I can’t say precisely why I love hilltop towns. Perhaps it’s the view, perhaps it’s the splendid isolation, or just maybe it’s the feeling of being above it all — at least for a short while. In any case, I DO love them. For whatever reason, they speak to me.
Today’s FLYODI blog post doesn’t contain a profound life lesson. There’s no “10-step guide to leading a more fulfilling life.” You’ll find only two things. First, a shameless homage to two of my very favorite places in the world — two hilltop cities. And secondly, a less-than-subtle, underlying message that YOU should embark immediately to find your own favorite places. Now that I think about it though, the latter is a pretty powerful life lesson.
I have a good friend who tours the United States in search of amazing amusement park thrill rides. If I did something similar, it might well be a world tour to find the most spectacular hill towns. What would your quest be?
Ravello Heading south, out of the barely-controlled chaos of Naples, Italy, the landscape begins to change. So does one’s attitude. You first encounter the famous town of Sorrento, and the frenetic pace of Naples begins to slow somewhat. Soon after, the change gets dramatic. The drive turns solitary and the countryside turns rugged. The road, perched precariously on the side of the mountains, twists and turns and affords dramatic views of the ocean below (that is; if you can bring yourself to take your eyes of the road.)
For most who travel this road, the destination is one of the beautiful, well-known towns along the coast; Amalfi or Positano. But it’s definitely worth the trip to go just beyond Positano and head up into the hills to the fantastic little town of Ravello.
Ravello is a 1500-year-old hilltop town, offering unrivalled beauty and spectacular vistas of the Mediterranean far below. The serene and elegant atmosphere of its central piazza and duomo are the perfect antidote to the noise and perpetual motion of Naples, and to the sometimes hair-raising drive down the Amalfi Coast. The town’s wealthy past has left it with many beautiful villas, some of which have been turned into stunning hotel event centers, such as Villa Cimbroni and Villa Ruffolo. Ravello has a rich musical heritage too, and has long been a haunt of music luminaries and other artists, including; Richard Wagner, Edvard Grieg, Tennessee Williams, Greta Garbo, Truman Capote and others.
Among the town’s highlights are beautiful formal gardens, breathtaking views, fantastic small restaurants, terrific hotels, and the wonderful and varied summertime concerts that make up the Ravello Festival. Incidentally, if you just can’t go without nightlife, it’s just a short drive back down the hill into Positano.
Three very good friends of mine took me to Ravello for the first time, and I’ll be forever grateful to them for having done so. It’s a breathtaking place and I highly recommend you journey there, at least once in your life. It’s a great location to relax, to contemplate, to read, to soak in the natural beauty of the Amalfi Coast from a slightly different vantage point, and to take in an unforgettable outdoor musical event. On a warm summer evening, Ravello can be nearly magical.
Orvieto I won’t go into as much detail about my second favorite hilltop town — I’ll just tell you the name and let you explore it on your own. It’s called Orvieto, and it’s located just north of Rome. While it’s quite different from Ravello — it was originally a hilltop fortress — it’s no less spectacular. Unlike Ravello, you’ll find lots of artisan’s shops offering terrific leather goods, such as spectacular Carnivale masks, marble tabletops, and Orvieto wine. You’ll wander narrow medieval lanes, and you’ll encounter a Duomo with a golden façade that is likely to remain etched in your memory forever. Enough said.
What I’m really getting at in highlighting both of these memorable hilltop locations is that there are fantastic places in the world that you really MUST see. And, there’s just no time better than the present to go seek them out. So, go find YOUR hilltop city — or perhaps it’ll be a valley, or maybe a place with a heart-stopping thrill ride. In my view, finding these places (or at least looking for them) is an integral part of a living FLYODI life. You could try my favorites on for size, or you could strike out on your own. Perhaps, your favorite is on the other side of the world.
As always, we love your thoughts and comments. Have a favorite place? Perhaps you know of an even better hilltop town. Feel free to us the comment block below to let us know about it!
World’s Top Ten Most Beautiful Hilltop Towns