Naples, the capital of Campania, may be your first taste of this region: a city of dilapidated grandeur with thriving traditions that blend religious devotion and pagan superstition, it is dramatically beautiful against the backdrop of Vesuvius. Beyond the Roman archeological sites of Herculaneum and Pompei, the volcanic soil adds extra sweetness to the citrus and peaches and countless native grape varieties. The wider region was once a vineyard for Magna Graecia and a vegetable garden for Rome; much later, tomatoes arrived from the Americas and found their way into pizza.
Out in the Bay of Naples are the islands of Capri, an Eden beloved of Emperors Augustus and Tiberius; Ischia, with its beaches and spas; and tiny Procida, with its pastel-colored houses. To the south lies Sorrento, famous for its lemons, and the Amalfi Coast, where Positano, Amalfi and Ravello are connected by the “road of a thousand bends” on nearly perpendicular cliffs that plunge into the sparkling water below. It’s a hair-raising drive, but also one of the world’s most ravishing.
Whether you’re looking for a property steeped in history or a modern refuge, these six villas deliver some of the most alluring retreats the Campania coast has to offer.
Because it can be a challenge to peel back the complex layers of Naples in all its beautiful disorder, we can take guests behind the scenes on a tour of the excavated ruins of ancient Roman Villa Oplontis, outside Pompeii, with a private visit to the ancient San Martino vineyard in the heart of the city. In Positano, when crowds gather on the coast at sunset, we can arrange a sunset dinner on a catamaran for your group.
Just outside the popular Amalfi Coastal towns of Positano and Ravello, on a cliff overlooking the sea, this medieval watchtower has been tastefully transformed into a six-bedroom villa. The watchtower was one of many built along the coast to keep guard against the Saracen pirate invaders who periodically threatened these shores.
Today, the original fortified tower walls remain beautifully intact, while the interiors have been modernized with amalfitano ceramics and brightly patterned maiolica tiles covering the floors, walls, and fireplaces—all sourced from the famous Vietri sul Mare nearby. Surrounding the retreat are manicured gardens filled with pine woods and lemon trellises, all of which face Tyrrhenian Sea views, where the only thing you need to keep watch for these days is the timing of your sunset aperitivo.
Dolce Vita Hideaway
Amalfi’s vertiginous cliffside retreats are mostly lacking in acreage—unless, that is, you’re staying at this eight-bedroom villa, which sits next to the Medieval Watchtower and can be rented with the tower or on its own. The villa was built in 1960, at the height of Italy’s Dolce Vita era, with vaulted ceilings and sprawling open-air living spaces shaded by leafy trellises; Modernist furnishings dot the marble and stone floors.
The grounds, with their terraced gardens growing Amalfi’s iconic lemon trees, are home to meandering Shetland ponies and ducks; an open, sea-facing kitchen in the garden is a picturesque setting for a private pizza-making lesson. There’s a saltwater swimming pool hanging off the side of the sheer cliff wall, but if guests want to take a dip in the sea, they have access to the rocky shoreline by way of a stone staircase.
This rose-hued palazzo is just a few minutes’ walk from Positano’s center. Built by a wealthy merchant in the 1750s to conduct business, the property was restored in 2013 with an eye for preserving the past.
In the 12 bedrooms and numerous salons across four floors, wood-beamed and hand-painted ceilings overhang fanciful chandeliers, centuries-old oil paintings, and carved antique doors; the occasional floral or nautical textile offers a modern touch. Groups can gather by the cliffside pool or on the vine-shaded, colonnaded main terrace, which is decorated with flower-filled terracotta urns and lined in maiolica tile floors.
Nature lovers in Italy will often talk about the macchia mediterranea, the shrubland biome found in the Mediterranean region, and this former cliffside farmhouse is surrounded by it. Tucked away amid lemon and olive groves along the coast, just half a mile outside of the town of Amalfi, this former farmhouse with terraced gardens dates to 1730, but was recently renovated with a contemporary aesthetic: wainscoted walls are painted white, and in the eight minimalist bedrooms, spread across four floors, all have neutral-hued linens, marble-clad bathrooms, and picture windows that frame both the Tyrrhenian Sea and the terraced gardens.
In the social areas, remnants of the past abound with 18th-century arched windows, vaulted ceilings and terracotta floors. An infinity swimming pool added during the renovation sits right along the cliffside—and come evening, the property’s sauna and Turkish bath
It’s no wonder this ultra-private villa near Positano has become a favorite retreat of filmmakers and creatives (it’s Sting’s preferred Amalfi hideaway). While Positano lies just five minutes away by car, the discreet location allows guests to feel worlds away. A bougainvillea-lined private stone path leads to the water on Positano Bay, but it’s more than just a place to take a quick dip: it’s fully outfitted with shaded daybeds and chaises longues that feel like your own private beach club. (And feel free to blast the music: the property is far enough from town that nobody will hear).
The five-bedroom villa was built in the middle of the last century; its modern interiors are filled with white furnishings that appear to float on light marble flooring. The wine-loving owner’s cellar is available to guests, who can sample their way through wines of the Italian peninsula without ever leaving Positano.
A Designer’s Sorrento Home
A few years ago, a Norwegian designer living in Naples decided to search for her dream getaway on the Sorrento peninsula, an hour from the city on the coast. After laying eyes on this midcentury villa, located inside a private park along the water, she transformed it into a design-forward retreat with minimalist Scandinavian touches.
She didn’t touch the open-plan architecture, but she updated the four bedrooms and common areas with Midcentury-modern furnishings, geometric floor tiles and winding wooden staircases; enormous abstract paintings now hang on the house’s white walls. A swimming pool is flanked by a stone wall and lush foliage, and a private stone path leads to the beach. The villa puts you within easy reach of Sorrento (10 minutes by car), Positano (30 minutes), Amalfi and Naples (both an hour away).
PRIOR’s Bespoke team can design a trip for your group based at any one of these houses, safely helping you explore the surroundings when you are ready to travel again. Inquire at email@example.com.
At Home on the Amalfi Coast