Farewell to La Rondinaia

On Aug 26, 2004, The New York Times published a beautiful spread of two articles and seven photographs on Gore Vidal and his Italian villa, La Rondinaia, which Vidal purchased in 1972, and where he lived for more than 30 years, until a bad knee made it difficult for him to climb the many stairs it took to get to the place, and forced him to put it on the market for sale. The stories began on the front page of D-1, the "House & Home" section in the print edition (called "Home & Garden" online), and continued on page 5 of the section.

Finally, in February 2006, Vidal sold the villa to a hotelier in the town of Ravello. The sale price: £10 million, or about $17.4 million (€14.7 million) at the rate of exchange on the day the sale was announced. Vidal paid $272,000 for the place in 1972. [Pictured, at left, is a link to one of the Times' photos by Franco Origlia. This is a glimpse of the villa from below. Right-click the image to see its original context and URL.]

The new owner, Vincenzo Palumbo, planned "to have the building listed then turn it into a niche hotel for the wealthy and a museum dedicated to the life and works of the writer and political provocateur," according to the British newspaper the Daily Telegraph in a Feb. 27, 2006, article. The Telegraph story continues: "Exhibits will include mementoes of his guests, among them Princess Margaret, Graham Greene, and Sting. Hillary and Chelsea Clinton left a photo signed: 'Thanks for letting us trespass.' There will be other unusual exhibits including the chair used in the epic movie Cleopatra starring Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton."

But then, in 2007, the new owner once again placed La Rondinaia up for sale. This sale brochure, sent to me by Luca Di Nisio, the sales agent, and republished here with his permission, tells the history of the home and presents some lovely photographs of it. The brochure is in PDF format.

To report the fact that La Rondinaia, which is located in the town of Ravello, was up for sale in 2004, and to reflect on its owner and his literary and cultural history, The Times sent a reporter to visit Vidal. The links just below will allow you to read those articles and see the photos that go with them.

PLEASE NOTE: The New York Times charges a fee to read the two articles in its Archives, although just below, I'll offer some links where you can read the lead article for free, as well as some other links to pieces on the villa. I am providing these NY Times links on The Gore Vidal Index as a service to people interested in the material. I have no relationship with The Times and make no money if you choose to pay the fee. The slide show remains available without charge, although you must register with The Times to see it. Registration is free.

When you click the links below, the stories and slide show from The New York Times will open in a new web browser so that you will not have to leave this page or frame of The Gore Vidal Index.

The lead story in the spread, For Gore Vidal, a Last, Long Look From the Heights, was written by Joseph Giovannini. A shorter piece, A Reign of Words, written by Elaine Louie, offers anecdotes and reminiscences from La Rondinaia's many notable visitors over the years. Finally, you can view a slide show of seven images from inside and outside the villa.

Here now are some free links to the lead New York Times piece, as well as links to some other articles on Vidal's villa:

You can read the main Times story for free at the online site of the San Francisco Chronicle.

Or you can read the main Times story for free at the site of The Scotsman.

You can also read this piece by writer Andrew Solomons, who visited Vidal's villa in 1995 and wrote a piece about the author and his tranquil hilltop home.

The Sunday Herald of London wrote about the villa in 2001 and then later printed a short piece when it went on the market.

Writer William Dunlap spent time there with Vidal in 2003.

Gay Italia also did a story on La Rondinaia.

Forbes magazine has a squib on the place (scroll down past the piece on Seinfeld).

A short piece on Via Travel Design offers more information.

The town of Ravello, where La Rondinaia is located, published this lovely story on the estate in September 2003, although it's online in PDF format, which requires you to have Adobe Acrobat Reader.

Arianna Huffington visits Vidal in Ravello and riffs on the war in Iraq.

The writer Erica Jong visited Vidal at La Rondinaia.

This story by an Associated Press reporter tours Ravello in general and La Rondinaia in particular.

If any visitor to The Index finds a dead link, then please feel free to notify me. I'm sorry that I can't provide the stories for free on the Index. Needless to say, I don't own the copyrights to them, and copying the stories onto my site would violate copyright law.

©Copyright 2006 by
Harry Kloman
University of Pittsburgh