Notes from Ravello

It is almost noon in Ravello on Friday afternoon, July 22nd.  We are overlooking the Gulf of Salerno way up above the cliffs of Ravello -- not far from the former home of Gore Vidal and just steps away from the cooking school of Mamma Agata.  Perched on the balcony off the bedroom of our friend’s home, we gaze upon the tiny coastal beach town of Minori, across terraced hills to the never-ending expanse of a very blue sea. It is calm yet exciting to be here.  It is cool in the evenings, enough for a sweater, and magical enough to reconsider both where and how one lives. I am wearing “borrowed” clothes.  One of our suitcases (mine!) never made it from Rome to Naples.  Perhaps it never even left New York.  It might even be making a trip of its own, independent of me and my needs. It’s an odd feeling not to have your “stuff” but liberating in its own way.  As the days go by with no clue to its whereabouts, I am less optimistic of ever finding it, but maybe there will be good news along the way. Is this the way one feels about a child when they leave home?

Most liberating about this trip, however, is the lack of aforethought. Little planning and little research abandoned for in-the-moment pleasures.  It is the time of the Ravello Music Festival and so we had lunch, catered by Gino Caruso (the former owner of the Hotel Caruso and grand-nephew of the great singer Caruso) in the garden of our friend’s villa – our lunch guests were Wynton Marsalis and most of his orchestra. Pretty cool talking about music with these guys, as we sipped local white wine interrupted with fresh “hard” peaches (the required peach for this drink), gorging on fabulous pizza prepared in the wood-fired oven on the terrace, prepared by our very own pizziaolo, no less, slender fresh anchovies which I twirled around my fork as though they were spaghetti, the ubiquitous caprese salad – fashioned from scarlet local tomatoes, fresh mozzarella and basil, marinated calamaretti, the size of your pinky nail, and limoncello flavored with anise (great).  The wife of Gino Caruso makes a “dry limoncello” which is a simply fabulous idea.  I am eager to try it as the syrupy lemon elixir for which this area is famous can be very sweet!

In the evening, we joined our new friends for what was one of the most exciting concerts I’ve ever been to.  Wynton Marsalis and the Jazz at Lincoln Center orchestra in the amphitheater of the gardens of the Hotel Rufolo.  It was a packed house – under a royal blue sky, overlooking the sea, with the moon rising ‘round midnight, behind a large cloud. Wynton played his heart out, the others followed.   Then, a small reception – with adequate pizzettes and abundant prosecco -- and a long walk from the town square down hundreds of steps to…bed.