Visit Villa Cimbrone in Ravello

Sitting high atop a promontory that offers stunning views of the Mediterranean and the dramatic coastline below, the Villa Cimbrone is the crown laurel of Ravello. Its origins date back to the 11th century, but the villa and the gardens were extensively renovated by a British nobleman, Lord Grimthorpe, in the early 20th century. With its expansive gardens and dramatic views, the villa is a popular place for weddings, honeymoons, and receptions. The villa is a private 5-star hotel (Hotel Villa Cimbrone), but the gardens are open to the public and it ranks, perhaps, as the most memorable sight on the Amalfi Coast.

The villa’s belvedere, Terrazza dell’Infinito (Terrace of Infinity), is lined by a series of marble busts that on clear days sparkle against the bluesky above and the azure waters of the Mediterranean below. Gore Vidal, the noted American author and long-time resident of Ravello, once boasted that the view from the Belvedere is the finest in the world, and anyone who has ever visited the Belvedere on a clear day would have troubling disputing him. Looming more than 1200 feet (~365 meters) above the Mediterranean, the view looking downward is not for the faint of heart, and on windy days the updraft can make it a positively hair-raising experience. In the distance, you can see the outline of the Cilento Mountains and next to them the level plain on which the ancient city of Paestum was built. The main walkway, Viale dell’Immenso (Ally of Immensity), features a pergola, best seen in the summer when the white and blue wisteria are in full bloom. The gardens themselves are adorned with temples, statuary, and other recreations that give it a distinctly classical feel.

While the hotel is not open to the general public, the chiostro ("cloister") and the cripta ("crypt") are well worth visiting. The cloister, right across from the ticket office, was extensively redecorated by Lord Grimthorpe a century ago. It has a magnificent covered well in the center, and the walls of the cloister are richly ornamented with imported bas reliefs and old terracotta, the most notable being a tile by the famous Luca Della Robbia. The crypt, another Lord Grimthorpe creation, is modelled after the monk’s cellarium at Fountains Abbey, a Cistercian monastery near Malton, England, where Grimthorpe was born. With its massive columns, shady interior, and expansive views of the Mediterranean, it’s an ideal spot for receptions.

Estimated time: 3 to 4 hours.

the dramatic coastline

Terrace of Infinity

Villa Cimbrone