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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.