Naples villas and palaces

I’m infatuated with Naples.

Naples is gritty and dirty, and parts of it are loud and a bit scary, which I think dissuades some travelers (including this one) from going there. I had thought Naples was a city I needed to stay away from, until I actually went there and discovered how magnificent it actually is! When I finally decided to go see Naples I messaged a Facebook friend who I had never met, and he wound up taking the day off work and showing me around. It was absolutely fantastic! We walked this incredible city for hours, stopped for coffee breaks (Naples has the best coffee in all of Italy) ate Baba and pizza, saw a million  amazing things, had no end of fun, and when I got on the train to go back to Salerno that evening I realized that there are a million more things I need to go back and see. I even have a guide lined up to take my Glam Tour ladies through Naples should I get a group who want to go spend a day there.

Related Post: How To Order Coffee In Italy

Pompeii is a suburb of Naples, as is Herculaneum. The Palace of Caserta is nearby too. I had the crazy good luck of arriving at the palace on a Monday afternoon in December, when the crowds had left, leaving me the entire palace to myself. I wrote about it here. While there I learned about Marie Carolina, the absolutely fascinating sister of Marie Antoinette. She lived at Caserta, a palace built to outdo Versailles, and she ran the kingdom of Sicily and Naples. I plan on really studying her and getting well versed in all her accomplishments and then heading back to visit her palace again, this time being more informed.

Related Post: Discover The Palace Of Caserta

Naples and its surrounding area have so many sensational palaces and villas to visit and explore. If you are planning a trip to Italy you should consider checking some of them out. To whet your appetite I want to share this fabulous article I found in Italy Magazine about 5 palaces and villas that are part of Naples’ aristocratic past.


Naples Aristocratic Past: Five Palaces and Villas That Are Sure To Wow

From the 13th century to Italian unification in 1861 Naples was the seat of far-reaching kingdoms, whose territories included the regions of Southern Italy. Neapolitan rulers, depending on the century were Angevin, Catalan, Austrian, Spanish, or French (under Napoleon), their dominions referred to as either the Kingdom of Naples, the Kingdom of Sicily, or the Kingdom of Two Sicilies, according to the realms won and lost in the constant battles for power. A change in rulers often initiated a building spree; not surprisingly, Naples and Campania are home to many aristocratic dwellings, with the Spanish Bourbon kings and court spearheading the construction of some of the most magnificent palaces and villas that have survived to this day.

Related Post: 8 Things You Must Do In Naples

Here are five not to miss on your next trip to Naples.

[Villa Rufolo, Ravello]

VILLA PIGNATELLI (Museo Diego Aragona  Pignatelli Cortes). Since the Middle Ages the Pignatelli family has been one of Southern Italy’s most influential and powerful clans, who at the peak of their power could claim title to14 principalities, 16 dukedoms, 22 marquisates and 18 earldoms. Through strategic marriages the Pignatelli married into the major noble familes of Italy including the Caracciolo, Colonna and Orsini. This beautifully restored neo-classic museum house came into the Pignatelli family in 1867 (after being owned by the Rothschilds and Ferdinand Acton, son of the Neapolitan Prime Minister, Sir John Acton) and for years was a center of Neapolitan social life. You’ll find find many decorative arts collections here reflecting the aristocratic obsessions of the day, including an outsanding array of porcelain from local purveyors like Capodimonte. Del Vecchio, and Giustiniani, and from such major European names as Meissen, Limoges, and Sevres.

Some of the reception rooms (like the White House) are organized  by color scheme—red, blue, and green. In these and other rooms you’ll find fine 19th century silver pieces, gilded furniture and ornate clocks.The villa also showcases the San Paolo Banco di Napoli art collection with landscapes, still lifes, and sculpture from major 16th to 20th century Neapolitan artists (including the prodigious Baroque-era painter Francesco Solimena and Gaspare Traversi, a painter associated with the Rococo period, whose work was influenced by Caravaggio). The garden was landscaped English style, no doubt, due to the taste of its original owner. In 1952 Princess Rosina Pignatelli donated the villa and its collections to the state. Riviera di Chiaia, Napoli; Open: 8.30 AM to 5 PM. Closed Tuesdays.

