Connected by probably the most scenic road in Europe, which twists, turns, loops and falls the full length of the Amalfi Coast, the glamorous resorts of Sorrento, Positano, Amalfi and, above all, Ravello, have attracted the rich and famous for centuries. Once only reached by mule along difficult mountain paths, the isolation of this stunningly scenic region also attracted writers and artists in abundance.
Homer made the limestone islands southwest of Positano the home of his Sirens in the trials of Odysseus. In the 1700s, Casanova and Goethe both stayed in Sorrento as the guests of Sir William and Lady Hamilton. The landscape variously inspired painters Turner and Mirò, authors DH Lawrence and Tennessee Williams, and we even have the region’s vermilion sunsets to thank for Eduardo di Capua’s “O Sole Mio”. In the 1930s, Greta Garbo, known as The Divine—a moniker now bestowed upon the area—sought refuge from the crowds and paparazzi in Ravello, and in so doing turned it into a haven for Hollywood stars.
Perched 350 metres above the sea, Ravello commands the greatest panorama of all. André Gide evocatively described it as “nearer to the sky than it is to the sea”; Wagner chose it as the magical garden setting for his opera Parsifal.
But for all its grand inhabitants and visitors, the magic of this unique area lies in its simplicity. It’s in the abundant lemon trees, the olive groves and fragrant cypresses, the vibrant market stalls, narrow streets and charming churches; it jostles among the pretty fishing boats, lingers on the secluded beaches, and grabs your attention with its Roman villas, ancient watchtowers and fascinatingly evocative history.