A great stopover on my way to Sicily


Think of this: Italy is shaped as a boot, approximately 1500 km from the northest to the southest point. When I planned to go to Sicily for my 2020 summer break I thought that such a long distance cannot be covered in just one day, neither without planning some stopovers along the way. In fact I live in the north west section of Italy, in the Region called Piedmont, which is more than 1300 km far from the Strait of Messina (the official entry gate to Sicily for those travelling by car, like me). You can go there by boat also, from Genova, if you like, and start your visit in Palermo.

On my way to Sicily I planned just one stop in the city of Caserta. You might have never heard of it because the city is so close to Naples (just 30 km) that its fame is engulfed by that: the city of the Vesuvius is so attractive for many, that several do not turn their back to the mainland to vist one of the most imposing building in the world: the Reggia di Caserta.

Reggia di Caserta, Facade. Photo by Matteo Gazzarata

If you go to Naples or if you travel all along the Italian Peninsula by car or by train, do not forget to stop here to see the largest Royal Palace in Europe. You might object here that Versailles is bigger, but it’s not. The volume of Reggia di Caserta is bigger than that. The Palace was built by the King of Naples, Charles III, in 1750 as he wanted a leisure palace for himself out of his capital city but close enaught to be able to move back quickly anytime.

Reggia di Caserta from the Garden. Photo by Matteo Gazzarata

The building was designed by one of the masters of the late Baroque architecture: Vanvitelli. Due to is massive design, the construction of the Palace required also an incredible amount of water, thus Vanvitelli also designed an aqueduct to bring the water from the mountains to the construction site, thus, what is nowadays the impressive garden, was originally planned to be an aqueduct, then turned into a marvellous set of waterfalls that enrich the main ally of the present garden. At the bottom of the main waterfall, below the mountains a beautiful, basin decorated with mithological statues, embellish the view.

Reggia di Caserta, Garden. Photo by Matteo Gazzarata
Reggia di Caserta. Garden. Photo by Matteo Gazzarata

The palace itself is so big that it’s impossible to actually visit it all. It would take a week to meander inside its several apartments. Moreover the palace is so big that there always are some restoration works in progress. My suggestion is to visit the garden first and then the Palace.

Reggia di Caserta, backside facade. Photo by Matteo Gazzarata

What you actually visit here is the main apartment, which occupies the first floor located inside one of the four big aisles of the palace, which is actually designed as a greek cross with four big courtyards and four monumental facades, which are all looking the same.

The first place you visit is the monumental staircase which is one of the most impressive you will ever see. When you see my pictures here below you may feel you have seen this place before and you probably did: if you are a fan of Star Wars you may recognise it as the Palace of Padmè Amidala or you might remember Ewan Mc Gregor stepping down in Angels and Demons. The staircase is highly impressive and was planned to provide the visitors with a sense of power and majesty.

Reggia di Caserta, the Staircase. Photo by Matteo Gazzarata
The Monumental staircase. Photo by Matteo Gazzarata

Your visit will take you inside the Royal Aparments, some of which are empty so you can admire the permament decorations of the walls and the ceiling, while others still show some of their furnitures to allow visitors get an idea of the life inside the Palace.

Reggia di Caserta, the Royal apartment. Photo by Matteo Gazzarata
Reggia di Caserta, the Royal Apartment. Photo by Matteo Gazzarata
Reggia di Caserta, the Royal Apartment. Photo by Matteo Gazzarata
Reggia di Caserta, the Royal Apartment. Photo by Matteo Gazzarata

By the end of the visit you’ll be fed up with the impressive baroque decorations and the richness of the furnitures, which provide an idea of the power of the local Royal Family, the Bourbon, until 1861, when the kingdom of Naples joined the newly established Kingdom of Italy, whose capital was Torino.

Getting there is quite easy: if you drive on A 1, either from the south or from the north, take the exit at Marcianise, follow the sign for Caserta and you’ll get right on the big boulevard heading to the Palace. There are several big parkings around it making it easy to find a slot. If you travel by train, the station is right in front of the Palace, it’ll take you 5 minutes on foot.

Do not forget to try a Pizza in Caserta: if you want to try a very good pizza, possibly the best in the world, try Pizzeria “I Masanielli” and ask for their 4 tomatoes pizza (pizza ai 4 pomodori), and you’ll get to learn what ecstasy really is like. Don’t forget to book a table if you don’t want to wait in line for a couple of hours.

Pizza 4 Pomodori. I Masanielli, Caserta. Photo by Matteo Gazzarata

Where to sleep: there unfortunately are not many choices. If you want to sleep comfortably I recommend you to stay at Grand Hotel Vanvitelli, located approximately 2 km far from the Palace, on the same boulevard.

9 thoughts on “A great stopover on my way to Sicily

    • Thank you Ronit. The 4 tomatoes are: red and yellow cherry tomatoes (pachino tomatoes) confit, half dried cherry tomatoes and dried San Marzano Tomatoes. The mix provide a fourfold texture to each bite. However do not forget the dough..it was so soft and light to almost vanish into my mouth, they let it leaven for 48 up to 72 hours using only sourdough

      Liked by 1 person

  1. Wow what a palace, I think it’s incredible that someone can commission this in their lifetime and that it was finished that they could vacation there. Looks like it would take 100s of years to build. I also find it interesting that nobody can afford to build to this scale and quality anymore.

    Liked by 1 person

    • For monarchs of Europe it was essential to show off their spending capacity. They needed to build fancy palaces and leisure residence to let others believe they had money to spend if involved in a war or attacked, That is why we have so many similar palaces in Europe.

      Like

  2. Your recent posts on Sicily remind me of how sad we are that we aren’t able to travel to Sicily as planned (originally in Spring 2020, postponed to Fall 2020 and now fingers crossed for Spring 2021) because of the pandemic. Thanks for all of the great ideas to add to our month long plans.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Sue, I really hope you can make it to go visit Sicily next year. I want to be optimistic and believe this whole pandemic will come to an end soon. Keep follow if you like as I will post more about Sicily in the next days..I also did a long trip there for the past 3 weeks.

      Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.