As Ruffolo was ancient, so Cimbrone is modern. Built for a wealthy English aristocrat, with several ancient and wonderful houses in his home country, he wanted something astonishing in Ravello. He got it. The house is largely an assembly job of bits hewn from a local monastery, a church, various then unwanted palazzi. It’s picturesque on first view, but unconvincing on the second. The garden convinces utterly, even in winter, but with an astonishing site like that, to fail would have been unthinkable.
The main coup is the long formal walk, bounded by hedges, sheltered with pines above. view down into the bay on one side, and into woodland, shaded paths, a rose garden, and so on, to the other. An interval is made at a circular temple enclosing a rather indifferent statue. Not that that matters, for the walk tempts the visitor on, for it seems to end in…. nothingness. Even on a grey day, emerging into the light from the shade, was dazzling. A balustraded terrace, some rather battered busts of philosophers and emperors, and then just sky and the sea, far far below.
In summer, with the hedges flanking the walk flowering (a low growing variety of philadelphus runs, as a secondary hedge, along the walk’s entire length), it must be lovely, and it is easy to envy the guests of the house (now an expensive, if seasonal, hotel), free to wander once the public gates are closed. They might perhaps mutter that the woodland is badly overgrown, the rose garden is being starved of light, that a man with a chainsaw could make some speedy improvements, or even that their own part of the garden (into which we trespassed), could have lived up better to the prices they were paying. Naturally, Vita Sackville-West (Sisssinghurst) visited and advised. Lawrence Johnston (Hidcote) too.
I could have done with another hour at least, but hunger was calling the hour, and we were due for lunch in Amalfi. Three signs on the way back to our transport: the organic vegetable gardens’s sign; one suggesting Ravello might be quite wild in season;and lastly a ‘protest’ garden, probably necessary, filled with gnomes.