Villa Rufolo Review
Directly off Ravello's main piazza is the Villa Rufolo, home to some of the most spectacular gardens in Italy, many of which stunningly frame a Cinerama vista of the Bay of Salerno, often called the "bluest view in the world." If the master storyteller Boccaccio is to be believed, the villa was built in the 13th century by Landolfo Rufolo, whose immense fortune stemmed from trade with the Moors and the Saracens. Norman and Arab architecture mingle in a welter of color-filled gardens so lush the composer Richard Wagner used them as inspiration for Klingsor's Garden, the home of the Flower Maidens, in his opera Parsifal. Beyond the Arab-Sicilian cloister and the Norman tower lie the two terrace gardens. The lower one, the "Wagner Terrace," is often the site for Ravello Music Festival concerts, with the orchestra perched on a precarious-looking platform constructed over the precipice. Sir Francis Nevile Reid, a Scotsman, acquired the villa in 1851 and hired Michele Ruggiero, head of the excavations at Pompeii, to restore the villa to its full splendor and replant the gardens with rare cycads, cordylines, and palms. Highlights of the house are its Moorish cloister—an Arabic-Sicilian delight with interlacing lancet arcs and polychromatic palmette decoration—and the 14th-century Torre Maggiore, the so-called Klingsor's Tower, renamed in honor of Richard Wagner's landmark 1880 visit.