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The Villa Favorita, in Herculaneum, is one of the well-known Vesuvian Villas along the so-called "Golden Mile," that stretch along the eastern portion of greater Naples, where many of the well-to-do of the 1700s in Naples situated a string of sumptuous residences. (This included the royal family, of course; Charles III built a grand royal palace in Portici, right next door to Herculaneum. The Villa Favorita was the work of one of the great Neapolitan architects of his day, Ferdinando Fuga, perhaps best known for his grand "official" buildings for the Bourbon state, such as his design for the Albergho dei Poveri (the Royal Poorhouse).
Villa Favorita was finished in 1768 for the Beretta family and ownership eventually passed to the Ferdinand IV, the king, (heir of Charles III) who relocated the Naval Academy of the Kingdom of Naples to the premises. The original building faced the main road and the harbor; the premises included a small hunting lodge, stables, as well as a park. Ownership passed to the the king's son, Leopold, and then to Ferdinand II, the next-to-last monarch of the kingdom before the unification of Italy in 1861. He was responsible for some of the "oriental" aspects of additions to the buildings, provided to accommodate Isma'il Pasha, the soon-to-be Khedive (Ottoman governer) of Egypt, who was a guest at the villa on a visit from Egypt. (He also had another little cottage along the Posillipo coast.) Today the villa Favorita is property of the Italian state and is the seat of a school for penitentiary police.
-the villa is where the celebration was held for the marriage in 1768 of young Ferdinand IV and Maria Carolina of Austria (sister of Marie Antoinette);
-at the time of the marriage, the property actually belonged to prince D'Aci, who then gave it as a wedding gift to the royal family. The king declared it to be his "Royal Favorite" (hence the name) because it reminded his Austrian wife of her residence at home, the Schönbrunn castle in Vienna;
-after the king transferred the naval academy to the premises, he called upon German artist Jackob Philipp Hackert (1737-1807) to decorate the entrances with twelve paintings depicting the 12 military harbors in Italy then under Bourbon dominion; that is, the ports of Trani, Brindisi, Gallipoli, S. Stefano, Gaeta, Taranto, Castellammare, Bisceglie, Reggio Calabria, Messina, Barletta, and Manfredonia.
-after the short-lived Neapolitan (Parthenopean) Republic of 1799 was overthrown, the royal family returned from Sicily, mooring at the Villa Favorita. It became for a while Ferdinand IV's official residence and he expanded the premises appropriately, making it grander than ever;
-when the royal family was again forced to flee to Sicily in 1806, this time in the face of the armed might of Napoleon Bonaparte, the queen, taking no chances, took a lot of the silverware with her to Palermo;
-during that absence the villa was the residence of, first, Napoleon's brother, Joseph, who would be king of Naples for a year (before being musical-chaired over to the throne of Spain by his brother) and then by the well-liked king Murat, who had come into all this (he was the son of an inn-keeper!) by marrying Napoleon's sister, another Caroline;
-the villa came back into Bourbon hands after the restoration of the monarchy following the Congress of Vienna in 1815;
-the villa was restored in 1854 by the prominent architect Enrico Alvino on the commission of Ferdinand II, determined to restore the premises to their original splendor. There wasn't much time for that. After the Bourbon defeat at the hands of the new Italy in 1861, the victors inherited a vast amount of Bourbon property that could be maintained only at great expense. The victors chose to dismantle and/or sell off a lot of it; thus, many of the ornate furnishings and art work at the Villa Favorita were dispersed throughout Italy into the hands of museums and private collections.
The premises were again restored privately in 1889. Still further encroachments--including part of the property going for a railroad right of way--and many other ravages of progress (WWII passed right through the place in 1943!) have insured that the premises will never again be what they once were. But, as in many such cases, we take what we can get. A little reminder by way of conscientious restoration will have to do.
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