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Ravello Italy
Amalfi Coast - Italy

RavelloFestival Chamber Music Italy Amalfi Coast Ravello Italy Positano


From Amalfi a winding road ascends seven kilometres up the "Dragon's Valley" to the hill town of Ravello. Located on the small escarpment of Monte Lattari, it is set amidst vast semi-tropical gardens and overlooks, from 350 metres, the coast south towards the Gulf of Salerno, and the town of Amalfi directly below. It is no wonder then, that this town, with its head in the clouds and its clear, sunny climate, has appealed for centuries to writers, artists, musicians, travellers... and dreamers! Boccaccio, D. H. Lawrence and Wagner are among the "greats" who succumbed to the spell of Ravello. Wagner partly composed his opera "Parsifal" here, and today author Gore Vidal lives and derives inspiration from this charming town.


Built in the thirteenth century as a Convent of the Order of St. Augustine, its paved balconies and weathered stone walls crystallize an ambience which is ageless. It is easy to conjure images of medieval life in this town as you stroll through its intriguing alleys, stairways and roofed passages to find yourself at Villa Rufolo.
Beautiful gardens with views across the mountains and the Coast below, surround this home of the powerful medieval family of that name. It is a magnificent building; its Moorish cloisters beckoning from an avenue shaded by ancient trees. The extensive gardens of exotic plants and brilliantly coloured flowers frame vistas of the water far below. Here, each Spring a Wagnerian festival is held at sunset; there, suspended high above the cerulean sea and the coastline, the composer is commemorated, and so too is the inspiration he derived from his love of Ravello.


The charms of Ravello also captivated an Englishman, Lord Grimthorpe, who built the Villa Cimbrone early this century with the help of his valet, Nicola Mansi, a native of Ravello. Together they transformed an ancient villa, enriching it with antiques, paintings and relics collected from all over Italy. Today the gardens of Cibrone are a mediterranean sanctuary. Tall cypresses reach heavenward, the fragrance of massed roses fills the air; pathways lead us to statues of Roman gods. Along the "Avenue of Immensity" huge pink oleanders line the way to the Belvedere posed on the cliff's edge. From this little building you can pause to take in the unforgettable views from here across the "Infinite Terrace" to the sea and sky beyond, and recall the words of Omar Khayam which are carved above a stone seat in the rose garden at Villa Cimbrone:

"Ah moon of my delight that knows no wane

The moon of heaven is rising once again

How oft hereafter rising shall she look

Through this same garden after us in vain".



Pride of place on the town piazza is taken by the Duomo, the town cathedral, dedicated to patron San Pantaleone and founded in 1086 by Orso Papiro, the first bishop of Ravello. Rebuilt in the 12th and 17th centuries, and completely restored in 1973, the Duomo retains traces of medieval frescoes in the transept, an original mullioned window, a marble portal, and a three-story 13th-century bell tower playfully interwoven with mullioned windows and arches. The 12th-century bronze door features 54 embossed panels depicting Christ's life, and saints, prophets, plants, and animals, all narrating biblical lore. It was crafted by Barisano da Trani, who also fashioned the doors of the cathedrals of Trani and Monreale. (The door is currently under restoration, and no one is clear when it will visible again -- it was due in 2004). The nave's three aisles are divided by ancient columns, and treasures include sarcophagi from Roman times and paintings by southern Renaissance artist Andrea da Salerno. Most impressive are the two medieval ambos, or pulpits: The earlier one, used for reading the Epistles, is inset with a mosaic scene of Jonah and the Whale, symbolizing death and redemption. The more famous one, used for reading the Gospels, was commissioned by Nicola Rufolo in 1272 and created by Niccolò di Bartolomeo da Foggia. It seems almost Tuscan in style, with exquisite Cosmatesque mosaic work and bas-reliefs and six twisting columns sitting on lion pedestals. An eagle grandly tops the colonnette fronting the inlaid marble lectern.

Villa Cimbrone TerraceA chapel left of the apse is dedicated to San Pantaleone, a physician, who was beheaded in the 3rd century in Nicomedia. Every July 27 devout believers gather in hope of witnessing a miracle (similar to that of San Gennaro in Naples), in which the saint's blood, collected in a vial and set out on an inlaid marble altar, appears to liquefy and become clearer. Use one of the side doors to go behind the altar in the small chapel to get a closer look at the pint of the saint's blood. In the crypt is the Museo del Duomo, which displays treasures from around the 13th century, during the reign of Frederick II of Sicily, in an elegant setting. You'll find gold and silver work, sculpture, and a classic Campanian marble bust of a half-smiling woman from the Rufolo dynasty, whose name was Sigilgaita, adorning the cathedral's pulpit.


Chamber Musik on the Amalfi Coast - Ravello


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