Amalfi Coast: Climbing the Stairs (Minori to Ravello) plus Villa Rufalo & Villa Cimbrone

18 Jun

If you are ever ambitious (or, in my case, clueless) enough to take the stairs from Minori up to Ravello on Italy’s Amalfi Coast, you will not regret it. You may leave one or even both lungs along the way, but a piece of your heart will remain, too.  You will marvel at the views, the lemons groves, the mountainside terraces, and the churches–and at the people who live along the path, many of whom go up and down with a spryness that comes with long practice. It is a bit disconcerting to be passed up by septuagenarians carrying multiple bags of groceries, but if you persevere, there are two tremendous rewards to be had in Ravello: Villa Rufalo and Villa Cimbrone.


Minori, at sea level

We started out one morning in February, finding the path on Google Maps (though any shopkeeper can also point the way). Luckily, I didn’t have a good idea of what I was in for; the distance on the map didn’t look too bad at all. But up and up we went, roughly 1,500 steps by some counts–though not by ours; we didn’t have sufficient oxygen flow to keep up an accurate count. Ok, I’m exaggerating slightly–the climb is tough but doable, especial in cooler months and at cooler times of the day. It’s not all stairs, there are stretches of pathway and places to stop, too. But I wouldn’t recommend it at high noon in the middle of the summer, or for anyone who generally has trouble with lots of stairs. If you are game, however, it will be unlike almost anything else you do in Italy. And you can always do it in reverse–go down instead of up. We did both.


Signpost


Stairs going up; man trimming Mimosa tree


Altar along pathway; sea view


Mountain view


Last stretch of pathway between Minori and Ravello

When you finally make it to the top, you are in for a few more spectacular views. But first, a cappuccino or cold drink in the main piazza may be in order. After that, head to Villa Rufalo, home to the Rufalo family in the 13th century, restored by the Scottish businessman Francis Nevile Reid at the turn of the 20th century, and–since the 1950s–the venue for the famous Ravello Festival. Though how those musicians sit on a specially erected platform that appears to be dangling over the cliff, I do not know. The gardens and views are spectacular, but the villa itself is also worth a look.


Giardino


Umbrella pine; Torre Maggiore


Interior doorways; Tiled floors

After seeing Villa Rufalo, grab some lunch, then head to Villa Cimbrone, restored in the 19th century by the Englishman Ernest William Beckett (Lord Grimthorpe) and now a luxe hotel. The gardens, which can be seen separately from the hotel, were influenced by Edwin Lutyens and Gertrude Jekyll and benefited from the advice of Vita Sackville West, who chose many of the trees and plants. If you are afraid of heights, beware the Terrace of Infinity, a stunning spot from which to experience a vertiginous view of the sea 1200 ft (365 m) below. Yes, it’s a slab of concrete dangling on the cliff, but it has lasted this long and appears very sturdy. Just don’t lean too far over the dainty, waist-high, wrought-iron fencing….


Entryway to Villa Cimbrone; Cloister


Rose Terrace


Avenue of Immensity; Statue of Ceres


Terrace of Infinity


Sea view from Terrace of Infinity

So, after a good day in which we climbed a mountain and saw two spectacular gardens, we decided to treat ourselves to a cab back down to Minori. Except there wasn’t one; the lone cab driver working in February had gone on an extended lunch break. So, back down the 1,500 steps we went. My knees and calves were sore for a few days afterward, but I’d do it again in a heartbeat. Plus, there was a sweet reward at the bottom….


Pathway down; Lemon trees behind protective fencing


Rusted doorway; Donkey and cart decor along pathway


View of Ravello atop the cliff

   
Reward at the bottom; cake at Pasticceria Sal De Riso in Minori

 

One Response to “Amalfi Coast: Climbing the Stairs (Minori to Ravello) plus Villa Rufalo & Villa Cimbrone”

  1. Leah Stansbury June 19, 2017 at 4:32 am #

    Wonderful! You definitely earned that cake.

    If you’re looking for a spot to stay, this was my favourite hotel on the Amalfi Coast. It was late November/early December, so no pool, but the walk along the stairs to get there was amazing, as was the view (and I’m sure the price was much lower than normal). The people were absolutely lovely and it was a bit of an adventure finding it. I guess normally people call them from town and someone comes down to give them directions. I had no cell, so I had to figure it out by asking locals in my broken Italian and then trusting that they meant it when they said I should drive up to another hotel, find some stairs, then walk down the hill. http://www.lepalmeamalfi.com/

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