If you dislike breathtaking gardens, impossibly blue vistas, and gorgeousness everywhere you look, you may want to skip this post about Villa Cimbrone in Ravello, Italy. “This cannot be real” was the soundtrack in my head during our morning walk.
Ravello is among the Amalfi Coast’s lesser-visited towns after Positano and Amalfi itself. Its location atop the cliff makes getting there a bit of an effort. You won’t be on the coast either, so no beaches, but the view cannot be surpassed. Many people take a day trip up the mountain, which is infinitely better than nothing. However, if your time allows, Ravello is absolutely worth an overnight – or two. We did two.
The Story of Villa Cimbrone
The estate, a former Italian palace that ran into disrepair and was abandoned, was rediscovered in the 19th century by a brooding English nobleman named (I kid you not) Ernest William Beckett, Lord Grimthorpe, who was deeply depressed over the sudden early death of his beloved wife. It was the only place that was able to bring him joy they said, so he purchased the dilapidated villa and restored it to magnificence. It’s basically a Brontë novel without the moors and the rain.
The paths through the Villa Cimbrone Gardens start at a 12th century monestary cloister and then after the Avenue of Immensity (I still can’t get over that) turn this way and that to reveal marvels everywhere you look. The Rose Terrace, an olive grove, a gazebo, stone stairs, Eve’s Grotto, The statue of Ceres, fountains, the moorish tea room, and an impressive assortment of statues collected by Lord Grimthorpe himself.
The Secret Gelato Terrace!
As we were standing on the Terrace of Infinity, marveling at the Mediterranean and standing in the still-hot September sun, my eye fell on this:
Yes, that is David peering at the gelato eaters. Were we going to find the secret gelato terrace? Yes, we were! It was just down the path, around a corner, and through to the back of the tiny gelateria. Pistachio gelato tastes even better with that view!
Villa Cimbrone itself is now a private 5-star hotel (Hotel Villa Cimbrone) complete with a Michelin Star restaurant, and hosts many honeymooners, wedding parties, and receptions. We peeked around, and it was easy to imagine a fairytale perfect event. Imagine having portraits taken on “The Avenue of Immensity,” “The Temple of Bacchus,” or “The Terrace of Infinity.” Also, it has a fabulous pool and a view of – everything. They also will allow pets on request. Time to officially put this place on my bucket list!
Our accommodations were nothing to sneeze at, though! We stayed in the beautiful and charming Villa Amore, which welcomed Helga the Frenchie with open arms and had views to die for! Click to read my full review of Villa Amore in Ravello.
Villa Cimbrone was such an inspiration that D.H. Lawrence set his famous 1927 novel Lady Chatterly’s Lover here. The Villa also welcomed guests such as Virginia Woolf, Winston Churchill, and Salvador Dalí. It served as an escape for Greta Garbo and composer Leopold Stokowski, whose secret tryst at the Villa that ended up in the papers. Now there’s even a plaque commemorating the event on the wall of the hotel, and even a “Garbo Suite” So much for privacy!
When is the Best Time to Visit Villa Cimbrone?
The best time of day is undoubtedly the morning. For the most enchanting visit possible, they should find you standing at the ticket window holding out your money when they arrive. We got there early and were rewarded by having the place almost entirely to ourselves. This added to the entire “this cannot be real” phenomenon. We spent several hours and by the end, the crowds had grown noticeably.
The best time of year
The Amalfi Coast is expensive even for Italy, but during shoulder and low seasons from November – March it becomes more affordable.
Springtime in Ravello is an explosion of flowers and rebirth of the gardens, including the arched path of wisteria-coverd pergolas, and temperatures are still comfortable.
Summertime is high season, sunshine and more flowers in bloom like the incredible rose garden. But you’ll also get scorching temperatures and crowds.
Autumn is absolutely gorgeous. The flowers are a little past their prime, but temperatures are much more comfortable but still warm, crowds have begun to disperse, and prices have begun to fall. We visited the gardens on the Autumnal Equinox.
And finally, winter. Author, and Ravello resident Gore Vidal had this to say. “Twenty five years ago I was asked by an American magazine what was the most beautiful place that I had ever seen in all my travels, and I said the view from the belvedere of the Villa Cimbrone on a bright winter’s day when the sky and the sea were each so vividly blue that it was not possible to tell one from the other.” It’s hard to argue with that.
Getting There – Can You Walk from Amalfi to Ravello?
🚶♀️Can you? Let’s just say it’s humanly possible, but it will take half a day for the round trip, with 3 hours uphill and 2 hours down. Personally, I’d rather spend that time strolling through the breathtaking gardens, or sitting on a terrace gazing over the water with an Aperol spritz. But if you’re up for it, it’s an option!
🚌You can also catch a bus from Amalfi which will cost you about 8 Euros (check prices because they fluctuate). The bus leaves from the main piazza in Amalfi and takes about 20 minutes. You will also have to fight your way on to the bus if it’s busy. Buses run every hour but only hold 35 people. The bus will drop you right at a pedestrian tunnel a quick walk from the center of town. Villa Cimbrone is at the very top of the hill!
🚕A taxi will charge about 30 Euros (for 2km!) but it might be worth it to you to forego walking and bus hassle, especially if your party has more than one person. It will also drop you right at the pedestrian tunnel.
🚗Driving is challenging in Italy in general, but driving the Amalfi Coast has a special set of challenges including narrow streets, hairpin turns, dropoffs, and… other drivers. If you are ready to brave it, there’s a parking garage in Ravello about a 10 minute walk from the pedestrian tunnel.
🚐If you are staying in Ravello at a hotel, it’s possible you can reserve an airport shuttle. Be sure to check that option if it fits your trip.
Nope, there’s no super perfect way to get there, which is partly why it’s so lovely.
How long do you need at Villa Cimbrone?
I saw this question answered online somewhere and it said “at least 45 minutes.” You would have had to drag me out of there with a fight after only 45 minutes. At this point, you’ve made it not only to Ravello, but to the tippy top of Ravello (which is about 10 minutes up stairs from the town center). So take a breath, soak it in, have a gelato, take pictures, explore and gaze, and call it 2 hours. If you are truly a garden person, or a photographer, or want to bring a book, you could easily spend longer.
How much does it cost to go to Villa Cimbrone?
Presuming we’re not talking about the 5-star hotel part, it costs 7 Euros (not including gelato) to enter. It is worth every single cent.
What are the hours for the Gardens?
The Villa Cimbrone Gardens are open every day from 9a to sunset. Be there at 9am to avoid the crowds! But if you are there at sunset, make sure you are standing on the Terrace of Infinity overlooking the sea.
Can I bring my dog to Villa Cimbrone Gardens?
Sadly no. We discovered this place while taking Helga for a morning walk, but this is as far as she could go. I imagine if you are staying at the Hotel Villa Cimbrone which is on the property, and they are pet-friendly that you’d get a special pass or instructions. But poor Helga got turned away. *sob*