Visit an Ancient Roman Villa in Minori

With its beautiful beaches lined with colorful umbrellas, sweet laid back atmosphere, and those famous views, it’s easy to think of the Amalfi Coast as a holiday spot just for soaking up the sun. Don’t get me wrong, there’s no other place I’d rather relax on the beach. Yet what many travelers don’t realize is that there’s a wealth of historical layers to the Amalfi Coast that are fascinating to discover along with the incredible natural beauty.

Villa Romana ruins in Minori on the Amalfi Coast

For instance, did you know that the ancient Romans once enjoyed holidaying on the Amalfi Coast, too? Traces of Roman life on the coastline have been found in various places, including below the center of Amalfi, on the Li Galli Islands, Vietri sul Mare, below the Church of Santa Maria Assunta in Positano, and most notably in the town of Minori. Nestled in the valley below Ravello, Minori is just a short jaunt or pleasant 10 minute ferry ride east of Amalfi.

While the ancient cities of Pompeii and Herculaneum make excellent day trips from the Amalfi Coast, the Villa Romana in Minori offers the chance to walk through a Roman seaside villa dating back to the 1st century BC. Of the Roman ruins discovered along the Amalfi Coast, the Villa Romana is the largest. The archaeological area covers over 2,500 square feet (232 square meters) and was once a large private estate.

Located right in the center of town, the Villa Romana is only steps from the Amalfi Coast Road as it winds through Minori. Like many ancient sites in the area, the ruins of the Villa Romana are situated well below the street level now. Over the centuries the city was built over the top of the Roman villa. Today a good part of the villa lies below modern day Minori, with buildings immediately surrounding the excavation area. Before entering, stop to gaze down on the large garden with a pool surrounded on two sides by a triportico, a covered passageway lined with columns and arches.

The experience of visiting Minori’s Villa Romana simply cannot be compared to the scale of the ruins of Pompeii and Herculaneum – entire cities that offer much more complexity and variety. Yet what makes this site appealing is precisely its isolation. The villa sprawls across several levels as it was built into the natural slope of the valley right over the Regginolo river that runs down to the sea. Just imagine the tranquility of this spot all those centuries ago. Now that’s what you call a holiday spot!

An impressively long and grand staircase leads from where the upper levels would have once been located down to the triportico and the garden level. While the rooms are quiet and dark now, they would have once been used for entertainment and music. Especially the most lavishly decorated area called the nymphaeum. This room would have been the heart of the villa for dining and still features mosaics, traces of frescoes, and the remains of what was once a waterfall feature at the end of the room.

Just off the nymphaeum inthe garden is a small pool that was once in the center of the villa, meaning the garden area was about twice as large as is visible today. The remaining garden area lies below modern day Minori, but there are more excavated areas nearby that are primarily baths. However, these rooms are rarely open to the public.

The ruins of the Villa Romana were noted in the 1870s and later excavated in more depth starting in 1932. After exploring the villa and imagining how splendid it would have been in its grandeur, do stop in the small museum of archaeological items that were uncovered in Minori and the surrounding areas.

The Villa Romana has been in the press recently thanks to the excellent news that it has been awarded €4.9 million Euros for restoration work from the Ministero per i beni e le attività culturali (MiBAC), the government agency responsible for the preservation of Italy’s rich cultural heritage. This is excellent news for this historic site, which can be preserved better and greatly enriched to make it even more engaging for an international audience. I am eager to see how the Villa Romana develops, but the future is looking good.

However, don’t wait to visit! The Villa Romana is already a fascinating place to step back in history for a little while during your Amalfi Coast explorations. If it’s not already there, definitely put Minori on your Amalfi Coast list, but that’s a post for another day. But as a sneak peak, other highlights include stopping for tempting desserts at the Sal de Riso pastry shop, walking among lemon groves on the Sentiero dei Limoni, and many festivals and events throughout the year to experience.

The Villa Romana is open year round and is free to enter. More information on hours and visiting can be found here.

Villa Romana
www. villaromanaminori.com
Via Capo di Piazza 28
tel. 089/852-893
9am-one hour before sunset daily, closed May 1, Dec. 25, and Jan. 1;
Free entrance

Last of the October Beach Days

If you’re lucky, summer comes back for a little visit in October. These lingering summer days are extra special at the beach on the Amalfi Coast, because they’ve already been abandoned by the crowds. We’ve had so many warm days this month that it seems strange to have already set the clocks back for daylight savings and that November is just around the corner. How did that even happen?

