Around Us / Caserta
The gardens of the Park are magnificent, in perfect harmony with
a strip of land that is all one garden.
J.W. Goethe, 1787
The vast plains of Caserta is the area referred to as “Campania Felix” by ancient populations due to its privileged position and the fertility of its soil. This area hosts one of the most famous and widely visited monuments of the region: the Royal Palace (Reggia) of Caserta, one of the most sumptuous palaces ever to be constructed for a king.
In 1750 Charles of Bourbon decided to build a palace that could compete with the great residences of the other european sovereigns, in particular Versailles. The design of the impressive construction was entrusted to the famous architect Luigi Vanvitelli.
The immense dwelling is made up of four courtyards and thousands of rooms, chapels, museums and theatres. In the 120 hectare park wide boulevards, fountains, waterfalls and numerous other contructions were created.
The staircase of honour, a creation of eighteenth century scenographic art, leads inside. Leading off the upper lobby, opposite the staircase of honour, is the Cappella Palatina, the space that more than any other shows a clear analogy with the model of Versailles.
Across from the entrance hall are the royal apartments, pompously decorated with marble and paintings, and furnished with period pieces and precious objects. Among the most typical rooms, mention might be made of the Sala degli Alabardieri, the Sala delle Guardie del Corpo and the Sala di Alessandro, known as the ‘Sala di marmi’ – Marbles Hall -, next door to which visitors can view the permanent exhibition of contemporary art Terrae Motus.
Moving on we come to the New Apartment, or Nineteenth-Century Apartment, with the Sala di Marte, the Sala del Trono (the largest), and the Apartment of the King with the Sala del Consiglio – Council Hall.
The Murat Apartment contains the Empire-style furnishings from the Palazzo Reale di Portici, the favourite residence of Gioacchino Murat and Carolina Bonaparte.
Finally, we come to the Old Apartment or Eighteenth-Century Apartment, with the two rooms used by Ferdinand IV of Bourbon and Maria Carolina.
On the west side of the Reggia is the Teatro di Corte, a temple of music and for the parties that were held at court. It is an example of eighteenth century theatre architecture of rare beauty.
If the Royal Palace is an exultation of architecture and décor, then the Park mirrors its importance in the majestic fountains, with subtle plays of water, and in the lush green that disappears into the horizon. The central boulevard makes a powerful impact, adorned with fountains, waterfalls and groups of statues tucked away in the geometry of the woods, grass lawns and flower beds. The sequence of water culminates in the ‘Great Waterfall’, known as the fountain of Diana.
Among the many places of recreation frequented by the Bourbons, mention should be made of the English Garden created for Queen Maria Carolina, characterised by plants originating from various parts of the world.
There is a lovely pond with the statue of Venus and, typical of the Romantic style, fake ruins adorned with statues.
The ‘Royal Site’ finds its completion in the nearby village of San Leucio (famous for the production of high quality silk) with its elegant Casino Reale del Belvedere (Royal Lodge), home to important cultural events.
A visit to Casertavecchia is unforgettable, one of the most evocative and well preserved medieval villages in Italy. Here, amid little stone paved streets, aristrocratic buildings and ancient churches, old traditions are still deeply felt. A stroll along the medieval streets gives one the sensation of going back in time. At the centre of the village is the Cathedral of San Michele, a magnificent example of arab-norman architecture. In the summer an important festival of music, theatre and dance is held.
This vast area of the province of Caserta has many interesting historic and artistic places: from the Roman ruins of Santa Maria Capua Vetere, Calvi and Sessa Aurunca, to the medieval remains in Aversa and Capua.
Not far from Capua, on a highland from which a marvellous view of the great plain of Caserta can be enjoyed, is one of the most important medieval monuments of Italy: the Basilica of Sant’Angelo in Formis. It was founded in the 10th century on the remains of a temple dedicated to the goddess Diana, but rebuilt in 1072 under orders of the Abbot Desiderio of Montecassino. The inside has three naves and three apses, and is covered in colourful frescoes, a cycle of painting unique in Southern Italy.