This is the blog of Steve Burkett of Italy, Our Italy

A Visit to Villa Cimbrone

A quiet place of peace and marvelous views.

The first mention of Villa Cimbrone is found in the 11th century. The origin of the name comes from the rocky outcrop that surrounds the 20-acre site



It's time to return to the Amalfi Coast...way above the Amalfi Coast.


Getting There

Villa Cimbrone (cheem-bro-neigh) sits in the town of Ravello, at the end of its peninsula-in-the-sky. And Ravello sits high on the escarpment above the town of Amalfi. Getting there is not too difficult, unless you are faint of heart on narrow, winding, ever-climbing, roads.

A pokey Piaggio on the serpentine road

The road from the Amalfi Coast highway to Ravello gets very narrow that a traffic light allows cars going up hill to proceed whilst cars traveling down hill wait, and versa vice. And not all of the vehicles travel up the road at the same pace, as you can imagine from this photo.



[lease click on a photo to get a larger view]


Here you see this peninsula-in-the-sky, which is the town of Ravello. Notice the cliff to the left where The Belvedere is located.

A birds-eye view of the Ravello escarpment

The Piazza and Duomo

One parks, or is dropped off by taxi, at the Piazza, where the duomo, or cathedral church, sits.

The Duomo of Ravello

I'm not sure if this is admonishment, praise, or otherwise, but the priest of the Duomo has something to say to his parishioner and her sun-glass-wearing son.


Inside the church you will find the typical, gorgeous trappings of Italian churches. Here we see the Angel Gabriel doing battle with Satan, Mary and the soon-to-be-risen Christ, a marble-lion column support, a bronze door with Biblical scenes (well, mostly Biblical, as you can see St George slaying the dragon in one panel), a marble and mosaic altar with Jonah waving farewell as he is devoured by the serpent, and a painted icon.


Young entertainers on the Piazza at Ravello

While we were there, a number of the young of Ravello were having fun making music as they marched around town. I'm not sure if the fingers-in-her-ear girl in the rear is enjoying the group's musical attempts.



Frivolity in Ravello

These two young men seemed to be particularly zealous in their appointed task.

Our first thoughts as we watched these children was, 'This would be a fabulous place to live.'


A Walk to the Villa

It is a walk of about 4/10ths-of-a-mile from the piazza to Villa Cimbrone, all the while wandering narrow, pedestrian-only walkways. And along the way, you will have ample opportunity to purchase beautiful, hand-painted Italian ceramics. And we love the care that is taken in wrapping purchases. In the photo on the right, notice the ceramic panel in the top-right -- you will see what that scene is in a moment.

Along the way we saw several shrines and vines, and a cat or two.

We came across an occassional lazy dog sleeping under lemon trees, poppies, and views of other towns across the valley.

This fabulous view took our breath after town clinging to the hillside above Amalfi, marred only with the drifting smoke from someone burning their trash. If one isn't born in a particular town, how on Earth could you decide in which to settle?

Looking to the west from Ravello, where the town of Amalfi sits at the terminus of the distant valley

The Villa

At last, we arrive at Villa Cibrone. The first mention of Villa Cimbrone is found in the 11th century. The origin of the name comes from the rocky outcrop that surrounds the 20-acre site, which can be seen in the aerial photo at the top of this article, which was known as 'Cimbronium'. You can read much more about the history of this property on the Hotel Villa Cimbrone website here.

Today, the estate consists of the villa/hotel, a Michelin-starred restaurant (that being the subject of next week's article), the gardens, and the famous scenic viewpoint known as 'The Belvedere.'

Here is your first view of the vine-covered villa as you approach.

The vine-covered Villa Cimbrone

You see scenes from inside the walls of the villa, just below.

I particularly like this scene of the stairway, and the intricate pattern of iron work found on the door on the landing.

Verdant Gardens

And then there are the gardens.

The Belvedere

The world-famous Belvedere, perched atop a cliff, offers a magnificent view of the Mediterranean, one which these time-worn busts seem want to ignore. 

The busts of The Belvedere

These statues are actually quite whimsical, as their expressions are not what one normally sees in classic carving. See what I mean by clicking on the thumbnails in these closeup views.

They look very content to be sitting there, don't they?

In this view from The Belvedere, you can see more towns to explore along the Amalfi Coast, should one have the time.

View of the Amalfi Coast looking to the east

I'll leave you with a quote from Gore Vidal concerning The Belvedere: 'A wonderful place from which to observe the end of the world." And when it comes to that, I would have to agree.


Ciao for now,


Steve and his lovely wife, Ellen

Next week: The Michelin-starred restaurant at Villa Cimbrone

And now for something entirely different!

The other significant difference between this church and others? It’s that the...well, I’ll tell you the difference below in a bit...see if you can tell before you get there!

In last weeks blog we visited a fabulous off-the-beaten-path, seldom-visited church in Albogasio, Italy. With its clean lines and beautiful painted art works, it couldn't be more dissimilar to the church I will show you today -- the Basilica San Marco. San Marco is the antithesis of that little Albogasio church in so many ways.

One way is that the Basilica sits right-smack-dab in Piazza San Marco in Venice and has hundreds-of-thousands of visitors each year.  This photo which shows the exterior was taken in January, 2004, on a cold and dreary day. 

[click an image to see a larger view]

Notice the exterior embellishments, like these protected saints enclosed in their spires, visible in this more recent photo.


The other significant difference between this church and others? It's that the...well, I'll tell you the difference below in a bit...see if you can tell before you get there!