It’s that time of year to start the annual hunt for the tricky ingredients for the Thanksgiving dinner I’ll be preparing before too long. Every once in awhile the cold north wind has been blowing down from the mountains and I’ve already made the “cambio di stagione” change in our wardrobes from summer to autumn and winter. Yet at the same time the sun has been shining and beckoning us back into summer.

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Catching the boat to Santa Croce beach from Amalfi

Last week we took a trip back to summer and spent the day at Santa Croce beach near Amalfi – always one of my favorite spots. While we were walking along the harbor debating lunch plans, my husband spotted the boat from Ristorante Da Teresa arriving. We glanced at one another only very briefly. “It’s a sign,” I called out, already running down the steps to the pier to jump aboard.

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Ready to go to Santa Croce

The Darsena pier, which you can see above, is where you can catch the boat to Santa Croca. Look for this long, pale pink boat with the sign saying Ristorante Da Teresa.

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On the way!

Climb aboard and in a few minutes you’ll be at Santa Croce beach. The boat service is complimentary for patrons of the restaurant or if you’re renting a sunbed and umbrella.

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Arriving at Ristorante Da Teresa

The only way to reach this rocky beach is by boat. Usually, there’s another restaurant called Santa Croce to the left, but it had already been dismantled for the season when we went last week. The sea can be so rough during winter storms that the entire restaurant structure is pretty much removed for protection. When we got ashore, I spotted two lonely looking orange sunbeds on one side of the beach. They were lonely no more! I’ve been to Santa Croce many times, even at the end of the season, but I’ve never had half of the beach to myself. It was divine.

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Now this is my idea of the beach …

I really needed some time – just me and the sound of the sea. It was completely relaxing soaking up the autumn sun and listing to the waves tumbling little rocks to and fro. It was a bit too chilly for me to swim, but my husband took a dip before lunch.

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Having the sea to yourself

After a bit we went upstairs to the dining terrace for a relaxed lunch overlooking the sea. As always, the meal was excellent.

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Lunch with a soothing view

A crisp, local rosé was the perfect complement to a delicious meal. Naturally, seafood is the best choice here, and we had antipasti of friend anchovies and squid cooked with roasted peppers. Then pasta made with a local fish called gallinella.

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Summer sunshine and an Amalfi Coast rosé

After lunch it was back to the sun for a little while before returning to Amalfi. There were a few boats coming and going, dropping of travelers for lunch at Da Teresa. Otherwise it was total tranquility.

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Hang on summer

I spent some time reading and scrambling around like I always do on the rocks to take photos. Never gets old this beach. Water is such a soothing element for me, and just being near the sea can wash away a world of stress.

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Back home to Amalfi

It always comes too soon, but before long it was time for the last boat back to Amalfi … and to our busy October days. But for just one day I could pretend it was still summer.

 

 

 

Italy Blogging Roundtable

Italy Roundtable
This blog post is part of a series called The Italy Blogging Roundtable. Every month our group of Italy based writers takes on a new theme, and you can read the contributions for this month’s topic – Elements – at the links below. We’d love to hear your thoughts and comments. Please share the stores if you’ve enjoyed them!

ArtTravA Gift from the Earth: Potatoes in the Alto Adige

At Home in Tuscany

Bleeding Espresso

Brigolante

Italy ExplainedSecrets of Underground Naples

Girl in FlorenceThe Man Protecting Tuscany’s Sea: Paolo Fanciulli

Italofile

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Francesco Clemente’s Standing with Truth for Ravello 2017

In Italy, you can’t help but experience modernity within the context of the past. What is new is quite literally enveloped in what came before. But isn’t that what it should always be like? During my Washington, DC days, I was struck by a quotation from Shakespeare’s The Tempest that is carved at the base of a statue outside the National Archives. “What is past is prologue,” it reads. In a place like the Amalfi Coast, protected as it is thanks to its UNESCO World Heritage Site status, the visual landscape is a narrative that has continued unbroken from the past.

In a place with centuries of history such as the Villa Rufolo in Ravello, it’s possible to walk through its history, starting practically at the prologue in the 12th century and continuing to today. It is within this historic surrounding that a thoroughly modern exhibit has been placed this summer. As part of this year’s Ravello Festival, the show Standing with Truth for Ravello 2017 is a site-specific installation created by Neapolitan born artist Francesco Clemente in one of the Villa Rufolo’s atmospheric spots.

