Villa Rufolo, in the city center of Ravello, on the Amalfi Coast, owes its existence and its name to a powerful family of traders and bankers, whose destiny was to first have great riches and rank, and then to lose it all.
This gorgeous synthesis of Arab, Sicilian and Norman architecture – to which further details and styles were overlaid in time – was built in the first half of the 13th century, when the Rufolo family was on the rise, first at the service of the Swabian crown, and then of the House of Anjou.
The Moorish cloister, with its gracious succession of ogival arches and earthenware columns; the well, surrounded by ruins and the exotic plants that offered Wagner the vision of Klingsor’s garden for his “Parsifal”; the romantic park and magnificent entrance tower; the Major Tower that overlooks the terracing diving sheer into the Gulf, and the sea that for centuries brought commercial fortunes and dreaded pirate attacks: all of this has survived the Rufolos. The family, despite attempts to resist and strategies to avoid the backlash from power struggles, had definitively lost any power it had by the 15th century.
In the fourth tale of the second day of the “Decameron”, Boccaccio tells the story of a man who fights in every possible way to increase his assets. The outcome of his adventures, whether good of bad, is never the result of his efforts. The man’s name was Landolfo Rufolo. Boccaccio knew who he was talking about.