Vacation rentals in Italy (villas, farms, estates, agriturismo, apartments)
Review 1501: Owner, Villa Virgilio
2bed/2bath house, Ravello, Campania
May 2005, One week
We spent a week at this villa on the edge of Ravello as part of our 14-month "Grand Tour" of Europe. I had looked at a lot of rental possibilities on the Amalfi Coast, wanting a unique and comfortable place with a gorgeous view, at an economical price. We decided our family would enjoy the environment of Ravello, perched on a hilltop above the sea, and found this villa on a rent-by-owner website. This was one of the best places we have stayed on our trip, and I recommend it very enthusiastically. Itís an undiscovered gem. We paid about $965 US for our one-week stay.
The house is owned by Stanislao F., a lawyer who lives in Naples. He and his young family use the house occasionally. His father bought the very dilapidated property some 25 years ago. There are a few personal items in the house, but I didnít find them distracting. Stanislao speaks and writes good English and was excellent to deal with by e-mail and in person. He came to Ravello to meet our family and help get us settled in the villa and was available by phone if needed. The local contact is an older gentleman who lives in Ravello, Signore P. who is the gardener. He speaks absolutely no English, but always had a big smile for us. We gave our keys to his wife when we left on Saturday morning.
The house is just wonderful ó comfortable and peaceful with stunning views across the valley of villages, grapevines, olive trees, and lemon trees on the steep hilltop on the other side. It was much, much better and brighter than the photos on the website portray. There is just a glimpse of the sea from the two balconies and the top floor window. The villa is the last private residence before entrance to the famous and very beautiful Villa Cimbrione. We visited the villa and its gardens twice. The view off the end of the gardens is absolutely memorable; go late in the afternoon for really good photos.
This villa (like most on the Amalfi Coast) does have its complexities and you need to be mobile and in decent shape to stay here. It is a ten-minute walk from the center of Ravello and it is not possible to get a car anywhere near the villa. The route to the villa is along narrow pedestrian lanes and involves almost 200 steps (both up and down). We got accustomed to the walk (itís really very pretty), but the transport of our luggage was quite a challenge. There is a porter in the village with a motorized cart, and Stanislao can provide contact information. The cost is about 20 euro, which we decided not to spend. If we had realized how difficult the luggage transport would be, we would have consolidated our luggage and left much of it locked in the trunk of our car. If you take a car to Ravello, you can initially park in an expensive paid lot near the Duomo; after you get your luggage to the villa, we recommend talking with the Tourist Office about options for free parking. They are all outside the village, but you really do not need to use your car much, nor will you really want to.
The villa is built into the hillside. It's fairly spacious (110 square meters - 1100 square feet) and spread out over three levels. The feeling of spaciousness is enhanced because there are three wonderful outdoor areas where we spent a lot of our time. The lowest level has a big outdoor garden with a covered eating area, lounge chairs, a barbeque and even a wood-fired pizza oven. The yard has beautiful shrubs and flowers, a small vegetable garden, and a big lemon tree that grows up through the pergola shading the outdoor table. Signore P. stops by daily to do some gardening tasks.
The first level of the house has a large outdoor terrace that extends the length of the villa with a sitting area and eating table. Inside the "front door," thereís a small dining room and an adjacent kitchen. We ate outside most of the time, using the dining room only when the weather was cool. The kitchen is also small with a small range and stove, sink, and decent-sized refrigerator. The cooking utensils, dishes and silverware were fine. It was a bit challenging to fix a full family meal.
Stairs lead to next level, and the first bathroom (with a shower and washing machine) is off the first landing. The main living room is at the top of the stairs ó bright and spacious with wicker furniture and comfortable cushions. Iím pretty sure the couch can be converted to a bed. Thereís another table for dining or other activities in this big room. Thereís a television, which we didnít watch. Iím not sure there are any English-language channels. Double doors lead from the living room to another big terrace with outdoor furniture. This terrace has a tightly woven ceiling of vines.
A small den/bedroom with two single beds is off the living room. Our daughter slept in this room. This room can be configured with just a couch, one single bed, or two single beds. Itís a good room for children or teenagers.
Narrow spiral stairs lead up to the third level ó a big master bedroom and the second bathroom. The master bedroom is in a cave-shaped room with sloping walls and big double windows at the end with that great view again. This bedroom is very spacious, comfortable and light.
Each bathroom has its own small hot-water heater. You must plan for your showers, as there isnít enough hot water for two people to take showers one after the other. Also, the hot water heater must be turned off to use the washing machine to avoid overloading the electrical system. Small prices to pay to live in this little piece of paradise!
We found we just enjoyed relaxing at the villa and ended up making fewer day trips than we had originally planned. The path to Amalfi actually begins just outside the house (an interesting 45 minute walk down the steep hillside involving over 1300 steps; you can take the bus back up). We walked to Amalfi one day to have lunch and sightsee and then the next day walked back down to Amalfi to take the ferry to Capri. (Bus and ferry schedules are available from the Tourist Office.) Another day we walked down the valley and up to the village of Pontone on the other side. We had a great meal at a pizzeria and enjoyed a view of our house across the way. (You can also get a very good map of several walks around Ravello from the Tourist Office.) On our last day we used the car for our one-and-only time to make a daytrip to Mt. Vesuvius.
We enjoyed staying in the village of Ravello with its big shady square and impressive Duomo. It seems much more peaceful than the busy seaside towns of Ravello and Amalfi. There are several very good restaurants, most with outstanding views of the sea. My daughter and I also enjoyed the many ceramics shops. Grocery shopping in Ravello is interesting, as there is no real supermarket. We got various things at two different butchers, a greengrocers, and a small alimentari. The shops are closed from about 1 pm until 5 pm in the afternoon and each is also closed one or two days a week. Internet access is also challenging in Ravello. There is one computer in a bar down from the bus stop. We also used the internet in Amalfi, where there seemed to be a few more options.
We wished we had planned to stay two weeks here. We were very, very happy with our choice of Ravello and this villa. I really want to stay here again.
For more information about our week in Ravello, see my blog at: www.slowtrav.com/blog/kaydee/archives/000870.html
This review is the opinion of a Slow Travel member and not of slowtrav.com.
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