Magical 13th-century splendour
Cascading gardens, to-die-for sea views and fairy tale towers make Villa Rufolo a must-see when on an Amalfi Coast yacht charter.
Ever since Villa Rufolo was built in the 13th century for the wealthy Rufolo dynasty, it has been the cultural heart of Ravello, an Italian resort town set 365 metres above the Tyrrhenian Sea.
A fascinating history
In its heyday, the villa was one of the largest and most expensive on the Amalfi Coast. The Rufolo family hosted banquets for King Robert II of Naples and other Norman royalty, and stories of treasures hidden within the premises began to circulate.
But by the mid-19th century, the villa had begun to fall into disrepair. Step forward Sir Francis Neville Reid, a Scottish botanist, who fell in love with the Moorish architecture and panoramic views. He purchased the villa in 1851 and began making renovations to the rooms and gardens.
Villa Rufolo today
Arguably the biggest draw throughout the summer are the magical gardens. An explosion of colour is created by a sweeping carpet of blooms cascading over two levels, and made even more spectacular thanks to the juxtaposition of rich green pines and a brilliantly blue sky.
A visit here today can also incorporate a look around the Torre-Museo – an interactive museum in the Main Tower that sheds light on the villa’s history and characters.
The museum also houses art, archaeological finds and ceramics linked to the property, and stairs lead from inside the tower up to the viewing platform, where the villa and Amalfi Coast can be seen in all its breath-taking glory.
A highlight of the Ravello Festival
One of the villa’s claim to fame is that Wagner was so impressed with the gardens when he visited in 1880 that he modelled the Garden of Klingsor – the setting for the second act of the opera Parsifal– on them.
Today the composer’s spirit lives on at Villa Rufolo as, for several decades, it has been the setting of an annual summer concert series, with one of the highlights being a grand orchestral performance on a terrace that juts out over the Mediterranean.
How to reach Villa Rufolo
Villa Rufolo as well as the picturesque village of Ravello can be visited on a superyacht vacation by taking a tender ashore to Amalfi town and taking a cab up the hillside.
Or, the village can be reached by hiking up the 1,700 steps that wind their way through citrus orchards and past colourful Italian houses. But, beware, it’s a tough climb.