Friday, February 25, 2011

last September, Ravello

In September 2010, I had the good fortune to go to Italy. The trip was academic in nature: my studio class was studying the site of an archeological park in Castellammare di Stabia on the Bay of Naples, a site centering on two villas that were part of the Roman town of Stabiae. We stayed at the Restoring Ancient Stabiae Institute, a former seminary with views of Mt. Vesuvius. During the day, we did field work, went to lectures, and ate long lunches. Occasionally, we were treated to outings by bus to see local attractions, usually after we had completed a cycle of staying up all night drinking Italian wine working and then formally presenting our designs, and were thus somewhat loopy.

On one of these outings, directly after our presentation in the morning (without even eating lunch, we ate bag lunches on the bus) we climbed aboard two buses and were whisked away on a magical mystery tour over the mountains. The climb up towards the mountain pass, with its whiplash-inducing switchbacks, didn't do anything for classmates nursing hangovers, but the views were amazing. To get to Ravello, on the Amalfi Coast, our destination, one has to cross the Lattari Mountains, which rise over 4,000 feet from sea level. Considering we started close to sea level, this was a lot of elevation gain. Below left: looking towards Mt. Vesuvius as we begin the steepest part of the climb. Below right: the Apennines.

Finally we drove through the pass and soon entered Ravello, a town built into the cliffs above the Amalfi Coast. Below: looking down into the lower town, Ravello.
We were in Ravello to visit a new concert hall designed by Brazilian architect Oscar Niemeyer (see banner), and to tour Villa Rufolo. After the long bus ride, some of us needed refreshment, and found a little bar tucked into the cliff just outside the walls of Villa Rufolo.
After fortifying ourselves and admiring the view, we left to explore Villa Rufolo. It is difficult to find words adequate to describe this site. Sensuous shrub forms, luxuriant, glowing blossoms, and graceful ruins, sure, but that cannot fully capture the drama of the site, perched as it is on the cliff's edge thousands of feet above the sea. The pictures can tell the story better than I can.

After touring the gardens of Villa Rufolo, we relaxed on the square, drank espresso at a café and watched a wedding party emerge from the town church. Nobody was in a hurry to leave, and we ended up having to run for the bus. 

Above: Mt. Vesuvius at sunset on the ride back from Ravello.

As it so happens, I will likely be returning to Italy at the end of March, as a follow-up trip to the studio project from last semester. I'm continuing some of that work with the same professor, and hope to be able to present some of our findings on Roman garden paintings at that time.  Unfortunately, none of my other classmates will be able to make the trip, but I'm looking forward to it and hope it will actually work out that we can go.    

If anyone can tell me what this plant is, I'd be very grateful. I saw it at Villa Rufolo. It looks like no other plant I've ever seen, and the flowers emerge from what look like clamshells. Bizarre.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I don't know HOW I missed this post - Ravello is one of my favorite places ON EARTH. Jamie and I spent a most perfect day hiking up there from Atrani, below, eating, wandering, and taking an adventurous bus back down the mountain. Lovely.