After Villa Cimbrone my plan was to take the ancient path from Ravello down to the sea. According to the pamphlet I had picked up at the local I.T., the path was well-signed and would take about 20 minutes. I wasn’t sure about the 20 minute part, but it was all downhill and as long as I kept heading for the sea I figured there wasn’t (much) chance of getting lost.
But first a quick lunch in the village piazza. A panino – prosciutto and gorgeously fresh mozzarella di bufala, a nice glass of cool, white wine to wash it down and I’d be on my way.
There is another garden besides Villa Cimbrone in Ravello. It was right in front of me. Those towers mark the entrance. But I hadn’t planned on going. As much as I would love to see all the gardens in all the regions I visit, over time I have learned that visiting a garden just because it’s ‘there’ usually leaves me with nothing but tired feet and di cattivo umore (and no, umore – oo-moh-ray – has nothing to do with amore). So when I’m not sure, I like to check around, see what the garden establishment types have to say. The verdict on Villa Rufolo was overwhelmingly negative. The most positive comment was that it was ‘a pleasant backdrop’ for the art shows, concerts and music festivals held here during the summer. The fact that it had been the inspiration for the enchanted Klingsor Garden scene (Parsifal, Act II) by Wagner – I’m not a fan – made it even less appealing.
But then – was it before or after the second glass of wine? – I decided to ignore the experts. For the sake of probably 10 euros and a half hour of my time, why not just have a look? Get it out of my system. Even if the garden was disappointing, the villa itself seemed promising. It had started off as a medieval fortress to protect the locals from the Saracens, who had gotten into the habit of attacking the villages along the coast. By the mid 1800’s it lay in ruins and then, like Villa Cimbrone, had been rescued by an Englishman on the Grand Tour.
When I entered the first courtyard and saw the horse with a head in its rump, I immediately regretted my decision.
But there was no going back so I trudged on. My spirits lifted a bit when I came to the Moorish cloister.
And when I rounded the corner of the cloister and saw the view below, I didn’t care what the experts thought.
I am not normally a fan of ‘Carpet Beds’ and was totally prepared to hate it. But this was was a place where the gardeners had truly consulted the ‘genius loci’. It was perfect for its place.
Taking the ancient path down to the sea level was the perfect way to make the adjustment between the two worlds. And unlike the local peasants who in centuries past had travelled this path bearing heavy loads, I could take my time and enjoy the spectacular scenery.
Around a bend nearby I saw a group of labourers. As soon as they saw me they stopped working. As a solo female traveller of ‘une certain âge’ I am careful where I go – and when. This – and maybe a bit of luck – has served me well and I usually feel very comfortable travelling around on my own. But there are times, like this one, when the so-called ‘primitive’ brain takes over. For once, I would have preferred to be surrounded by a big, noisy tour group. But the primitive brain doesn’t always know what it’s doing, and when I got closer, come al solito (as always), they disarmed me with their friendly Buon giorno’s and the suggestion that I enhance my landscape shots with a photo of them.
The path down took a lot longer than 20 minutes, but like the gardens of Villa Rufolo, it truly vale la pena. Vah-lay lah pay-nuh. (Is worth doing.)