The Villa Rufolo, which overlooks the Piazza Vescovado, is the historical and cultural center of Ravello. Built by a wealthy merchant family in the 13th century, the Villa Rufolo has a rich and storied past. Boccaccio, one of the earliest authors of the Italian renaissance, wrote a story about the villa and its owner in his Decameron, which was published in 1353.
In its prime, it was one of the largest and most expensive villas on the Amalfi Coast, and legends grew about hidden treasure on its premises. In the 14th century the Rufolo family hosted banquets for King Robert II of Naples and other Norman royalty.
When Sir Francis Neville Reid, a Scottish botanist, visited the villa in 1851, age and neglect had taken a toll on the villa and many of the rooms had fallen into ruin. Reid, however, fell in love with the Moorish towers and the expansive views. He purchased the villa and began an extensive renovation of the gardens and the remaining rooms.
When Richard Wagner, the famous German composer, visited the villa in 1880 he was so impressed by what he saw that he famously exclaimed, “I have discovered Klingsor’s garden.” Wagner, who was 67 years old at the time of his visit, was so inspired that he stayed in Ravello long enough to write the second act of Parsifal, an opera that he had been working on for over two decades. If he had not visited the Villa Rufolo, he might never have completed the opera, for he died just three years later.References:
The Château d'Olhain is probably the most famous castle of the Artois region. It is located in the middle of a lake which reflects its picturesque towers and curtain walls. It was also a major stronghold for the Artois in medieval times and testimony to the power of the Olhain family, first mentioned from the 12th century.
The existence of the castle was known early in the 13th century, but the present construction is largely the work of Jean de Nielles, who married Marie d’Olhain at the end of the 15th century.
The marriage of Alix Nielles to Jean de Berghes, Grand Veneur de France (master of hounds) to the King, meant the castle passed to this family, who kept it for more than 450 years. Once confiscated by Charles Quint, it suffered during the wars that ravaged the Artois. Besieged in 1641 by the French, it was partly demolished by the Spaniards in 1654, and finally blown-up and taken by the Dutch in 1710. Restored in 1830, it was abandoned after 1870, and sold by the last Prince of Berghes in 1900. There is also evidence that one of the castles occupants was related to Charles de Batz-Castelmore d'Artagnan, the person Alexandre Dumas based his Three Musketeers charictor d'Artagnan on.
During the World War I and World War II, the castle was requisitioned first by French troops, then Canadian and British soldiers. The current owner has restored the castle to its former glory.