The Story of a Ravello Family that dates Back to 1874

The Vuilleumier family’s hospitality and warm welcome began in 1874 when Pasquale Palumbo – the head of the family on his mother’s side – was hired by Francis Nevil Reid, a man from Scotland who loved Ravello. Twentythree years earlier the Reid family bought both the Villa Episcopio, which had been the Bishops’ Palace, and the Rufolo Palace. In 1874 Reid turned the Villa Episcopio into the first real hotel in Ravello and Pasquale Palumbo became the manager of this new “Pensione Trattoria Palumbo” and it became his home as well.

The middle class visitors who stayed in the Palumbo Hotel were for the most part British, travelers of the famous ‘Grand Tour’, attracted by the beauty and history of Ravello and the whole Amalfi Coast, amd were fascinated by the romantic atmosphere that surrounded them.

A few years earlier, in 1870, Pasquale Palumbo started the first commercial production of wines, called the ‘Cantina (Winery) Episcopio’ named for the grape vines located in the garden of the Episcopio and in the vines next to Ravello’s Cathedral.

Pasquale Palumbo married a Scottish woman who had come to Ravello with the Reid family. They gave birth to a child named Jessica but unfortunately, her mother passed away. Pasquale remarried, this time a German woman named Elisabeth Von Wartburg. Her eclectic character, her talent for organization and her warm hospitality helped Pasquale continue and expand their professional hotel work.

Elisabeth was familiar with the famous German composer Richard Wagner and his family: she told them of the beauty of Ravello and Wagner went there in the month of May, in 1880. When he visited the Villa Rufolo, the Reid’s beautiful historic home, he discovered what would become the ‘magical Klingson Garden’ for his opera ‘Parsifal’. 


The Enterprise Became a Family Hotel Tradition

Years passed and Jessica, Pasquale’s daughter from his first marriage, married Edwin Aristide Vuilleumier, whose family was friends of her stepmother Elisabeth. Jessica and Edwin had five children: Betty, Pasquale, Nora, Ida and Marco. Time passed and during the 1920’s the Vuilleumiers’ third generation continued the family’s original business enterprise which had become a tradition.

Another hotel in Ravello. the Palazzo Sasso, passed from the Camera family, from the nearby town Minori, to the Vuilleumier family. From 1928 to 1978, the Pensione Trattoria Palumbo had moved to another building and had changed its name to Albergo Palumbo. This hotel was very luxurious and its organization, service and the Vuilleumiers’ Swiss origins’ preciseness, increased its famous tradition and hospitality.

Thanks to this family’s management, the Albergo Palumbo was considered the best of the whole Amalfi Coast and was the choice of artists, writers and the international ‘jet-set’. In addition. it was the first professional school for hotel management in that region for those who planned to become serious professionals who gracefully welcomed elegant, high class tourists.

During those fifty years, from 1928 to 1978, the rooms and the restaurant of the Hotel Palumbo hosted many well-known visitors from all over the world, such as:

Paul Valéry, Maurice Rostand, Curzio Malaparte, André Gide, Truman Capote, Badoglio, Togliatti, princess Alessandra of Danmark, Max von Papen, Umberto of Savoia, Humprey Bogart, Gina Lollobrigida, Rossellini with Bergman, Eduardo de Filippo, Toscanini, Duchess Anna d’Aosta, or General Eisenhower, Jackie Kennedy, Grace Kelly and many others.

Vuilleumier family

Hotel Villa Cimbrone

Pasquale Palumbo’s son Marco left his position in the Palazzo Sasso while the rest of his family remained there. Marco became the first person in charge of the wonderful Villa Cimbrone which was the home of the Beckett family, that had inherited it from Lord Gimpthorpe. With courage, self-confidence and the spirit of an entrepreneur, Marco succeeded in making the Cimbrone one of the Mediterranean’s most prestigious and refined hotels.

Although Marco was quite satisfied with his work, it had included numerous “battles” and in the early 1990’s he left the Cimbrone and was replaced by his three sons and three daughters of the family’s fourth generation. Two of these six people, Giorgio and Paola, became the most involved with the restauration of the Villa’s beautiful castle-like building that is now a splendid hotel with only 19 rooms and a restaurant, and a tea and wine bar, a true treasure among world famous hotels. It also has a beautiful and very large garden with an enormous variety of trees and flowers open to the public.

The Villa Cimbrone is part of Italy’s Ministero dei Bene Culturali which ensures that its history and its historic atmosphere will be preserved with exterior services and modern technology.  

The Villa Cimbrone is known for its excellent organization for exclusive events and elegant catering. The restaurant ‘Il Flauto di Pan’ has a star from the world-famous Michelin Guide and two ‘Cappelli’ (hats) in the Espresso Guide, as well as recognition from numerous other prestigious guide and international gastronomic magazines.

The Vuilleumier family’s hotel management is now in its fifth generation which, thanks to its excellent education and international experiences, will continue to maintain its traditional first-class quality.