RAVELLO - THE HIDDEN GEM OF THE AMALFI COAST
Updated: Mar 20
A homely hotel, a 5* villa, thousands of steps, a waterfall hike and some impeccable food
We rented a car in Sorrento and were making our way to our next stop along the Amalfi coast, Ravello. As we were checking out of our hotel in Sorrento, the receptionist mentioned that there had been a fire above Positano causing a lot of damage and disruption. The fire had caused rocks to fall meaning the road below had to be closed. The fire occurred a couple of days before we were heading to Ravello but our receptionist wasn’t sure whether the road had reopened yet. After doing some Googling but failing to find what we were looking for, we called the owner of our hotel in Ravello, Antonio at the Hotel Parsifal. Antonio was extremely helpful, checked with the local police and reported back to say the coast road was still closed. He then explained in detail how we could access Ravello by taking an alternate route.
We set off and James was forced to quickly get used to fast and reckless drivers. He also hadn’t driven on the right side of the road for a year or so and this takes some getting used to. We settled into the drive and after sitting in traffic for around 20 minutes to get out of Sorrento, we began the windy climb up the pass in the direction of Pompei before veering off and beginning our descent into Ravello. The drive took around 1hr 45 minutes but this was due to the coast road closure and everyone having to take the same alternate route. Usually this drive would take around 1hr25 minutes.
We arrived at Hotel Parsifal and parked outside where you could stay temporarily for 30 minutes. We stepped into the beautiful garden of Hotel Parsifal and as we reached the entrance a face recognition machine took our temperature and gave us the ‘okay’ to enter the hotel. We entered wearing our masks and were told by our hotelier, Antonio that the machine tells you off if you’re not wearing one! Hotel Parsifal has an extremely cosy and friendly feel and the owners are lovely and welcoming. We were shown to our room and Antonio provided us with a guide reassuring guests that they were following Covid-19 guidelines. The rooms are cleaned with chlorine disinfectants and quaternary ammonium salts daily. Whilst the rooms are empty, the rooms go through a process of ozone generating which is basically the same process that is used in hospital operating rooms. There is sanitising gel provided throughout the hotel and masks are to be worn in all common areas. The procedures and information provided at this hotel were the best we had experienced at any hotel during our Amalfi coast trip. We felt this hotel could not have done more to reassure their guests that they were doing their very utmost to ensure their safety.
Once we had unpacked and freshened up, we headed back down to reception and Antonio talked us through the map of Ravello and where we could see the best sights. We admired the views from the Hotel Parsifal terrace before heading out to explore the beautiful town of Ravello. This hotel is perfectly placed for your visit to Ravello. It is only a short 10 minute walk to the main piazza and the walk to get there is extremely picturesque taking you through the narrow streets and past some of the quaint shops Ravello has to offer. We were feeling a little peckish so we stopped in the main piazza at Duomo Caffe Ravello Costa di Amalfi. We enjoyed a spritz and a piadina in the glorious sunshine and spent longer than we’d planned relaxing and sunbathing. We then set off to explore more of Ravello and from the Piazza del Vescovado you can access Villa Rufolo. The entrance fee is 7 euros each for you to visit this villa which dates back to the 14th century. You enter from the piazza through the tower which was once a watch-tower. Inside you will find gardens filled with multi-coloured flowers and the most breath-taking views of the Amalfi coast.
Next up was the Villa Cimbrone. The villa is a private 5-star hotel but the gardens are open to the public for an entrance fee of 7 euros per person. This villa is a very popular and extravagant wedding venue and definitely somewhere to impress your guests. When you purchase your ticket to the gardens you are provided with a map that takes you to the main attractions in the garden from start to finish. The gardens are filled with history and culture and learning about each statue and key point on your way around really brings this attraction to life. One of the main parts of the gardens is the terrace of infinity which is lined with marble busts and overlooks the Mediterranean. On a clear day all you can see is blue and the views are spectacular.
