Tramonti. If you want to burn the calories (instead of the horse….) you can go jogging among the lemon trees or uphill among the chestnut trees. Should you need a more relaxing activity, you can take a cooking class at Nonna Orsola’s School inside of Villa Maria Hotel, and learn more about the food of the Amalfi Coast.

Speaking of food, what should you eat and where?

Well that depends on the budget and the personal taste. Ravello is a foodie heaven so you really can make no mistake here. Also since it is rather secluded from the rest of the coast there is not risk of finding a tourist trap.  If you are looking for fine dining at its best I recommend Rossellini Restaurant (inside of Palazzo Avino) which also received 2 Michelin Stars,  the Villa Cimbrone, Villa Maria and Villa Eva restaurants are also great because they have delicious local food and the beautiful view from the terraces. The great thing about eating at Villa Maria or Villa Eva is that all the vegetables come from an organic farm that is right next to the 2 them.  You can see the vegetables that will be cooked for your dinner.

If your budget does not allow for fine dining at its best I would recommend Da Salvatore and I figli di papa’ or a trattoria called Cumpa’ Cosimo that is one of my favorites, but you can find a great pizza also at Da Vittoria and I Briganti.

Are you in the mood for a great aperitivo? You need to check out the Palazzo Avino’s Rossellini bar, where Stefano, the barman, prepares liquid tiramisu’! There is nothing better than that to start your evening in Ravello.