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[ravello, italy] seeking out villa cimbrone and exploring it

July 1, 2011

The first reliable mentions of Villa Cimbrone can be found around the 11th century, intermingling with those of Ravello’s golden era. The origins of its name come from the rocky outcrop on which it stands known as “Cimbronium.”

It initially belonged to the aristocratic Acconciajoco family. In the mid 1300s it passed into the hands of the powerful and wealthy Fuscos, a noble family from Ravello. The Fusco family’s bond with Cimbrone was strong and intense, so much so that it owned it for over five and a half centuries. However, on 31 August 1864, due to serious economic problems, the Fusco family had to hand over the entire property to the Amici brothers, traders and pasta makers from Atrani.

At the end of the 19th century, the Villa was visited by an Englishman named Ernest William Beckett, Lord Grimthorpe. He was one of the intellectuals on the “grand tour,” constantly seeking out the roots of Western history and culture on their travels. He fell hopelessly in love with the place and in 1904 he bought part of it from the Amici brothers. Spurred by the great happiness he found in Ravello, Beckett decided to revive the Villa and make it a real treasure: “the most beautiful place in the world.” Among the rich and varied native and exotic plants, in a delightful union between English landscaping and the tradition of Italian gardens, a large number of splendid decorative elements were added: fountains, nymphaea, small temples, pavilions and stone and bronze statues.

Villa Cimbrone had experienced a period of decline around the time of the Second World War. Because the owners were English it was seized by the Italian State during the conflict, and it was totally abandoned for almost a decade.

The successful project to recover, conserve and protect one of the most important cultural heritage sites in Campania sprang from a bold idea by Marco Vuilleumier at the end of the 1960s. Step by step, the Vuilleumiers with the aid of valuable suggestions from internationally renowned expert landscapers and botanists, have restored Villa Cimbrone to its former standing as a prestigious historical site and botanical garden.  

After a delicious and leisurely breakfast on the terrace at Palazzo Sasso, Marc and I decided to seek out this historic gem. Beneath another cloud covered sky, we made our way through the narrow pathways, between the ceramic shops, up and around the winding cliffs until we reached the grand sixteenth century doorway and entrance to the Gardens of Villa Cimbrone. We began our tour of the gardens through a pergola thickly covered in vegetation and down the shady Avenue of Immensity. A variety of exotic flowers and plants, eighteenth century terracotta vases and bronze statues decorated the pathway. The tops of the mountains peaked over the tall trees. At the end of the picturesque Avenue we came upon the Temple of Ceres whose pavilion marks the entrance to the famous and magnificent Terrace of Infinity. The natural balcony of the Terrace is adorned with eighteenth century marble busts. Looking out the sea seems to stretch out infinitely. Far below little multicolored houses clung to the cliffs. It was awe-inspiring. Pure beauty. We proceeded on down a steep lane until we reached the Seat of Mercury and a bronze statue of Hermes at Rest. We stopped here under a shady oak tree  for a brief moment. Further on beneath a thick pergola of vegetation and supported by round terracotta columns was Hortensia Avenue . At the end stands an old cast iron well. Our journey continued along though beautiful rosebeds until we found ourselves a graceful little courtyard. The courtyard is known as the Cloister, and it is designed in Arabian, Sicilian and Norman style. Above the arch, two boar heads recall the family crest of Lord Grimthorpe. We wandered into the Rose Terrace and rested for a bit taking in the sweet scents of the roses and soaking up the beautiful scenery. The Villa Cimbrone was delightful and definitely worth seeking out. After our tour, we headed back into town and found a gelateria where we treated ourselves to scoops of strawberry and lemon gelato. Delicious.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. Michelle permalink
    July 1, 2011 10:09 am

    Great pics!!!

  2. July 1, 2011 10:40 am

    oh my gosh what a treat! Your pictures are fantastic!

  3. Cass permalink
    July 6, 2011 2:31 pm

    I am enjoying all the honeymoon posts and pics! They are so great, thanks for sharing- I feel like I’m in the village with you and the Mr.

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