[Photo credit: Wikimedia commons]

PALAZZO ZEVALLOS STIGLIANO. Built for the Duke of Ostuni, Giovanni Zevallos, in the 1600s by Cosimo Fanzago, the Bernini of Naples, this palace-museum is noted for its outstanding art collection, which includes Caravaggio’s The Martyrdom of Saint Ursula, believed to be his last work, and an extensive collection of Neapolitan paintings from the Cinquecento to the 20th century. The Neapolitan pieces include canvases from the Posillipo School or Art, named after the waterfront section of Naples where artists, among them Anton Pitloo (1790-1837), whose plein air depictions are regarded as forerunners of Impressionism, and Giacinto Gigante (1806-1876) practiced the art of vedute, or landscape painting. There are also works from the Resina School, referencing the seaside town near Naples whose painters were influenced by the Florentine Macchiaioli, sometimes referred to as Italian impressionists. The Palazzo is part of Galerie d’Italia Intesa San Paolo group. Via Toledo 185;  Open: Tuesday to Friday:10 AM-6 PM; Saturday, 10-8 PM. Closed Mondays.

[Photo credit: Due Sicilie – Magna Grecia]

VILLA RUFOLO. Big names have long been associated with this villa, from the powerful Southern Italian nobles who owned the property to celebrities like Jacqueline Kennedy who came to visit. It was built in the 13th century (according to lore with more rooms than days in the year) by the Rufolo clan, an influential family that held sway in Amalfi, then a maritime republic (like Genoa and Pisa) and its architectural style references the area’s ties to the East (Amalfi was an important trading hub), blending Arabic and Gothic elements.

So important were the Rufolo, one even figured as a protagonist in Bocaccio’s iconic Decameron. The constant power struggles in the region saw Rufolo fortunes rise and fall; over the centuries the villa was owned by other aristocratic familes like the Confalone and Muscettola.In 1851 it was bought by Francis Nevile Reid, a Scottish botanist, who restored the structure and gardens. The Great Tower, once a strategic lookout and nearly one thousand years old, provides dramatic views of the Bay of Salerno. Today the villa and gardens are the site of contemporary art exhibits and the world famous Ravello Festival. Piazza Duomo, Ravello; Open: 9 AM to 9 PM. Tower museum: from April 1, 11 AM to 5 PM.

Related Post: 10 Things To Do On The Amalfi Coast

VILLA FLORIDIANA (Museo Nazionale della Ceramic Duca de Martina). One of Europe’s finest porcelain collections is housed in the Villa Floridiana, a former Bourbon royal residence, and summer home to Ferdinand IV of Naples’ second wife Lucia Migliaccio, the Duchess of Floridia (his first spouse was the powerhouse Queen Maria Carolina, Marie Anoinette’s sister). In 1919 the government purchased the property from Migliaccio’s descendants and turned it into a museum, whose debut exhibition featured porcelain collected by the Duke of Martina, a highly regarded decorative arts connoisseur. The collection was further enhanced by a bequest in 1978 when an heir to the duke gave the museum a bounty of furniture and porcelain. The museum today showcases over 6000 porcelain and decorative items—Bohemian crystal, Gothic ivories, Sicilian coral, Venetian glass, and bronze objets—ranging from the Middle Ages to the 1800s. Of particular note is the Renaissance-era majolica; pieces from the great porcelain production centers on the Italian peninsula, among them Capodimonte, Deruta, Gubbio, and Faenza;  and a large collection of porcelain including Ming and Qing dynasty china from Asia and from the great European names like Limoges, Sevres, and Meissen. Via Cimarosa 77; Open: Wednesday to Monday 8.30 AM  to 7 PM.

PALACE AND MUSEUM OF CAPODIMONTEIts name and location might suggest a focus on porcelain, but this large neoclassical palazzo, built by the Bourbon king Charles VII as a hunting retreat, houses one of Italy’s richest art collections. Its hillside setting proved to be both blessing—affording striking view of the Bay of Naples—and headache, due to the location’s steep incline, which made the transport of building materials difficult. Construction, which began in 1738, took 100 years to complete.

