Ravello Festival

 

One of the oldest music festivals in Europe, the Ravello Festival is the result of one local tradition: l’arte di arrangiarsi, or ‘the art of getting by’. After the Second World War the nice coastal village of Ravello, near Amalfi, was desperate: money was tight, there were few opportunities for growth and the reconstruction effort had taken a heavy toll. The local administration however had an ace up its sleeve. Many years before, the German composer Wagner had visited the area. He also quickly passed through Ravello, where he famously commented that the garden of one villa Rufolo looked just like he imagined the heavenly Klingsorgarten he had been writing about. This was enough to fabricate a much more elaborate connection between Wagner and the village, and to bet on a Wagnerian Festival to attract tourism – and money.

From these dodgy origins, the Ravello Festival – first held in 1953 – has grown into a really beautiful event that slowly expanded in every possible way. Today the festival proper lasts from June throughout September, and its side extensions even cover the whole period between March and October. This long time is filled by frequent deviations from classical music concertos, with art exhibitions, theatre, poetry readings, multimedia shows, ballet, modern music and cultural events of all sorts. An unofficial tradition involves a unique August concerto held at dawn on a stage overhanging the bay, made even more spectacular by the sun rising behind the nearby cape. Elegant and seriously highbrow, the Ravello Festival has become an obligatory part of any culture lover’s tour – and a great homebase from which to explore all Southern Italy.