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Home | Destinations | A Romantic Renewal in Ravello on the . . .
 

A Romantic Renewal in Ravello on the Amalfi Coast


This article originally appeared in the February 2009 issue of Dream of Italy

Dog-tired from a challenging daylong hike, we drag our rain soaked, mud splattered bodies through the doors of a modest hotel off the main square in Ravello. I'm worried about my husband.  He's too quiet and I wonder if all those shepherd's trails, serpentine turns and stony steps above the Gulf of Salerno have done him in.  But when we leave our fellow hikers at the front desk and sequester ourselves in our room, he suddenly comes to life.  Emulating James Bond, he rushes to the window and draws the blinds.  He gestures to me to be quiet and dramatically waves his arms to keep me from collapsing on the bed.  Uncomprehending, thinking him utterly mad, I head toward the shower, but he blocks the door. 

 “Not yet,” he says.  “We've got to get out of here.”


“What?” I cry.  He shushes me and now, I know he's gone completely bonkers. 

"We're leaving,” he says, grabbing my hand.  “I've got a surprise for you.”

And indeed he does.  Like a magician pulling a rabbit from a hat, he extracts a carryon bag from his suitcase, tells me to throw in something nice, then all but steamrolls me through the door.  We skulk out of the hostel, bags in hand, cross the piazza where couples gather for drinks at outdoor tables and children pass soccer balls back and forth in a ritualistic affirmation of sunset; we wind through a narrow alley or two and climb a deluge of steps. >Moments later, an elaborately carved, pillared, portal flanked by stone lions greets us. Through it, across a cotto floored, vaulted room, a riveting seascape is captured in a panoramic window.  It draws the eye like the horizon line in a landscape painting.  I conclude we stand at the threshold of a private villa--until a doorman materializes, urges us inward and says,  “Welcome to the Hotel Caruso.”

We cruise passed the Neapolitan style furnishings and mosaic-covered walls of this former 11th- century patrician's palace timidly. My first instinct is to smarten my untidy hiker's hair.  Preening, I dust off my dirty shorts just as a solicitous gaggle of staff surrounds us.  Everybody seems to know who we are. 
You're late,” says a posh woman who hugs me and introduces herself as Janet.  She eyes me curiously. “If you need a hairdresser or makeup artist, I can arrange it.”  I look toward my husband who shrugs.  Then, she continues.  “Explain it to me—this renewal of vows—what is it exactly? We don't really have it in Italy.”
“Yes, explain it,” I say, looking at my gloating husband.

Janet escorts us to our suite; a room called “The Trilogy” for its three lancet windows that frame the sea beyond.   Beckoned by the view, we step out on the private patio to find we dangle above the bejeweled Amalfi Coast, an impression made more vivid by the champagne we sip.  We're still in hiking togs when the phone rings.  “The wedding planner is here,” says our posh mother hen. 

Still speechless, I rush to the bathroom to shower.  And that's when I balk.  It's such a sybaritic room, so indulgently Roman and marbled and luxurious, I consider skipping this whole surprise renewal of vows thing to just linger in the tub.  But I get over it, and without the help of the make-up artist, I manage to look slightly presentable. Downstairs, we meet the wedding planner, Linda Gatto who runs La Lampada di Aladino (Aladdin's Lamp), creators of custom weddings along the Amalfi Coast.  In tow, she has her mother, Carmen, and Giovanna da Amato, a charismatic poet who will preside over our ceremony.  Someone hands me a bouquet of white roses. A concierge smiles and tells us we “look much better.” 

My husband, Carl, having organized all of this via the Internet greets Linda like an old friend and at that moment we all connect in a joyous sort of union.  These are our metaphorical maids of honor, or best women—as it were.

Surrounded by our Italian intimati, we walk through a garden infused with the seductive scent of lemons to an imperious infinity pool. Posed there, veritably floating above a sea awash with a thousand turquoise tones, we hear our serenade: the dulcet song of the waves. Suddenly, it thunders.  Alarmed, Janet says, “If you'd like we can go inside to la cappella, the hotel's historic chapel.” 

Tantalized by the scenery and the palpable tenderness of the tiny crowd, I say, “This is perfect,”—and everyone nods in approval. Giovanna wraps us in a ribbon marked with colors of the Italian flag, then reads poems and speaks of beautiful things like love, peace, and commitment.  Just as we say a few romantic words to each other, the ceremony ends and the rain begins.

We run for cover and staff appears from the woodwork to wrap us in thick towels, hand us champagne and escort us to the hotel's restaurant. On the way, Linda tells us this is her first vow renewal, though she has organized weddings on every sort of boat, in helicopters hovering over Capri, in vineyards, Norman towers, grottos and gardens. “Anything is possible,” she says. Since our ceremony is symbolic, there's no paperwork, a plus considering the infamous bureaucracy of the Italian system.  But Linda knows how to navigate that with ease, and many from across the globe, have been married under her tutelage here on the Amalfi Coast.

 As quickly as they emerged to administer their magic, our new friends vanish. I glance at my husband who glows with the successful outcome of his wedding vow secret plot. Delirious, I decide it might be a dream, but when the waiter returns he carries my bouquet, left behind somewhere like Cinderella's shoe at the ball. We place it in a vase and ponder this place—Ravello-- where dreams fuse with reality.

-- Becca Hensley

Austin-based freelance writer Becca Hensley speaks just enough Italian to get her in trouble. A pasta fanatic, poet and mother of three, she is also senior travel writer for Austin Monthly. Her work has appeared in National Geographic Traveler, Robb Report, American Way, Forbes and Self.

The Details

Hotel Caruso
Piazza San Giovanni del Toro, 2
Ravello
(39) 089 858801
www.hotelcaruso.com
Rates: Start at 620 euros per night for a double room, with breakfast.
The hotel offers a daily, complimentary boat excursion for guests to sightsee in Positano and Amalfi. Avid hikers will enjoy trails that begin near the palace and lead through the mountains, along cliff side paths and through idyllic villages. Motor and sail boat trips can be arranged for visits to Capri and beyond. Try a Watsu class in the hotel's infinity pool or work out in the fitness center with panoramic views. When dining at the Caruso, don't resist regional specialties. Try buffalo mozzarella with tomatoes and basil, lobster medallions with green beans and oranges from Sorrento and ravioli filled with red onion and Cetara tuna.

Wedding Planner
Linda Gatto
La Lampada di Aladino
Viale degli Eucalipti, 18
Salerno (39) 089751294
www.amalfi-wedding-planner.com

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