Reggia di Caserta
A Palace to Rival Versailles
It is difficult to imagine a more spectacular surprise in southern Italy, amidst the “architettura fascista” of the cities notoriously ugly preferia (suburbs), than the Reggia (Royal Palace) of Caserta.
Luigi Vanvitelli’s 1751 design was created under the direction and support of King Charles VII Bourbon. The plan was for a palace which would dwarf the king’s summer residence and hunting lodge on the Capodimonte hill (now the National Archaeological Museum of Naples). The Capodimonte site was chosen specifically for its position above the filth and congested lanes of the city center. The location of the country residence was chosen for its scale and privacy.
Based upon inspirations of Charles’s boyhood home, the Royal Palace in Madrid, Reggia di Calabria outsizes Versailles in numerous ways. This is one of the finest royal palaces extant in the world.
With 1200 rooms, over seventy million cubic feet of volume, forty completely frescoed royal rooms, compared to twenty three in Versailles, the sheer scale of the palace is nearly overwhelming.
Though Charles VII initiated construction on the palace, he was never to spend one night in the structure. In 1759 he abdicated to become the King of Spain. It was left to Charles’s third son, Ferdinand IV of Naples, to bring the palace to its near completion. Vanvitelli’s original plan included two large colonnades, never realized, comparable in size to Bernini’s monumental installation surrounding St. Peter’s Square in Rome.
Following Luigi Vanvitelli’s death in 1773, his son Carlo assumed responsibility for the project. It was during the sons’ oversight that a garden of 300 acres was designed and installed. The water garden extends away from the rear of the palace nearly one half mile. It was in 1780 that an English Garden was designed and installed by Johann Graefer, a German born, English trained landscape architect. The grounds are also complimented by a floral garden on the east side of the palace.
The plan and scale of the beautiful and complex water features and garden have been compared to those of Peter the Great’s palace, Peterhof, in St. Petersburg, Russia.
The most important rooms in the palace are the King’s Theater, modeled after the Teatro San Carlo in Naples, Throne Room, Staircase of Honor and Palatine Chapel. The most impressive exterior view of the Palace and estate is from a high point in the gardens.
Visits to the palace offer a number of tour itineraries and options. Visit the Reggia di Caserta web site (see IF YOU GO below) for further details. Visitors can easily reach the main entrance at the Palace using the regional train system from Napoli Centrale to Caserta. The grand approach to the palace is directly across the Sottovia Carlo Vanvitelli from Caserta’s station.
Stunning. Breathtaking. Unforgettable. These are words that somehow inadequately describe this palace of rare beauty. If you are planning a trip to Naples and the Amalfi Coast, I highly recommend at least a half-day visit to the Reggia di Caserta and gardens.
IF YOU GO:
Train service from Napoli Centrale begins very early during the week (5:09AM) and trains run approximately every forty minutes. The trip takes fifty minutes each way. For further schedule details refer to: www.virail.com or www.trenitalia.it.
Reggia di Caserta
Web: Reggia di Caserta
8:30 to 7:30PM daily
(Closed Tuesdays, January 1, Easter Monday, May 1 and 25 December)
Open daily 8:30AM
Closings: January, February, November and December at 3:30PM, March at 4:00PM, April at 5:00PM, May at 5:30PM, June – August at 6:00PM, September at 6:30PM, October at 5:30PM