|The history: The first period||| Print ||
The noble villa belonged to the aristocratic Acconciajoco family and then passed into the hands of the powerful and influential Fusco family, who were related to the Pitti family in Florence, the D’Angiò family from Naples and the Sasso family.
Ownership of this fertile land, defended by the walls that stood down from the headland, was always eagerly sought after by the nobility in Ravello due to its strategic position and above all its large stretches of flat ground suitable for farming, which were almost unique in the area. Archival sources state that “Angellotto Fusco had the church of Sant’Angelo a Cimbrone built on the site (1301)” and that “by that time the family fully owned it”. In 1403 the King of Naples, Ladislas of Durazzo, confirmed these rights and also bestowed the benefits concerning various titles of churches in Ravello upon his cup bearer and chaplain Nicola Fusco and his descendents.
One of the most authoritative figures in this family of merchants and influential men of the cloth was Paolo Fusco, in the second half of the 16th century. He was the town’s bishop (1570-1578) and was popular and well respected thanks to his human and pastoral qualities, and his great learning in legal matters.
The Fusco family’s bond with Cimbrone was strong and intense, so much so that it owned it for over five and a half centuries. They were responsible for major work on the building and the garden, as underlined by a marble plaque dated 1620 that was found during recent restoration work and placed in the cloister. The most illustrious members of the family are depicted and exalted in a marvellous Renaissance fresco that has recently been restored and is located on the first floor, on the wall next to the old entrance to the building.
There was a clear desire by the owners to give new value and significance to the estate, which until that time had been exclusively “agricultural”, in the wake of the classical and Renaissance tastes and culture that were prevailing in the courts of Naples and Italy in general.
This period saw the creation of the Panoramic Terrace, the long access path with the pavilion at the end featuring a “dome on spherical plumes”, the layout of the marble busts and the large number of terracotta items such as amphorae and huge decorated pots. The “palatial house” also underwent changes, with the addition of reception halls with “pavilion” vaults featuring floral patterns and “grotesque” paintings and decorations.
A strong resemblance is evident between the “clipei” and fantasy scenes, which have been reanimated by the recent restoration work, and the elements in the garden. This shows the unquestioned delicacy and culture regarding landscapes of those who commissioned the work (for around 40 years in the first half of the 18th century, Cimbrone became the residence of the noblewoman Isabella Del Verme Sasso, the widow of Don Pietro Fusco).
The political and economic troubles between the 18th and 19th centuries, the seizure of the goods and possessions of aristocratic families under Napoleon, the return to their ancestral hometown of Naples by the leading members of the Fusco family, the onset of the phenomenon of “brigandage” and the powerful earthquake that hit the land around the coast at the end of the 1700s all led to a period of major decline in the entire area and the resulting abandonment of the Villa.
A run of misfortune brought about serious economic problems for the Fusco family. To pay off their debts, on 31 August 1864 they had to hand over the entire property to the Amici brothers, who were traders and pasta makers from Atrani.
Despite all this, even during those years of abandonment Cimbrone’s charms remained intact: in the summer of 1853, the German traveller Ferdinand Gregorovius wrote in his “Travel Notes” that the Villa was “incomparable…, in the well cultivated garden the most beautiful flowers imaginable grew, springing from endless plants of the South…” It provided a magical setting for the famous horse ride by Cosima and Richard Wagner in May 1880. In her diary, Cosima Wagner wrote: “Wednesday 26 May. Quiet breakfast and horse ride up at Ravello; words cannot express the beauty. In Ravello we found Klingsor’s garden… we rode up Via Santa Chiara as far as the small pavilion, stopping for a break and song by Peppino. In my opinion, the view from up there is the most beautiful of all…” (the pavilion to which she refers is the one near the terrace in Villa Cimbrone).