We left the villa and decided to walk down to one of the towns right on the coast. Ravello sits 365m above sea level so to get to our chosen destination, Minori we had to endure 1500 steps. Downhill, this wasn’t too bad and it was actually quite an enjoyable walk admiring the views as we got closer and closer to the coastline. Coming back up however was another story! We reached Minori and had previously read that this was a popular holiday destination for Italian tourists. There wasn’t a whole lot to see in Minori and it seems to be for those purely looking for a seaside holiday of sunbathing and swimming. If your ideal holiday is to bake in the sun all day and occasionally have a dip in the sea then Minori would be perfect but it didn’t have enough to offer for us. I can’t sit still for long enough to be an avid sunbather. After a walk along the coast, we stopped at a beachside café for a prosecco and a beer and I frantically searched online hoping I could find some public transport to take me back up the hill to Ravello. You have to take the local bus to Amalfi and then change to take another bus up to Ravello. This would have taken a long time to get back so James convinced me to walk back up to Ravello – I’ll repeat 1500 steps! I powered through the first part of the walk and the two glasses of prosecco definitely helped. Half way through I was ready for it to be over and it was a slog to get to the top. It felt like we’d been walking forever. The sun was going down as we reached the top after walking for around 1hr 10 minutes uphill. I wouldn’t recommend this walk unless you want an active day. You will feel accomplished at the end but it is tough. Personally, I didn’t feel like Minori had enough to offer to make the walk worthwhile but that is just personal preference.
We got back to our room and had a quick turnaround to make our dinner reservation. Luckily, we’d decided to eat in the hotel this evening as the Ristorante Raffaele is highly rated so we didn’t have far to go. Ristorante Raffaele serves classical and Mediterranean cuisine and overlooks the Amalfi Coast. We sat on the terrace and the view was magical with all of the twinkling lights we could see below. The terrace was full of other diners which gave it a warm, family feel. We opted for a bottle of house red which was truly delicious. It was served in a wine bottle with a beautiful label showing it came from Hotel Parsifal. The wine was fruity and smooth and complimented our dishes perfectly. I chose a spinach and ricotta ravioli dish and James chose steak with potatoes and vegetables. The food was perfectly presented and extremely tasty. A definite recommendation for dinner in Ravello.
Our second day in Ravello had begun and we got dressed to head down for breakfast at Hotel Parsifal. The Covid-19 restrictions meant the usual buffet option was not available however this didn’t stop us having a hearty breakfast to set us up for the day ahead. We had cereal, fruit, yogurt and pastries accompanied by a frothy coffee. From the breakfast room there is the most incredible view of Ravello and the small towns below. You can even catch the sea in the distance. We admired the view whilst finishing our coffees and then headed out to start the Valle delle Ferriere walk.
The walk was clearly signposted the whole way and it was a really enjoyable walk. It wasn’t too long, too difficult or too tiring as most of it was downhill. From Hotel Parsifal we made our way along Strada Statale di Ravello. There are lots of hair pins turns on this road but steep staircases allow you to cut corners and escape from the main road. You will then reach Autocarrozzeria Cioffi, a used car dealership. Continue on to join Via Valle Delle Ferriere. Stay on this quieter and more pedestrianised road through the small town of Pontone all the way to La Valle Delle Ferriere. You will reach an archway that borders Ravello and Atrani. The walk will take around 1 hour 30 minutes.
Pass through the arch and immediately you will hear the rush of water flowing at high speed. Follow the marked path to reach a stunning waterfall. This is a small, intimate spot and great for photos. Wait your turn until you have the place to yourselves to get the best Insta shots! Once you’ve exhausted all photo angles you can make your way back in the direction of the archway but don’t pass back underneath. Head to the left and continue along the path until you reach a checkpoint. Here you pay to enter the next part of La Valle Delle Ferriere for 5 euro per person. A member of the reservoir personnel will take you through this part of the attraction to see the luscious greenery, large waterfalls and the rare Woodwardia plants. The Woodwardia fern is considered a living fossil and is kept alive by the valleys micro-climate.
After taking too many photos we made our way in the direction of the archway at the entrance of the valley. We then followed signs for Amalfi town which was our next stop. The walk into Amalfi took around 35 minutes. After a long walk we were ready to relax and grab some lunch in the sun. Stepping into Amalfi town we were amazed by its beauty, the Duomo di Sant’Andrea and the sheer volume of people bustling around the streets. During my research of where to visit on a trip to the Amalfi coast, Amalfi town was not top of any lists but I was so glad we visited. I loved it.
We stopped for lunch at Royal Restaurant & Wine Bar and enjoyed a pizza, a bruschetta, a beer and an Amalfi spritz (a spritz mixed with Blue Curacao – stick to the Aperol I say!) Now we had full tummies we ventured off to explore the numerous gift shops and gelaterias in Amalfi. I, of course, had an Amarena ice cream (my favourite) and James had a fresh lemon sorbet. We then looked for a restaurant for dinner as we’d planned to catch the bus from Ravello later into Amalfi town. The most highly rated restaurants, such as Ristorante la Caravella and Ristorante Marina Grande, were a little of our price range so instead we booked a table at a quaint little restaurant tucked away behind the Amalfi Duomo, Taverna degli Apostoli. We had seen this recommended on a Youtube Vlog of the Amalfi Coast and it was said the be the “best meal on the Amalfi Coast” so we thought we had to try.
