Sunday, October 6, 2013

Villa Cimbrone, Ravello

The origins of the name Villa Cimbrone come from the rocky outcrop on which it stands: this was part of a large estate with lush vegetation covering over eight hectares that was known as “Cimbronium”. It initially belonged to the aristocratic Acconciajoco family. In the mid 1300's it passed into the hands of the powerful and wealthy Fuscos, a noble family from Ravello who were related to the Pitti family in Florence and the D’Angiò family from Naples.

Thanks to the enthusiasm and dedication of the Vuilleumier family, for a few decades now Villa Cimbrone has been restored to its former standing as a prestigious historical site and botanical garden.

The Villa’s gardens were largely redesigned at the start of the 20th century, with the valuable input of the English gardener Vita Sackville-West. They are considered among the most important examples of the English landscape and botany culture in the South of Europe.

It takes about 15 minutes to walk  from the center of Ravello to Villa Cimbrone, over stone paved walkways that offer breathtaking panoramic views of the surrounding country side.

Ernest Beckett bought the villa from the Amici family in 1904, and enlisted the help of Nicola Mansi, a tailor-barber-builder from Ravello whom he had met in England, to help with the restoration and enlargement of the villa and gardens.

The Tea-room, an original construction as an open pavilion.

Many famous visitors came to the villa during the Beckett family's ownership. It was a favourite haunt of the Bloomsbury Group, including Virginia Woolf, Leonard Woolf, E. M. Forster and John Maynard Keynes. Other visitors included D. H. Lawrence, Henry Moore, T. S. Eliot, Jean Piaget, Winston Churchill and the Duke and Duchess of Kent.

The actress Greta Garbo and her then-lover, the conductor Leopold Stokowski, stayed at the villa several times in the late 1930's; a visit of 1938 is memorialized on a plaque.

The long central path, which in May 1880 provided the backdrop to the famous horse ride by Cosima and Richard Wagner, ends with the “Infinity Terrace”, where the gaze of onlookers is lost in what Gore Vidal called “the most beautiful view in the world” and where Gregorovius said that one feels “the desire to fly”.

As a result of the strong influence of classical literature and the reinterpretation of the Roman villa, numerous impressive decorative elements from all over the world were placed in the gardens, such as fountains, nymphaea, statues, small temples and pavilions.

”Twenty five years ago I was asked by an American magazine what was the most beautiful place that I had ever seen in all my travels and I said the view from the belvedere of the Villa Cimbrone on a bright winter's day when the sky and the sea were each so vividly blue that it was not possible to tell one from the other.” - Gore Vidal

The origins of the name Villa Cimbrone come from the rocky outcrop on which it stands.

The Seven Deadly Sins.

The cloister, a graceful little courtyard in an Arabian – Sicilian – Norman style.

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