The gardens of the Amalfi Coast are among the most beautiful in the world, sharing their landscape splendor with extraordinary coastal views. Here are five to visit in spring, when flowers burst into full bloom, daytime temperatures are still moderate, and crowds less prevalent.
VILLA CIMBRONE, RAVELLO
Writer and long-time Ravello resident Gore Vidal described the view from Villa Cimbrone’s garden as “the most beautiful sight that I have ever seen in the world.” Vidal was referring to the seascape from the villa’s Terrace of Infinity overlooking the Bay of Salerno where the cerulean sea surrounded by terraced hills with umbrella pines fades to an aqua sky. The villa’s property, perched on a rocky promontory called Cimbronium, was sought after since Roman times—in the last 1000 year years numerous noble families owned the land, which now includes a hotel, the luxe Villa Cimbrone (the gardens are open to the public 9 AM until 8 PM). Among the many owners was a British aristocrat, Edward Beckett, Lord Grimthorpe, who restored the villa and created the gardens with help from his friend, famed English gardener and writer Vita Sackville-West. As if realizing dramatic flourishes were needed to compete with the magnificent seascape, Beckett created an environment with theatrical verve that included included elements of both English and Italian garden design. Here you’ll find everything from grottoes, temples and classical statures to a lush assortment of flowers. Word spread among Grimthorpe’s set about his idyllic haven by the sea, and many prominent names came for a visit, among them E.M. Forster, D.H. Lawrence and Winston Churchill. Greta Garbo stayed at the villa, no doubt finding she could enjoy her much-coveted privacy in unusually beautiful surroundings, where bougainvillea, wisteria, oleander and roses bloom in spring and summer.
VILLA RUFOLO, RAVELLO
Built in the 13th century, the Villa Rufolo was owned by the powerful Rufolo family and by other area nobles over the centuries. Although the garden was immortalized in Bocaccio’s Decameron, the sumptuous landscape that flourishes today evolved from the work of Scottish botanist Francis Nevile Reid, who bought the property, then in disrepair, in 1851. The formal garden, home to what many describe as the most photographed tree in Italy, sprawls over two levels and includes both exotic and local plants.There are countless alluring spots: In season bougainvillea and roses cover pergolas, and manicured flower beds showcasing seasonal flowers and succulents are interspersed among the many tree and plant varieties, among them cypress and umbrella pines, palm and citrus trees, European box, English ivy, jasmine and water lilies. As with the Villa Cimbrone the views overlooking the water are outstanding. During the summer you can take in the scenicsplendor from a stage on the garden’s lower level where the the annual Ravello Festival is held, this year from June 30 to August 25th.