The city was completely destroyed by the Eruption of Vesuvius in 1631, but was rebuilt. Charles III of Spain, King of Naples and Sicily, built a royal palace in the town between 1738-1748. After Garibaldi defeated the Bourbons in 1860, the palace was turned into the Portici botanic gardens and the Royal Higher School of Agriculture. It once contained the antiquities from Herculaneum, which have since been moved to Naples.
The inhabitants were historically engaged in fishing, silk-growing and silk-weaving up to the beginning of the 20th century. Later a more diversified economy emerged, with industry and trade as main pillars.
Vincenzo Cuomo is the mayor. In 2009, he banned shops from displaying Christmas decorations because shopkeepers were subject to extortion to buy Camorra (mob) sold decorations.
In March 2008, Boeing opened a research centre for advanced materials under an agreement with Alenia.