From its earliest days the palace was thought of as both residence and museum, showcasing an important cache of classical sculpture and paintings from the renowned Farnese art collection, which Charles inherited from his mother, Elizabeth Farnese. The palace, home to the National Gallery (Galleria Nazionale), displays works by the major names in Western art like Titian, Botticelli, Raphael, Massacio, Bellini, Caravaggio and El Greco and even a 20th century icon, Andy Warhol. The royal apartments, lavish for a residence designed as country retreat, contain 18th century furnishings. Villa Napoli 2. Open: 8.30 AM to 7.30 PM, except Wednesdays and Christmas. Royal apartments open at 10 AM. A shuttle runs from Naples city center (Piazza Trieste e Trento/Teatro San Carlo) to the Palace and Museum.

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The best way to travel around Italy is by train.

How To Use Trains In Italy

Italy has the most amazing train network, it runs like clockwork, connects all the major cities and gives you high speed access to the entire country. If you are traveling in Italy the train system opens up so many opportunities to you – you can buzz around and take quick day trips that would otherwise take hours to drive. The fast trains have comfortable leather seats that allow you to sit back and enjoy looking out at the majesty of this gorgeous country through huge panoramic windows.

How To Travel Italy By Train

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The fast trains in Italy are amazing. Super clean and efficient, they glide you in comfort across the country at 280 kph. (Why don’t we have trains like this all over America???) The fast train from Rome to Florence, which is roughly the same distance as Phoenix to Las Vegas or maybe Phoenix to Los Angeles, takes an hour and 15 minutes.

There are two main train companies operating across Italy. Trenitalia and Italo. Both are excellent, but if given the choice I use Italo.



How To Use Trains In Italy

If you can plan your train travel ahead of time you can make it super simple and save yourself lots of money.

I normally buy train tickets as soon as the online ticketing is available, 3 months ahead of the travel date. I use the Rail Europe website, because although it costs an extra $7 per ticket I find the website to be less glitchy and easier to maneuver than the Trenitalia and Italo websites. Also Rail Europe is all in English.

The one-stop shop for train travel

The trains have various classes – Executive, First, Second etc and are priced accordingly, although sometimes it makes no sense. I’ve bought first class seats before that have cost less than second class seats. Train travel is really quite inexpensive though, and is such a genius way to get around. It is much faster and much less expensive than renting a car or flying, and just so easy.

If you buy your tickets online you can just print out your boarding pass and it doesn’t need to be validated. (More on validating ahead.)

If you are purchasing your ticket in the train station you have 2 options, the self-serve kiosk or the ticket counter.

How To use Trains In Italy

The kiosk is really easy to use, but will either just serve Trenitalia or Italo. You can select English and then just follow the prompts. If you are unsure of what to do or don’t know which train company to use you can go to the counter and get help. There are also representatives of each train company in the concourse, and they are always happy to help you use the kiosk. They are always in uniform – don’t get help from non-uniformed folks hanging around, they may be nice folks or they may be pickpockets. (I actually learned the Italian train system by random people helping me in train stations  )

Once you have your ticket in hand you need to figure out which Binario or platform your train is departing from. Your ticket will have the train number on it. In this picture it is train 9521. You can look for that train number on the departure board, and  next to it will be the name of the final stop.

How To Use Trains In Italy

Let’s assume you are in Rome and are traveling to Naples, and you just bought a ticket on the 9521. Using the picture above it tells us that the 9521 starts in Milano and ends in Salerno. Even though you are traveling to Naples (Napoli) the departure board won’t say Napoli, it will say 9521 to Salerno.

How To Use Trains In Italy

The departure boards will be easily visible, and will be in several places in the station.

How To Use Trains In Italy

You need to look at the board that says Partenze this means departures.

Arrivi means arrivals. Don’t get them confused!

How To Use Trains In Italy

Remember that the name of the city will be in Italian, not English. Naples is Napoli, Florence is Firenze, Venice = Venezia etc.

In some train stations you need to show your ticket as you pass through from the main concourse to the platforms side of the train station. Others you need to show your ticket as you pass through security on the platform itself.

If you bought your ticket at the station, either at the kiosk or at the counter you will need to validate it before getting on the train.

The validation machines are all over the place and look like this.