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The exhibit is situated in the courtyard and what was once a chapel at the Villa Rufolo. It’s a quiet and reflective setting – perfect for art exhibitions. The courtyard is flanked by two rows of bright red flags painted with symbols at once captivating and dark. A clenched fist holds colorful flowers. A sickle, broken at its base, cuts into a bleeding heart. Two strange creatures embrace. Images with an intensity that evokes a struggle.

Stepping inside the chapel, the narrative continues with a large tent entirely hand painted in tempura. The exhibition notes point out that it’s the type of tent characterized by Asian nomad shepherds. A tent as shelter, a tent as a symbol of changing places. This exhibition is themed around the idea of walls and migration – timely topics in today’s political climate around the world. Clemente has been working with the idea of tents since his ENCAMPMENT series that started about 5 years ago.

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This is a tent you can walk into, explore and experience. I happened to be there at a moment when there were no other visitors and it was a fascinating visual experience. There are ancient symbols, animals and faces that reminded me of Picasso’s Rose Period. The colors are vividly warm and I found myself creating my own narratives as I wandered around inside.

What stories do you see?

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Peering out from inside the tent, you can see the walls lined with a series of watercolors by Clemente that are on display for the first time.

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Getting up close to these watercolors, it was possible to see the incredible texture and labor that went into their design. Just look at the design in the concentric circles and the red border below. The works were full of intricate details that are exotic and traditional, playing on the theme different cultures blending together.

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Leaving the chapel, the harsh red flags reveal softer pastel color scheme with messages embroidered in gold thread. As they say, there are two sides to every story, and these flags fluttering in a summer breeze were reminders of that.

One tie-died flag caught my eye in particular. It says, “Il piu moderno qui è anche il piu’ arcaico.” That translates to: “The most modern here is also the most archaic.” Framed by the arched entrance to the chapel courtyard, it perfectly captured the setting of this contemporary art exhibit in the 12th-century ruins of the Villa Rufolo.

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It was also the catalyst for my reflections on this exhibition. If what is past is prologue, we carry not only who we were in the past with us as we move forward in life, but we also carry with us our family, back to our remotest ancestors in far flung parts of the world we have yet to even imagine. We carry that with us as we go forward, sometimes moving countries, meeting new people, making new families. We are ancient and modern all at once, just like the landscapes we move through.

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Standing with Truth for Ravello 2017 is on display at the Villa Rufolo through the end of September. Entrance to the exhibit is included when you purchase your ticket for the Villa Rufolo. More details available at www.villarufolo.com.

 

Italy Blogging Roundtable

Italy Roundtable
This blog post is part of a series called The Italy Blogging Roundtable. Every month our group of Italy based writers takes on a new theme, and you can read the contributions for this month’s topic – Modern – at the links below. We’d love to hear your thoughts and comments. Please share the stores if you’ve enjoyed them!

ArtTrav

At Home in Tuscany

Bleeding Espresso

Brigolante

Italy ExplainedWhere to See Modern & Contemporary Art in Italy

Girl in Florence

Italofile

 

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The Amalfi Lemon Experience

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One of the symbols of the Amalfi Coast, the lemon adds its colorful touch to the terraced landscape, to the hand-painted ceramics and, of course, to the local culinary traditions. The Amalfi Coast lemon is a treasure and one that you should experience while you’re visiting the area. What’s the best way? On the Amalfi Lemon Experience Tour! Created by the Aceto family, who have been cultivating lemons on the Amalfi Coast for six generations, this is a unique opportunity to walk among the lemon groves. Along the way you’ll learn about the history of lemon production on the Amalfi Coast, the unique challenges, and enjoy a tasting and visit to the family’s personal museum and laboratory where they produce limoncello and many other delights!

Recently I was able to join the Amalfi Lemon Experience Tour with Nicki from Positano Daily Photo, and we loved it! Enjoy her fun video of the tour and then read on below for a photo tour of the day exploring the lemon groves of Amalfi.

 

 

Wasn’t that fabulous? I love Nicki’s videos, and if you enjoyed that as well don’t forget to subscribe to her Nicki Positano YouTube channel so you don’t miss any in the future. Now come along and join me on a photo tour of the day!

Piazza Duomo Amalfi Lemon Tour Meeting Point

A beautiful day for a Lemon Tour! The meeting point is in Piazza Duomo in Amalfi.

