Villa Campolieto: pearl of the Golden Mile in Herculaneum

by Gerardo Russo

Villa Campolieto is one of the most famous villas of Golden Mile, located in Herculaneum. Its works began with the assignment of the project in 1755 and ended in 1775. Initially commissioned to Mario Gioffredo, it was then continued first by Luigi Vanvitelli, then by his son Carlo. It is one of the best preserved villas in the area.

Villa Campolieto: perla del Miglio d'Oro a Ercolano
Entrance of Villa Campolieto; Ph. Gerardo Russo.

Il Miglio d’Oro

In the historical context of the construction of the Palace of Portici by Charles III of Bourbon and the excavations of the ancient Roman city of Herculeaneum, many Neapolitan nobles chose the Vesuvian coast as a place for their summer holidays. Thus, in the second half of the eighteenth century, 122 were born Vesuvian villas, whose presence is particularly concentrated in the borders of today's Herculaneum in a road section called Golden Mile.

The territory was particularly appreciated by the nobles, as well as for the interest generated by the archaeological discoveries, for the landscape beauties that could be admired from the villas. In fact, from Villa Campolieto you can enjoy the view of Vesuvius and the sea of the Gulf of Naples, ranging from Capri and the Sorrento peninsula to the Phlegraean peninsula with Ischia and Procida.

Villa Campolieto: perla del Miglio d'Oro a Ercolano
View of Vesuvius from Villa Campolieto; Ph. Gerardo Russo.

The birth of Villa Campolieto

Villa Campolieto was built by the will of Prince Luzio De Sangro, Duke of Casacalenda, along the road that in the Bourbon period connected Naples with Calabria. It bears the name of the Molise municipality Campolieto, where De Sangro was a feudal lord. It is located near the Royal Palace of Portici.

The design was initially entrusted to Mario Gioffredo, replaced by Michelangelo Giustiniani in 1760 and then from 1763 by Luigi Vanvitelli, until his death in 1773. The works would have been completed by Carlo Vanvitelli in 1775.

The villa stands out for its ability to integrate and enhance itself in the surrounding environment. At the end of a fabulous elliptical portico, overlooking the sea, an elliptical staircase that joins the structure with a garden below stands out.

The Vanvitellian elements

Luigi Vanvitelli in particular redesigned the staircase of Villa Campolieto, creating a central rampant and two lateral ones, following the model I had already used for the design of the Royal Palace of Caserta.

As for the interiors of the Villa, Vanvitelli distorted the conformation of the dining room, initially designed by Gioffredo in a square shape with a barrel ceiling. Vanvitelli made it circulate through a technique known as "Curled up“, Since it used a wooden rib, in turn superimposed with bamboo canes, which was then plastered and frescoed.

It should be noted that inside the fresco that covers the walls of the dining room, a work created by Fedele Fischetti e Gaetano Magrì, troviamo un raro ritratto di Luigi Vanvitelli, intento a rivolgere il capo al cielo, servendosi di un aristocratico monocolo per ammirarne la visione.

Villa Campolieto: perla del Miglio d'Oro a Ercolano
Ritratto di Luigi Vanvitelli; Ph. Gerardo Russo.

The secret passages of the servants

By contrast, the invisibility of the servants' passages stands out. In fact, in the dining room we find service doors perfectly camouflaged with the decorative fresco of the room. This solution responds to the need of the time to live both everyday life and festive moments without the servants, necessary for the preparation of an event or simply for the setting of the table, manifesting itself or being visible to the eyes of the aristocrats, disturbing them. the calm.

Nobility and scaffolding

Villa Campolieto continues to shine thanks to the important restoration work carried out, hosting numerous cultural events inside and the many visitors curious to discover the aristocratic environments of the past. The visit is possible from Tuesday to Sunday from 10.00 to 18.00.

From the splendid rooms of the villa it is still possible today to contemplate the sea of the Gulf of Naples, scrutinize the strength of Vesuvius, experience other eras through the nearby ruins of Herculaneum and the same eighteenth-century noble atmosphere evoked by the villa. The servants' doors remain invisible, but they create a curious gash inside the fresco by Fischetti and Magrì. Inviting to look beyond the walls and the Vanvitellian architecture, beyond the beauty, be it that of the frescoes or the sea, between the secret passages and the scaffolding that support every work of art.


Giuseppe Fiengo; Vanvitelli and Gioffredo in the Villa Campolieto in Herculaneum; 1974

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1 Comment 22 October 2022 - 15:49


La vil) a è splendida così come l’hai descritta. Grazie per tutte le informazioni che la riguardano!


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