The UNESCO series: Reggia di Caserta

Hindered by it’s location, few miles away from the bay of Naples, the Amalfi Coast, Capri, Ischia and very close the Vesuvius, the mighty Royal Palace of Caserta is pretty often neglected by tourists, despite it’s undeniable value. Not only the Palace is surrounded by a complex of natural beauties, including the marvellous aqueduct built by architect Vanvitelli, but also is the largest royal palace in the world by volume (expressed in cubic meters).

Although I posted already about this magnificent cultural attraction, which I visited last year on my way to Sicily for my 2020 summer holidays (find the post here), this time I want to convey some extra information based on it’s inclusion among the Unesco world heritage list, more than 20 years ago, which contribututed to it’s fame and increased the number of visitors, which is yet at a comfortable level, allowing everyone to enjoy the visit at their own pace and enjoy every component.

The full Unesco site is actually called:

The 18th Century Royal Palace at Caserta, with the Park, the Aqueduct of Vanvitelli, and the San Leucio Complex (Italy)

Reggia di Caserta – Foto by Matteo Gazzarata

To understand the added value of this place, which guided the Unesco Counsellors to include it in the world heritage list, some information are necessrary. The meain features of the decision can be summarised as follows:

The Committee decided to inscribe this property considering that the monumental complex at Caserta, whilst cast in the same mould as other 18th century royal establishments, is exceptional for the broad sweep of its design, incorporating not only an imposing palace and park, but also much of the surrounding natural landscape and an ambitious new town laid out according to the urban planning precepts of its time. The industrial complex of the Belvedere, designed to produce silk, is also of outstanding interest because of the idealistic principles that underlay its original conception and management.

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

The Campania Region (one of the 20 Regions of Italy) was dominated for a long time by the Spaniards, whose Royal Family (the Bourbon), ruled sometimes with severity and some other times with kindness. One of the last kings of Naples made the decision of building a “leisure” palace outside the capital city, but not too far, so that a quick connection between Naples and Caserta was possible. He unfortuntely never managed to see the completion of his new residence, whose building works took several years, but he left us an incredible masterpiece of the late baroque, early neoclassic architecture, rich and severe at the same time, with a marvellous garden which was the envy of other monarchs as well as one of the main attactions of the area.

Reggia di Caserta, the Staircase. Photo by Matteo Gazzarata

The monumental complex at Caserta, created by the Bourbon king Charles III in the mid-18th century was meant to rival Versailles and the Royal Palace in Madrid, is exceptional for the way in which it brings together a magnificent palace with its park and gardens, as well as natural woodland, hunting lodges and a silk factory. It is an eloquent expression of the Enlightenment in material form, integrated into, rather than imposed on, its natural setting.

The Royal Palace is the centrepiece of the whole architectural composition and is located on a central axis which connects and unifies the entire complex. The portico and the stream of the fountains in the park which lead to the scenic backdrop of the waterfall, formed by the Aqueduct Carolino, are also situated along this axis.

With its four courtyards and three atriums, the Royal Palace is a great example of monumental structure built to be a magnificent palace for the royal family and its court and, at the same time, an administrative centre inspired by the model of Escorial in Spain.

The park is the latest of the great European gardens inspired by the creations of Versailles and the 16th century models of villas in Rome and Tuscany. The English Garden is one of the greatest, oldest and most important picturesque gardens created in Europe.

The main part of the San Leucio estate is the ancient hunting Lodge of the Belvedere, converted by King Ferdinando IV of Bourbon into a silk mill to create an idealistic community of workers, who were guaranteed homes, schools, medical care and all services. The huge building complex, set around the inner courtyards, became the symbol of a model society based on the value of work and equality.

The Aqueduct Carolino, with its imposing viaduct “Ponti della Valle” is a stunning work of engineering and provides an extraordinary infrastructure not only serving the palace, the gardens and the future capital of the kingdom, but also the mills, the ironworks and the manufacturing industries located along its path.

Reggia di Caserta. Garden. Photo by Matteo Gazzarata

The 18th century Royal Palace of Caserta with the park, the Aqueduct Carolino, and the complex of San Leucio are all important evidence of the interchange of human values, thanks to the broad scale of its original project for an ambitious new town, consisting of imposing buildings, gardens, streets and surrounding natural landscape according to an innovative concept of planning. This new configuration of the landscape has been realized through engineering works of exceptional historical interest, like the Aqueduct Carolino, which was created to connect and unify the entire complex.

If you are planning your next trip to Southern Italy, the Royal Palace of Caserta shall be included. It outstands other royal residences you might have visited before and the reson why can be discovered in full during your visit, depsite the may words that can be written about it

The present post contains some exerpts from the Unesco Committee decision

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