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Amalfi Coast 2020 Travel Inspiration

Now that the holiday season has wrapped up, it’s that time when we start looking ahead at the year to come. If you’re planning a trip to the Amalfi Coast in 2020, I’ve gathered together some special experiences to help with your planning or perhaps even inspire you to book a trip to the Amalfi Coast this year. This is by no means a complete list of all there is to see and do on the Amalfi Coast and the surrounding areas. (Psst … Moon Amalfi Coast is a great resource for that!) These are just a handful of events I’m looking forward to this year along with places in Campania I’m eager to explore more in 2020.

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

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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