Felix Villiet Vinatieri was born Felice Villiet in Turin, Italy in 1834. His father died while Felix was very young. His mother, Amelia, a harpist, remarried two years later to Enrico Felice Vinatieri, a piano builder. The family then moved to Naples where his stepfather encouraged Felix's musical talents. By the age of ten, Felix was an accomplished violinist. He graduated from Naples' Conservatorio di Musica San Pietro a Majella in 1853 and subsequently taught there for about a year.