How To Use Trains In IItaly


It’s a good idea to go ahead and validate it as soon as you buy it, just in case you end up running for your train and don’t have time. The train conductor will check your ticket while you are en route. If you haven’t validated it you will face a heavy fine, tourist or not.

If you bought your ticket online and printed out the boarding pass you don’t need to validate it.

Your ticket has some other important information on it. It tells you which carriage number you are on (Carrozza) and what your seat number is. (The little local trains don’t have assigned seating but the fast trains trains do.)

How To Use Trains In Italy


10 minutes before your train departs the departure board will tell you which platform it is departing from. Now as you make your way along the platform there will normally be screens along the way telling you where each carriage/coach number will be stopping. Your train may already be on the platform, or it may be arriving any minute. Find the number that corresponds to the carriage number on your ticket.

When the train pulls in you will see that each carriage has a door at either end. On the door it will tell you rows 1- 13 or 14 – 28 (or whatever row configuration that carriage has.) It doesn’t matter if you get on at the wrong end, but if you are dragging luggage around it helps to get on at the end your seat is on.

Rail Europe – Train tickets

When it comes to luggage there are different options. Some trains have a luggage bay at one end of the carriage. Europeans travel much lighter than Americans do, so the luggage areas often aren’t designed for giant American suitcases. That means you need to hustle and get on the train quickly before all the space is gone!

There will be overhead racks for your carry on bags, and many trains have a space between the rows of seats where your suitcase can slide in.

In the picture below you can see the large overhead space for luggage, and if you look behind the conductor’s legs you can see the wheels of a suitcase poking out from between the space between the seats.

How To Use Trains In Italy

You need to move quickly and get you bags put away, because the train will get moving right on time. It is super annoying when you are trying to get to your seat and there are tourists in the aisles with their bags, putzing around, not knowing which way is up! Get to your seat, put your carryon on the rack above, slide your suitcase into the space between your row and the row behind yours, and get out of the way.

How To Use Trains In Italy

Keep your ticket on hand. The conductor will move from carriage to carriage checking all the tickets.

How To Use Trains In Italy

Sometimes these dudes are just ridiculously handsome!

You will be served a coffee or cold drink plus a snack on most intercity trains. There will also normally be a buffet/restaurant carriage on the train. The bigger trains stations have really good food options, so we often buy a panino or a salad to eat on long train trips. If you are in the executive or club car they will serve you a meal on longer trips.

Related Post: How To Rent Cars In Europe

I really hope you will use the fast-trains in Italy to travel between cities. It is such  fun, easy and efficient way to get around the country.

If you have any train tips that I may have missed, please add them to the comments section below.

If you felt the information in this post was helpful, please share it on your Pinterest and in your social media!

My new book Glam Italia! How To Travel Italy is now available worldwide on! It is full of helpful tips, guides, translations and advice for anyone traveling to Italy. I hope you will get a copy and use it to help you while you are traveling in Italy!

Bonus Content:

Do you get overwhelmed with all the things you have to do before a big trip? There are so many things to remember and it’s hard to know quite what to do and when to do it!

I make the process simple for my Glam Italia Tour travelers (and for myself!) by using checklists. They keep everything organized, help us to stay on track, and make that drive to the airport stress-free!

I am going to share these checklists with you for free. They come in PDF form so that you can download them, print them, and check off each item as you go. You can get your free pre-travel checklists here


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The one-stop shop for train travel


How To order Coffee In Italy

I thought about titling this post “the Beginner’s Guide To Coffee Culture In Italy”, because coffee is actually part of the culture in Italy. Standing at the bar in a coffee shop, knocking back an espresso (un caffe) is part of the social fabric in this very social country, and if you get the system and your order down, it adds to the magic of your experience in Italy.

The first thing to know is that coffee in Italy is nothing like Starbucks.

Drinks for the most part come in one size and are supposed to be consumed onsite. Stomping your foot and demanding a venti will get you exactly nowhere – venti means 20 in Italian. You will be served your drink in a real cup, not a paper cup. Italians don’t walk around eating and drinking in the streets like we do in the US. It’s fabulous.

The second thing to know is that there is a system that you need to follow.

When you walk into a café (coffee bar) check out the situation before walking up to the bar. I most big city places you will need to pay the cashier first. He will give you a receipt that you will take up to the bar to order with. In smaller coffee shops you can order and pay at the bar.