 

Amalfi Lemon Tour Cart

Hop on the cart for the ride up to the top of Amalfi to the Aceto family lemon groves

 

Learning about how the terraced lemon groves are created and the green and black nets to protect the trees in the winter

 

Salvatore Aceto leading the Lemon Tour – he is so passionate about his family’s traditions!

 

Taste testing Amalfi lemons – you can eat the whole thing since they are organic

 

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Walking through the lemon groves and learning about the harvest and hard work it is to grow lemons on the Amalfi Coast

 

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The terraces of lemons are connected so the lemon trees grow from one terrace to another to maximize space

 

The delicate lemon trees are covered with black nets until late spring to protect them

 

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Although much of the harvest is done by hand and heavy crates of lemons carried on the shoulders, this helps them move the crates down the mountainside

 

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Luigi Aceto, Salvatore’s father, is still hard at work splitting the willow branches that are used to tie the lemon tree branches to the wooden pergolas

 

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Charming display for a tasting of lemons during the tour

 

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Fresh lemonade and lemon cake are a sweet treat during the Lemon Tour!

 

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A stop in the family’s museum on the tour shows their incredible collection of historic pieces

 

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Pieces of Amalfi’s past, including the stencils that were ones used to mark bread

 

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Taking a peek inside the laboratory where the family’s limoncello is made

 

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So many choices! All made right in the laboratory below the Aceto family lemon groves.

 

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Having fun taking photos with Nicki from Positano Daily Photo

 

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Amalfi Coast lemon perfection – the true sfusato amalfitano lemon

 

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A special visit to the Aceto family lemon groves overlooking Amalfi

 

Would you like to discover Amalfi’s incredible tradition of growing lemons firsthand? Find out more about the Amalfi Lemon Tour Experience and how to book here!

Ravello Torre Maggiore at Villa Rufolo

Visit the Torre Maggiore at Villa Rufolo – Opens April 1st!

Ravello Torre Maggiore at Villa Rufolo

The Torre Maggiore at Villa Rufolo Opens as the Torre-Museo on April 1st

If you’ve been to Ravello and visited the Villa Rufolo, you’ve likely stood and enjoyed the view looking up at the Torre Maggiore. This historic tower dates back to the 13th century when the wealthy Rufolo family called the Villa Rufolo home. Behind the scenes a major restoration project has been going on to open the Torre Maggiore to the public by transforming it into a museum and creating a viewing platform at the top. The project is complete and opens to the public on April 1st!

Torre Maggiore at Villa Rufolo Garden

Can you spot the glass enclosed view platform on the tower?

Last weekend the Villa Rufolo opened the Torre-Museo for a sneak peek viewing by residents on the Amalfi Coast. I’ve been eyeing that viewing platform for some time now. I just new it would have an incredible view! Last Saturday morning was clear and beautiful, so it was the perfect time to visit the Torre-Museo for the first time.

Let me start with the viewing platform on the top, because that’s what really took my breath away. The view from the gardens of Villa Rufolo are justifiably famous. But what climbing to the top of the Torre Maggiore does is give you a bird’s-eye view over the gardens with that incredible sweeping view of the coastline and Bay of Salerno.

Plus, since it’s surrounded by glass on all sides, you get views of Ravello and across the valley to Scala that you wouldn’t see from anywhere else.

Since the inside of the tower has been transformed into a museum and interactive experience, the climb of about 100 steps really goes by quickly. The staircase itself is a fascinating site, twisting and turning like an M.C. Escher design.

Along the way on each level there are architectural pieces, artefacts and explanation about the history of the Rufolo family and the tower.

The lighting is striking and creates and evocative setting for displaying pieces. Along the journey climbing the stairs, there are also light projections and audio recordings to bring the history to life.

At the entrance to the tower there’s a small room displaying artwork showing Ravello, the Amalfi Coast and the Villa Rufolo.

A visit to the Torre-Museo is a great way to start your exploration of the Villa Rufolo. Then you can wander through the beautiful gardens and buildings that you spied from on top of the Torre Maggiore.

The Torre-Museo opens to the public on April 1st, 2017 and entrance to the tower will be included in the price of the Villa Rufolo ticket. Entrance to the tower may be limited to a certain number of people at a time to improve the visitor experience, so if you’d like to go you might want to check if there’s a line when you arrive at Villa Rufolo.

Find out more about opening times and ticket prices at www.villarufolo.com.