Originally built in the 12th Century, Palazzo Avino, like many other buildings along San Giovanni del Toro, was part of the aristocratic quarter of Ravello during the Middle Ages and Renaissance. Some original rooms remain, such as the entrance hall and a small bathroom used as a cellar in the restaurant.
The building owes its name to the prosperous Sasso family from Scala, who were descendants of San Romoaldo, founder of the Cistercian order, and San Dominico Sasso, the successor to Saint Domenico who created the Dominican order. The Sasso family settled in Ravello in about 1710 when Domenico Diego purchased the remains of the Palazzo Sasso from the noble Bonito family and subsequently restored it. In 1756, his son, Andrea, built the chapel, dedicated to Maria Maddalena Penitente, which is now the lobby of the hotel. Andrea died in 1758 without an heir.
The Palazzo was then abandoned until the beginning of the 19th century when it was purchased by the wealthy industrial Camera family. In the mid-19th century, the first foreign visitors began to arrive, such as Francis Nevile Reid in 1851 and Richard Wagner. When James Becket bought and rebuilt Villa Cimbrone in 1904, Ravello attracted many prominent people, including Virginia Woolf, E.M. Forster, Maynard Keynes, D.H. Lawrence and Andre Gide. The potential for tourism was not lost on the Camera family who, following the example of other local families, converted the Palazzo into a hotel.
In 1928 the Vuilleumier family assumed the management of the hotel. During the next half-century, Palazzo Sasso was known as Hotel Palumbo and its guests included Kings, Queens, aristocrats, poets and writers. On the declaration of war against France (in 1939), the French-born Duchess Anna of Aosta (wife of the Viceroy of Ethiopia) was applauded by the people of Ravello when she appeared on a terrace above the Principessa di Piemonte Gardens. The beauty of Palazzo Sasso has inspired many 20th century personalities; the playwright Eduardo de Filippo who wrote ‘Saturday, Sunday, Monday’ on one of its terraces and General Eisenhower was a resident when he was planning the attack on Monte Cassino. Former celebrity guests Ingrid Bergman and Roberto Rossellini were fondly remembered as having giggled over dinner in the restaurant.
This era was sadly interrupted in 1978, when the Vuilleumier family gave up the Palazzo in favour of the Palazzo Confalone. The Palazzo was closed and 19 years of abandonment followed.
Fully restored, it re-opened as Palazzo Sasso in July 1997 to continue its historic adventure. In 2013, Palazzo Sasso was renamed Palazzo Avino, finally bearing the name of its founding family. The name change – the building of Palazzo Sasso and its transformation into Palazzo Avino, has every making of an Italian love story. There is passion, beauty and a dream. All played out along Italy’s stunning Amalfi Coast.
“I love the Palazzo,” Managing Director Mariella Avino says. “I love the location. I love the views. I love every single element. I love it because I grew up here. I know its past (my father’s commitment and effort to create the property), I know its fantastic present, and I’m excited to write its future with my sisters with all our passion, our heart and love.”