This church's embellishments date from the 11th century. In the crypt you will find the bones of Venice's patron saint, St Mark, whose body was whisked away from the Muslim authorities in a daring raid in Alexandria, Egypt in the year 828.

Before you even enter the church, you are treated to magnificent Biblical scenes like this one above the entrance to the church.

In the portico before entering the church, you can see art works depicting Old and New Testament Biblical stories, one of which includes, among other stories, the Genesis story of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. Can you identify any of the other Biblical stories?

We are now inside the church.

This photo from the left transept shows a bit of the art work and the scale of the church, which was originally designated as the Doge's private chapel. The Doge was the elected leader of Venice -- no monarchy in Venice!

Here you can see the Pala d'Oro, which is gold altar screen embellished with precious jewels.

Can't see the jewels? Here is a more detailed view.

Another interior photo showing religious scenes. Have you figured out what makes this church so unique?


Ready for the big reveal that I promised earlier?


Every art work -- inside and out -- that you've seen in the photos above is composed of mosaics, like these. That's about 90,000 square feet of colorful mosaic tiles.

Here you can see just how colorful these mosaic art works are as Samson and David take a bit of time to sit and talk about their trials and tribulations.

Here is another masterpiece with some rather rough-looking angels meting out justice.

Not convinced that all you see is mosaic? Here is a detailed view of the photo above.

I was fortunate to capture the morning sun streaming through upper windows for this award-winning photo.

Is this is still a functioning church? It sure is. Below you see prayer candles and a liturgical chant awaiting the Bishop of this Archdiocese.

I'll close with more interior photos from this gorgeous church. Remember that you can click on a photo to see a larger view.

So, now you have seen two very distinctly different churches of Italy. The simple, yet elegantly refined church at Albogasio and the more famous Basilica San Marco of Venice. Both are testaments to the faithful artisans who embellished them as a way to glorify their Lord and Saviour. 


Ciao for now,


p.s. feel free to leave a comment in the box below.

Stumbling Upon Something Magnificent

During our travels, we've had occasion to stumble upon some great things. When I think of stumbling upon something great, I immediately think of an absolutely beautiful day while visiting Bellagio. 

We still find it hard to believe what we stumbled upon that day, and I think you will, too.

We still find it difficult to believe what we stumbled upon that day, and I think you will, too.

We were traveling with our friends Debbie and Scott (see last week's blog) and they decided to spend a day boating on Lake Como while we rented a car to drive into Switzerland.

Bellagio is not a large town and we were surprised to find a small garage that had rental cars. Here is our nice rental, complete with stick shift (do you remember how?).

[click on an image to get a larger view] 

We got up extra early and we were just able to catch the last ferry of the day to travel from Bellagio to Menaggio, on the west side of the lake. Why would an early-morning ferry be the last of the day, you ask? A general transportation strike was set to start at 9:00am today, of course! It is Italy, you know.

With Bellagio receding in the distance, we made it to beautiful lakeside Menaggio, with its ubiquitous geraniums.

We took some time to have a light breakfast con Coca Cola Lite, of course... 

...and for co-pilot Ellen to check the map for our route into Switzerland.

Along the way, we were treated to the fantastic Italian lakeside scenery, like these white swans skimming across the lake.

These guys were hoping that we would toss a bit of our croisant to them.

And the sun continued to provide gorgeous views as we drove along the lake.

The lakes in northern Italy are surrounded by mountains like this one.


Oh no!  What's that blocking the road? It was the first of three buses traveling together that were making their way through a small town with it's very narrow roadway -- this is the main roadway along the lake, by the way. 

They each had to move forward and back a few times to make it around the corner. We had to fold our side mirrors in, and with about 3" to spare the buses made their way past us.

Driving along Lake Lugano, which is half-in Italy and half-in Switzerland, we made a turn and came upon the charming little village of Albogasio.. 

Ellen suggested that this would be a great place to stop to explore life-on-the-lake in Italy. She saw the church you can see at the very top of the town and she decided that it would be our goal. As there are no auto roads in this town (residents park on the small pier that you can see sitting above the lake on the left), we sought out a way up.

A time worn path made its way up the hillside.

As we worked our way up, we had views like this one, which is Melissa's and Max's favorite.

We loved the rustic nature of Albogasio, with gardens and lovely views of Lake Lugano.

As we continued up, it was obvious to us that this village has been here for a long time.

Ahhh, getting closer.

And now the entrance is in sight.

On the lake-side wall, we found coats of arms painted on the side of the church. Each represents one of the seven archdioceses of Milan.

And finally, the door to the church.

We grasped the latch of this time-worn door, and...

...we were staggered by the inside of this small church sitting high on the side of the hill above Lake Lugano!

We've been in many beautiful churches in Italy, but we were stunned by this dazzling site. We found that this church was built in 1628 and was filled with magnificent 17th century paintings.

The ceiling above the altar has a painting of The Coronation of the Virgin. 

The altar was adorned by these four silver bishops.

The two side chapels are also beautifully painted, like the one below. One chapel is dedicated to Saints Gioacchino and Anna, and the other to Saint Giuseppe. Notice that the scene below is all canvas with the exception of the alter with Christ's statue. The columns are not real, nor is the base on which the putti sit.


We were sad to leave, but we had miles to go on our day of adventure. Working our way down through the village, we found our way through the stone labyrinths...

...until we finally made it down to the road where we had parked.

This was just the start of a day of unexpected surprises. I'll tell you about the rest of our day another time. So, stay tuned.


Ciao for now,