The stunning complex at Caserta, which includes the Royal Palace and its magnificent gardens, the San Leucio Complex, and the Aqueduct of Vanvitelli is a true architectural wonder. The large palace, often compared to luxurious buildings like Versailles and the Royal Palace in Madrid, is featured on UNESCO's World Heritage Site.
The Royal Nativity Scene -- Royal Palace, Caserta, Italy.
History of the Palace
The construction of the palace was started in 1752 on the orders of Charles VII of Naples so he could have a capital in the Kingdom of Caserta for administration purposes. The King was immediately taken with the plans for this architectural wonder, prepared by Luigi Vanvitelli, however, as Carlo VII resigned to become King of Spain in 1759, he never lived at the complex.
The construction of the palace still took place and was completed for Carlo's son Ferdinand IV. The work on the complex was completed in 1780 and in the latter years was supervised by the deceased Vanvitelli's son.
The complete palace boasted a total of 1,200 rooms, a large Royal theater, and more than two dozen apartments. The theater had been designed to resemble the theater of Naples. The size of the palace was so great that the entire population of the town at the time had been shifted to make space available including the San Leucio resort, a silk manufacturing firm, that was made into a pavilion in the Park.
The Architecture of the Palace
The complex of the Palace was built on a rectangular plan that measured 247 meters by 184 meters. The four sides of the complex are connected by orthogonal arms that form four courtyards. The forecourt of the complex had plenty of buildings that matched the palace and behind them several more buildings were constructed from where the day to day businesses of the Palace were to be managed.
In ancient times several of these structures were used as barracks and they served this purpose again during World War II, this time for the U.S. Army.
For centuries the Palace of Versailles has been considered the most magnificent royal residence in the world and the barometer by which other palaces are measured. For those interested in gorgeous palaces full of gilt and luxury the Palace of Caserta is a must see as it is often thought to be the only complex that can stack up to Versailles. One similarity between the two palaces are the Pavilions that provide a break in the main building's façade, which is found both at Versailles and in Caserta. Also, both palaces feature an aqueduct used as the source of all water required for fountains and various other grand displays.
The Interiors of the Palace
This large Baroque palace was built as a reflection of the Bourbon monarchy's power and the gilded interiors only add to the overall magnificence of the place.
The Piano Reale located above the King's floor is one of the most beautiful locations in the palace. Its grand architecture and its sublime decorations are noteworthy. The saloni of the palace are done up in Late Baroque style and the enfilades were the seat of the ancient government. These saloni were also used as a place for displays of precious national objects and wealth.
As the public rooms are stunning it is only natural that the royal family's private quarters followed suit. The government offices, a university, a theater, and a library were also built within the palace. Apart from the luxury and grandeur of the palace it also served a practical purpose. Being located inland meant that it was safer from attacks, ensuring the safety of the reigning King.
Visitors to Caserta today will notice that the large entrance to the Palace has now been incorporated into the city.
The Royal Palace of Caserta - Italy
The Palace Gardens
The gardens of the palace were also completed in the Baroque style and stretched for 120 hectares, some of which is spread out over hills. Although originally inspired by the garden at Versailles the palace gardens at Caserta are widely agreed to be much more beautiful than their French counterpart.
Starting from the back of the main building, the park stretched along an alley lined with cascading streams and beautiful fountains. The English garden was designed by Carlo Vanvitelli and is considered to be one of the earliest of these types of gardens in Europe.
Along with the multitude of fountains dotted among the park there are several beautiful statues and figures that were commissioned for the palace grounds. Designed by Gaetano Salomone and made in the workshops of local artisans these statues are a sight to behold.
More recently, due to its reputation as one of the most beautiful palaces in Europe, the Royal Palace of Caserta has been featured in various movies including Star Wars I and II and Mission Impossible III.
Every year thousands of visitors travel to Caserta just to gaze at this marvelous wonder of architecture and excess. Visiting the palace is almost like stepping into another universe--one filled with Kings and beauty, grandeur and luxury.