If you are going to eat something – a pastry, a biscotto, a sandwich for example you need to scope out whats behind the glass before you pay for your order. Have a look, decide what you want and then go tell it to the cashier. Normally everything in a given food category costs the same. Panini are equally priced, all the pastries are one price etc, but there can be variables, so it doesn’t hurt to check first.

Now with your receipt in hand, muscle up to the bar and get the barista’s attention. He or she will grab your receipt, ask you what you’re having, and then tear it so they know the order has been filled.

There are 2 prices for the coffee you are ordering. One is for having it standing at the bar and the other is for taking it to sit at a table. Italians drink their coffee standing at the bar.

It should be noted at this point that a coffee in Italy (un caffe ) is what we here in the states call a shot of espresso.

Related Post: How To Make Coffee In a Moka

What To Order

There is no equivalent in Italy to American drip coffee. You also won’t find Coffeemate or flavored coffee creamers. Italian coffee ruins you – it is so incredibly good. After a break in Italy it is near impossible to go back to drinking Starbucks.

The way to ask for your order is to say “un caffe per favore”. In a busy joint you can get away with just saying the name of the drink you want, but you probably will have to get the barista’s attention.

Un Caffe / a coffee.

coffee in Italy


A coffee is a shot of espresso. It will be served to you in a little cup on a saucer with a teaspoon for sugar. Normally they will also give you a small glass of water on the side.


coffee in Italy

Lunch in Marzamemi finishes with a coffee, or what we would call an espresso


Un Macchiato.


A macchiato at Tazza D’Oro in Rome

This is nothing like the huge sugary confection served stateside. It’s a shot of espresso stained (made macchiato) with a drop of milk. If you want the milk to be hot and foamed ask for Macchiato Caldo. This is still served in a little espresso cup.


Un Caffe Con Panna.

This is similar to a macchiato but is sweeter, and instead of milk is topped with a dollop of whipped cream.


Un Cappuccino (or Cappuccio).

cappuccino and panforte

Breakfast in Florence. A cappuccino and a slice of panforte


This is served in a bigger cup, but still not as large as an American tall. A cappuccino is a shot of espresso with foamed milk. Italians only drink this at breakfast time til mid morning. They cringe at the thought of milk sitting on a full stomach. Being that you probably are not his first tourist your barista will happily make you cappuccinos all day long.

Caffe Americano.


Caffe Americano

Caffe Americano at Gilli in Florence

This is the closest thing you will get to an American drip coffee. Sort of. It’s a shot of espresso with hot water added. It will still be much stronger than coffee at home.

This drink is strictly for the tourists – no Italian would be caught dead drinking it.

Un Lungo/Caffe Lungo.

You can ask for a caffe lungo (long) for a slightly weaker version.

Un Corretto or Caffe Corretto.

This is “corrected” coffee, said coffee being corrected with a shot of liquor. This could be grappa, brandy, Sambuca, Cognac or I’m sure anything that you would prefer.

Granita Al Caffe


Caffe Granita

Granita is a cold coffee that comes out of a slushy style machine. Its very creamy and smooth and delicious.

Coffee In Naples


I personally think Italian coffee is the best coffee in the world. In all my travels around the globe I have never had better coffee, or coffee that I have loved better, anywhere.


Kimbo Coffee In Naples

Kimbo is a brand of coffee I see more in Naples than anywhere else.


Within Italy the best coffee I have ever had has been in Naples. I make sure to allow coffee time every time I pass through, even if its just a quick espresso at the train station. But beware – coffee in Naples is strong!

Italians pop into a bar (café/coffee shop) multiple times per day. It’s a fun habit to take part in! If espresso seems too strong to start with just load it up with sugar. You will get the swing of it and develop a taste for it in no time, and before you know it you’ll either be drinking it straight or with just a little sugar before you know it.


I bring home between 5 and 10 pounds of Italian coffee every time I go to Italy. I buy Lavazza Crema E Gusto or Illy You can order both here on Amazon, but they cost a bit more, although they’re still not expensive.

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How To Order Coffee In Italy

How To Order Coffee In Italy


How To Order Coffee In Italy