Our dinner plans were sorted and our next stop was to visit the Grotta della Smeraldo. This is a very similar attraction to the Blue Grotto which you can access from Capri Island. It is an emerald cave and when natural sunlight peeps through the cracks, it reflects off the water and makes it sparkle. The tour is only 12 euros per person. A boat collects you from the Amalfi port and takes you to the entrance of the Grotto. You then disembark from the speedboat, step into the dark cave and hop into a rowing boat. A guide then takes you on a tour of the small, intimate cave pointing out the key parts and explaining the history behind this attraction. Unfortunately, we don’t speak Italian so couldn’t follow this part of the tour however this didn’t take away from the experience. The cave was unlike anything we’d ever seen and it is completely mesmerising when you’re inside. We then got back onto the speedboat and made our way back to Amalfi town. It is such a novelty for me being on a boat and I always love the experience. This boat trip in particular was very picturesque as it passed a number of coloured houses and buildings along the Amalfi Coast.
Once we were on dry land it was time to start making our way back to Ravello. I wanted to get the bus back but James forced me to walk back. This isn’t entirely true but it works for dramatic effect. I did put up a fight and argue why it would make so much more sense to catch the bus but no, we were walking. So, what now felt like Groundhog Day after yesterday, we began another steep ascent up never-ending steps to reach Ravello. I have to say the half was in complete silence as I was giving James the silent treatment for making me walk uphill, again. I couldn’t keep up my mood for long though. We were in beautiful Italy after all. The walk from Amalfi to Ravello took just over an hour.
After an exhausting day our plans changed for the evening as we couldn’t face making our way back down to Amalfi to have to come back up again. The buses are also not very frequent and we didn’t want to ruin our evening by checking our watches the whole time. We opted to stay in Ravello and experience the local cuisine instead. We ventured further than our hotel this time and our hotelier Antonio recommended Mimi Pizzeria. Mimi Pizzeria is not far from Villa Cimbrone so the other side of Ravello to our hotel. It is only around a 10-15 minute walk however. Once we’d freshened up we walked to Mimi to try and book a table for later that evening and we were glad we did. The only table they had available was for 9:45pm. We don’t usually eat this late but we trusted Antonio’s recommendations and wanted to give this restaurant a try. We booked in for 9:45pm and then went into the main square in Ravello for an aperitif. As you will know if you’ve visited Italy before you get so many complimentary snacks with your drinks this put us off until dinner time later that evening. We had a drink at Al San Domingo which had a perfect view of the Museo del Duomo di Ravello. I had an Aperol Spritz and it was perfect. As the Aperol Spritz is my favourite alcohol beverage, I’ve had a lot in lots of different places and some, like the Al San Domingo, get the balance of all of the ingredients just right.
It was finally time for dinner and we sat in Mimi’s garden area which was lovely. It was full of other diners enjoying all sorts of different dishes from pizza to pasta to seafood. I’m much more of a pasta lover than pizza so I was pleased to see lots of pasta options on the menu despite this place being advertised as a pizzeria. Unfortunately, as the restaurant was so busy, we were waiting a long time to get served. We must have waited around 20-25 minutes with our menus before someone came to take our order. This was disappointing but once our food arrived this was all forgotten. The food was incredible and one of the best meals we’d had during our trip to the Amalfi coast. I had a courgette pasta dish with a cheese foam on top and James had a pasta dish with anchovies and tomatoes. They were to die for, we could have eaten them over and over again. Our meal was finished with a complimentary limoncello which rounded the meal off perfectly.
The following day it was time to leave Ravello and head to our next stop, Bomerano where we were going to embark on the famous Path of the Gods hike. We checked out of Hotel Parsifal and were sad to leave this homely hotel and beautiful Ravello. Ravello is really like no other place on the Amalfi coast. It feels as up market as Capri but not pretentious in any way. It retains its own sophistication and charm, there is so much to do and see and the restaurants and accommodation on offer are second to none. What Ravello offers cannot be matched elsewhere on the Amalfi coast and this town should not be missed during your trip.
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