Gore Vidal


«I am writing this on August 26, 1994-glumly, avoiding a tempting lie of convenience; since I usually like to keep the present in the present tense, I wanted to note that today, after the hottest summer ever in southern Italy, the heat wave broke. But it was not today but yesterday that the weather changed. From our house here in Ravello, on a cliff above the Gulf of Salerno, there was a lightning storm to the west and another to the east, and a sudden gale that has filled the house with dried leaves»1.

Gore Vidal

photographed by Slim Aaroms


It is with these words that Gore Vidal, an American writer, essayist and dramatist, gives the reader the unusual experience of rainfall in August. The house, mentioned in the text, is La Rondinaia. The name, the Swallow’s Nest, well defines the physical setting of the villa, which grapples the rock face, overlooking one of the most beautiful sea views in the world, rich in history and wonder. In fact, whoever takes the road from Amalfi to Ravello cannot help but gaze at this extraordinary building, up high, clinging to the cliffs, just like a swallow’s nest 2.

Gore Vidal

photographed by Slim Aaroms


The ties between Gore Vidal and this place are strong. He first came to Ravello in March 1948 in the company of Tennessee Williams (one of the most important playwrights of the 20th century). Vidal returned to the village many times, until in 1972 he decided to buy La Rondinaia, which would be his place of safe haven for more than 33 years. «While I was looking for (on the look - out for) a house in the country in Italy, I read an advert in a local newspaper, and after a viewing of the property I decided to purchase it with a mortgage together with 2.5 hectacres of land»3. What really happened, as Vidal would later affirm, was that Howard Austen discovered the advert and on a rainy day, made the first inspection of the grounds. Austen decided to go ahead with the purchase without seeing the inside of the villa itself, the views and the location were enough to make up his mind4.

Gore Vidal

photographed by Slim Aaroms


Unlike the many foreigners who, over the years, have come to the Amalfi Coast, for a holiday, Gore Vidal moved here on a more permanent basis, so much so that he was given honorary citizenship of Ravello: « I look on this as a sign of good luck- he wrote – the fact that I now live in Ravello for a good part of the year. Certainly the gardens, the setting, the architecture of this ancient city have a magical influence foreigners in particular (the Goths were, in the end, civilized by the Romans!)».

Gore Vidal

credit by Vogue


«The local people of Ravello are thunder-struck when I say that this place is world famous for literature, especially modern literature. The great English writer, D.H.Lawrence came here, as did the great French travel writer André Gidé. Of course Richard Wagner was also inspired by the wonders of this location. All these great artists mirrored in their works , however briefly, the intense green, the transparent blue, the grey of the tufa rock, the stupendous atmosphere, each and every one felt the fine balance that nature holds over the ancient center of the world : the Mediterranean».

Gore Vidal

credit by Vanity Fair


La Rondinaia, was defined "a paradise", by the Italian press when "Lady Clinton" came to visit in 19945, Gore Vidal found inspiration here for many of his masterpieces, he was also host to many great personalities of recent times over the years: Tennessee Williams, Princess Margaret, Hillary Clinton, Paul Newman, Susan Sarandon, William Clark Styron, Alberto Arbasino, Leonard Bernstein, Italo Calvino, Franco Zeffirelli, Menotti, Andy Warhol, Paul Newman, Jane Woodward, Tim Robins, Peter O' Toole, Paul Morrisey, Francesco Rosi, Dick Savett, Giovanni e Marella Agnelli, Hillary Clinton, Sting, Rudolf Nureyev, Mick e Bianca Jagger and many others.

«I don't live in Ravello. I live at La Rondinaia» GORE VIDAL

1. Gore Vidal, “Palinsesto. Una Memoria”, Fazi, Roma, 2000, p. 7

2.Pietro Porcasi, “La Villa di Gore Vidal a Ravello”, Le Dimore Storiche, Quadrimestrale delle Dimore Storiche Italiane, Anno XXI n. 3, Autunno 2006

3. Paige Rense, “Celebrity Homes”, Penguin Books, 1977, p. 145

4. Domenico De Masi, "Ravello. Un petit tour", Avagliano, Roma, 2003, p. 143 e ss.

5. Gore Vidal, “Palinsesto. Una Memoria”, Fazi, Roma, 2000

  • English
  • Italian