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Ravello, Ravello

Amalfi Coast, Italy, Europe: Ravello: Is it any wonder Gore Vidal spent 30 happy years living and writing here?
Italy's insider take:

Perched high above the hustle and bustle of the seaside, peaceful Ravello has always been the gentleman scholar of the Amalfi Coast. In the 12th and 13th centuries, the town had a thriving mercantile community, but with the end of Amalfi's maritime supremacy, the town went into rapid decline, turning it into a crumbling, atmospheric medieval Pompeii. Rediscovered by 19th-century Grand Tourists, Ravello was adopted by artists, musicians, and writers. Wagner turned the romantic gardens of Villa Rufolo into the magic garden of Klingsor, the setting for Act II of his opera Parsifal, and D. H. Lawrence wrote parts of Lady Chatterley's Lover here. Later, Gore Vidal adopted Ravello as his home. Buses from Amalfi climb the hairpin bends of the narrow Dragone Valley and deposit their cargo just outside the underpass that leads into Ravello's main square. Founded in the 11th century, the Duomo contains two exquisite 13th-century pulpits, one with delightful mosaics of Jonah and the Whale. Nearby Villa Rufolo is a historical pastiche, artfully assembled from the surviving fragments of the original medieval structure by a Scottish nobleman who bought the place in 1851. It has magnificent views over the Bay of Maiori and Gulf of Salerno and heavenly gardens that host classical music concerts between April and October. The other must-see garden in Ravello is Villa Cimbrone, a 15-minute walk through the lanes of the old town, with its rose-flanked walks and Belvedere view, lined with classical statues. The main villa (now a hotel) was the love nest of Greta Garbo and conductor Leopold Stokowski in the 1930s.—Updated by Lee Marshall

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