This monday I arrived save and sound first in Rome and then in Napoli – just right on time to pick up my rental car and leave the city in direction to Caserta. A small town about 30 minutes from Napoli. Finding the town was easy but then the trouble with the navigation system started and I kind of drove in circles around my B&B in the town center for quite some time – so far we haven´t made up, I probably will try a different one or go back to reading maps.
Nevertheless my B&B was right next to the reason I came to Caserta – the royal palace – Reggia di Caserta!
So far Versailles had been the grandest palace I had seen – La Reggia di Caserta even seemed bigger? Perhaps that was even the intention of the Bourbon kings of Naples, for whom it was constructed in the 18th century? Speaking of volume it is the largest royal residence in the world, “with over 2 million m³ and covering an area of about 47,000 m² (or 61,000 m²).” (Wikipedia)
Construction began in 1752 for Carlo VII di Napoli (& Carlo V di Sicilia) under the italian architect Luigi Vanvitelli.
“Another of the king’s primary objects was to have a magnificent new royal court and administrative center for the kingdom in a location protected from sea attack, and distant from the revolt-prone and congested city of Naples. To provide the king with suitable protection, troop barracks were housed within the palace.” (Wikipedia)
During World War I and II the palace housed the Italian Air Force Academy and from 1943 it served as the seat of the Supreme Allied Commander during the allied invasion. In 1945 the unconditional German surrender of forces in Italy was signed here.
5 floors, 1200 rooms (only a handful are open to public at the moment, there are huge renovations going on in and around the palace), a chapel, a library and a theater modeled after the Teatro San Carlo in Naples.
And then there is the baroque garden stretching on 120 hectars…. As I was pressed for time I took the shuttle bus to get to the end of the canal and walked down again. I still only managed to walk the canal and didn´t even see the English gardens or had time to explore. It would probably best to rent a bike, buy some things for a picnic and spend at least one day in this park!
You might recognize the palace or the gardens, they are used in many movies from Gina Lollobrigidas “Beautiful but dangerous” in 1955 to “Star Wars” and “Mission Impossible”.