Italy’s Amalfi Coast is filled with stunning towns and vistas all along the Tyrrhenian Sea. Positano, Amalfi and the island of Capri steal a lot of the Amalfi Coast hype, but one of the not-so-hidden gems of the Amalfi Coast is the town of Ravello. Perched up on the mountaintop overlooking the coast, Ravello has a long history for being a getaway for the rich and famous.
The highlights are the incredibly scenic villas, Villa Cimbrone and Villa Rufolo. The villas alone make Ravello one of the Must See Places on the Amalfi Coast. The breathtaking terraces, beautiful gardens, and stunning architecture are just a few of the reasons why Ravello needs to be near the top of your Amalfi Coast bucket list.
How to Get There
Ravello is a bit off the grid compared to Amalfi and Positano, and takes a bit of an effort to get there. There are a few ways to get to Ravello. Most likely, you are going to be leaving from the town of Amalfi to visit Ravello. So if you aren’t staying in Amalfi, you are first going to want to get yourself to Amalfi. Daily ferries from Positano, Sorrento, Capri and even Naples come to Amalfi.
Taking a Taxi
From Amalfi, the two main ways to get to Ravello are by taking the public bus, or taking a taxi. A taxi offers more convenience, but it can be very expensive for a 15-20 minute ride. In early October, a taxi driver offered to take two of us up for $80. If money is not an issue this is the simplest way to get up there. We declined and instead decided to take the bus up.
Taking the Bus
Taking the bus up to Ravello can be, for lack of a better phrase, a shit show. First, finding the bus stop is a bit challenging. It is located in the Piazza Flavio Gioia just before the Marina Grande beach.
Finding out where to buy the bus tickets is also tricky and a bit of a hidden spot. You will need to buy the bus tickets at the nearby tobacco shop. It’s only about a hundred feet away from the bus stop and reads "TABACCHI". The tickets cost $1.20 euro one way per person. Below is a photo of the tobacco shop.
A good amount of people were waiting for the bus up to Ravello at about 11am. Several buses were parked in the area, and all the drivers were standing outside of the buses talking to each other. All the buses turned off their electronic signs that indicate where they are going, so no one knew which buses they were supposed to be loading.
As everyone waiting was confused, and the bus departure time had already passed, a few people went up to the bus drivers to ask them which bus was for Ravello. The drivers not only didn’t answer any of them, but they didn’t even acknowledge or look at the people asking them the questions. Now I know sometimes tourists can be annoying, but the drivers were all very rude and did not want to help anyone, so I wouldn't come in with high expectations from the bus drivers.
About 15 minutes after the bus departure time, the drivers all hopped into their buses. They then turned on their signs, and two of them said Ravello. All the people waiting desperately crammed into the buses, where you scan your ticket in the machine at the entrance.
The bus ride up itself also wasn’t the best experience. The bus was crammed, every seat full and people standing in the aisles. The wild hairpin turns the bus was making were anxiety inducing to say the least, as many of them were on the cliff’s edge. There were also a few times where we had to just sit in standstill traffic to wait for traffic in the opposite direction to make turns before the bus could fit. The bus eventually drops you off at the end of the road near Ravello, where you can walk into the beautiful town.
You can of course rent a car or scooter and navigate your way up to Ravello, but I would not suggest this for a few reasons. The roads are very narrow, windy, with many blind turns. The drivers in Italy also can be a little scary as they don’t always slow down. And then take into account the fact that you have these large tour buses making pinpoint turns around sharp corners, barely leaving room for a person to walk past on the sidewalk.
Long story short, it could be a dangerous endeavor to drive up yourself. The other obstacle is there is no public parking in Ravello. It’s a car-free town so you will have difficulty figuring out where to park. This is why I would unfortunately suggest taking the bus.
You also have the option of walking up to Ravello. We walked down from Ravello to Amalfi, which was a fun alternative than taking the bus. This allowed us to meander through the small side streets and see some of the local houses and farms on the hillside. The stairs can be very steep at times, so take caution when going downhill. This is better suited for someone who is in shape and enjoys getting exercise.
Although walking down to Amalfi was fun, I would not suggest walking up to Ravello from Amalfi. This would be a very intense climb all the way up to Ravello. The steep staircases will be a brutal workout and if it's a hot day, the sun and heat will make it that much harder. It also may take a few hours to walk up. If you wanted to walk one way, I would say take the bus up and walk back down.
Other options would be to join a tour from one of the other Amalfi coast towns of Sorrento, Positano, or a long day trip from Naples. These will probably be with a bus or private car.
What to Do
The two big attractions of Ravello are its two villas: Villa Rufolo and Villa Cimbrone. They are both luxurious villas with unique gardens and architecture.
The town of Ravello itself is very small but extremely scenic and beautiful. The main square, Piazza del Duomo, is a lively spot where you can visit the church, Duomo di Ravello. The opposite end of the square has views over the hillside farms and ocean views.
Wandering the town by foot is a great experience itself. Give yourself enough time to explore the town of Ravello either before or after visiting the main attractions. There are many shops, cafes, and restaurants in the town, and you could easily spend an hour or two wandering around. The old, picturesque streets are lined with tons of art shops.
The best gelato I had on my whole Italy trip was in Ravello at a gelateria called Bar Kingslor. We ordered some incredible dessert and sat outside, admiring the Piazza del Duomo while we snacked.
The entrance to Villa Rufolo is close to where the bus drops you off, and just a minute’s walk to the Piazza del Duomo. You can purchase tickets at the ticket kiosk right at the entrance of the villa for $10 euro per person.
Once inside, you are going to want to take your time exploring the gorgeous grounds. I found myself turning and taking photos every few feet here: it’s a photographer’s playground. The gardens overlooking the sea are one of the highlights, as are iconic domes perched on the cliff.
There is the main tower, Torre Maggiore, that you can climb to the top. As you walk up inside the tower, you can admire preserved art, statues, and other items from the ancient villa as part of the museum. This is a place where you can also learn a little more about the history of the villa.
I would suggest taking your time here and enjoying the scenery. Plan to spend about 1.5 hours visiting Villa Rufolo.
A short walk from the Piazza del Duomo is Ravello’s other famous villa, Villa Cimbrone. Tickets are $10 euro per person and can be purchased at the entrance kiosk.
Much like Villa Rufolo, there is something beautiful and interesting everywhere you turn. Enjoy walking through the gardens, admiring the ancient temples and statues, and treat yourself to a refreshing drink or meal at the Rose Garden where you can enjoy the view over the nearby hillsides and sea. My personal favorite was the Cloister near the entrance.
The Terrace of Infinity is the must see attraction of Villa Cimbrone. The terrace is lined with marble sculptures that hang 1200 feet above the sea. You can walk up to the edge and look straight down to the water. My hands are sweating just thinking about it.
Plan to spend around 45 minutes to an hour visiting Villa Cimbrone.
When planning your trip to the Amalfi Coast, don’t forget to schedule a trip to Ravello to visit its beautiful Villas. If you are staying in Positano, like I did, combine a trip to Ravello with the town of Amalfi for a perfect day trip.