A travel moment in Italy

Have you ever felt the pull of the past? Have you ever been taken body and soul to a place where everything meshes inside you, and you feel as though you’ve experienced one of Abraham Maslow’s iconic “peak moments”? It’s said they can happen at any time, at any place, where that confluence of memory and magic arouse the psyche to extreme heights. Such was the case for me in Ravello, that small captivating town that sits high above the impossibly scenic Amalfi Coast in southern Italy.

Italy is my ancestral homeland and I wanted to explore my roots and come face to face with my heritage. In this region of lemon trees precariously terraced on the hillsides, grizzled artisans deftly paint ceramic tiles with skills taught by their grandfathers, and fishermen still cast nets for the daily catch. It is life relatively unchanged for generations. But nothing prepared me for the swoon that embraced me in the singular setting that is the Villa Rufolo, a 13th century collection of Arabesque-style buildings and gardens overhanging the electric blue Mediterranean.

In this enchanting place, all that is Italy, all the history, art, culture, and bella figura converge into a shimmering jewel. The villa and its grounds, including the stunning, geometrically-designed terraced gardens, sit perched on a sheer limestone cliff at an elevation of 1,100 feet above the sea, commanding an unbroken view of the wide gulf. At the edge of the gardens, where they seem to slip right off into the horizon, the twin domes of the Church of Santa Maria a Gradillo, and the celebrated umbrella trees of Amalfi peak up from below to create the majestic view captured on thousands of calendars and postcards.

But what was most impressive was to observe that this was also the setting where, on moonlit summer evenings, a full orchestra assembles on this precise spot and plays classical music during the annual Ravello Festival while the audience watches spellbound against a backdrop of sea and sky. Does that not qualify as a peak moment? The renowned German composer, Richard Wagner, on a visit to Ravello in 1880, was so taken with the beauty of the Villa Rufolo that he is said to have proclaimed, in reference to a character in his own opera Parsifal, "Here is the enchanted garden of Klingsor." For many years the annual festival was called the “Wagner Festival” in his honor. The Villa also contains a music conservancy, which, in this setting, must be a natural incubation chamber for lyrical inspriration.

In the trappings of the historic Villa, with the sensuous delights of the fragrant, blossoming gardens, and with the strains of heavenly violins, I found my quest fulfilled as I basked in the joys that my
ancestors had known for centuries.

T Giacoponello

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