Departing from our campsite near Pompeii after 10am (we need to recover few hours of back sleep) we reached initially the Vulcano Buono shopping center (Google Maps), where we decided to have lunch (around 11.00), in order to to dedicate the remaining hours of the day to the visit of the Royal Palace of Caserta. Arrived in Caserta we left the car inside the Parking Carlo III (Google Maps – cost: 1.00 euros per hour), located in the immediate vicinity of the Palace, before starting our visit.
Royal Palace of Caserta
The Royal Palace of Caserta was designed by the architect Luigi Vanvitelli and commissioned by the then King of Naples, Carlo di Borbone. The King wanted to give dignity to his government and his kingdom, but he did not want to build the palace in Naples for fear of a possible attack (perpetrated by land or sea). For this reason he chosen as a construction site a more sheltered area, within the territory of Caserta.
The original project of palace included, in addition to the construction of the palace, the construction of a large park, the arrangement of the surrounding urban area and the construction of an aqueduct. According to the King’s expectations, on the palace it should have been the symbol of the new Bourbon State. The construction of the palace was part of the wider political project of King Charles of Bourbon, who wanted to relocate some administrative structures of the State directly in the new palace, linking it to the capital with a long monumental boulevard that was realized only in a small part (the expected one would be more than 20 km long). However, the building was only partially built, it is in fact devoid of the dome and the corner towers.
The project was approved at the end of 1751 and the first stone was positioned in January 1752. In 1759, however, before the palace was completed, Charles of Bourbon ascended the throne of Spain (after becoming Charles III), he left Naples to settle in the Spanish capital (see also: Madrid – Three days almost Low Cost). The sovereigns who succeeded him didn’t share his enthusiasm towards the realization of the palace, moreover the manpower went gradually to decrease, these problems caused the delay of the delivery times. In 1773 the architect Luigi Vanvitelli died and was replaced by his son, Carlo Vanvitelli.
King Ferdinand IV of Naples chose the Royal Palace of Caserta as his hunting lodge and in 1767 he moved there due to the eruption of Vesuvius, which had threatened his residence in Portici. Subsequently, with the proclamation of the Neapolitan Republic, which took place in 1799, the palace and the other properties of the crown were expropriated. The building didn’t suffer great damage, but most of its precious furniture was plundered. Some of the pieces contained in the palace were recovered only after the Restoration, that project was supervised by the queen.
In 1806, the Napoleonic army conquered the Kingdom of Naples, as a consequence the crown passed to Joseph Bonaparte (Napoleon’s brother), while the Bourbon royal family had to seek refuge in Sicily abandoning all properties to the peninsula. A few years later, after the conquest of France by the French, the Kingdom of Naples passed to Gioacchino Murat (a French general). Murat always had a particular fondness for the palace of Caserta where he had a whole Empire style apartment built.
The Bourbon monarchy was placed at the head of the new Kingdom of the Two Sicilies only after the Congress of Vienna (occurred in 1815). Subsequently, the palace served as a hunting lodge of the Bourbon kings, but entered in a state of decadence. In 1860 the entire kingdom was incorporated into the new Kingdom of Italy and the palace was occasionally used by some members of the House of Savoy, like Emanuele Filiberto-duca d’Aosta, until Vittorio Emanuele III gave it to the Italian state in 1919.
Our visit of the Royal Palace of Caserta can be divided into two parts: a visit to the royal apartments and a visit to the gardens. At the entrance of palace it will be possible to choose between three different types of tickets:
- Full Ticket, grant access to the palace, to the park and to the English garden. The cost of this ticket is 12.00 euros, or 6.00 in case of reduction (from 18 to 25 years old);
- Royal Palace ticket, grant access only to historic apartments. The cost of this ticket is 9.00 euros, or 4.50 in case of reduction (from 18 to 25 years old);
- Parcoday ticket, grant access to the park and to the English garden, however, it must be purchased exclusively at the ticket office located in Corso Giannone. The cost of this ticket is 8.00 euros, or 4.00 in case of reduction (from 18 to 25 years old).
It also exists the ticket “Reggia twodays” that cost 15.00 euros and will allow you to use the normal ticket on two days. There is also an audio-guide for 5.00 euros.
We opted to purchase the first ticket, however we couldn’t access to the English garden because we found it closed. Unfortunately, the English garden has different times than those of the park and the palace (and these are not clearly shown inside the ticket office):
- Royal Palace: 8.30 am – 7.30 pm (with last admission at 7.00 pm and ticket office closing at 6.45 pm);
- Park: open at 8.30 and variable closing depending on the time of year;
- English Garden: opening at 8.30 and variable closing depending on the time of year.
Find more information on the Royal Palace of Caserta website.
The tour of the palace begins in one of the four large courtyards of the palace and then leads to the double staircase that leads from the ground floor to the first floor of the palace. Here you have easy access to the Palatine Chapel (inspired by the homonymous present at Versailles) and the apartments. Continuing the visit you can see the old apartments (inhabited by Ferdinand IV and his wife Maria Carolina) and new ones, as well as the incredible throne room, which represents the richest and most evocative environment of the royal apartments. Find more information about the inside of the palace inside the Wikipedia.it page dedicated to her.
After visited the royal apartments, we went downstairs and started the long walk inside the park, which extends for 120 hectares and has a length of 3 km. Along the central avenue of the park, which joins the back side of the palace with the fountain of Diana and Atteone, numerous fountains are interposed, in order:
- The Margherita Fountain;
- The Basin and Fountain of the Dolphins;
- The Basin and Fountain of Eolo;
- The Basin and Fountain of Cerere;
- The Basin and Fountain of Venus and Adonis;
- The fountain of Diana and Atteone, dominated by the Great Waterfall.
Each of these is animated by a different play of water. Inside the pools, which run for several hundred meters the center of the park, you can see the different species of fish that live there, it is mainly carps and carassidae. Among the different fountains, the most majestic are probably those dedicated to Eolo (located near the center of the park) and the fountain of Diana and Atteone, fed by the waterfall located at the end of the park.
To travel the entire length of the park, and then reach the fountain of Diana and Ettore and the front garden, you can use the shuttle service (for a fee) or the buggy (also paid). However I advise you to reach the other side of the park on foot, so you will be able to gather many details on the statues and fountains of the park. After the visit to the Royal Palace of Caserta we took the car and we left again in the direction of Pompeii and our campsite.
The Royal Palace of Caserta (UNESCO heritage since 1997) was for a long time in my wishlist, which is why I was really happy to visit it. However, even in this case, I have to move some small criticisms:
- Access to the palace costs (if you choose to make our own ticket) 12.00 euros, which must be added to the 5.00 euros for audio-guide, is it really necessary to charge the use of the bathrooms? In my opinion no, especially considering that the palace is in state management and not in private, yet…
- I also didn’t appreciate the setting of the visit, in first visit allows to access to a small portion of the Royal Palace of Caserta, finally the tour (recently modified judging by the fact that even the audio-guides were consistent) forces the visitor to observe all rooms from a narrow walkway that runs along the two side of walls, thus preventing you from really appreciating the majesty of certain environments.
Despite this, the visit to the Royal Palace of Caserta is still super recommended! In two weeks I will publish the fifth article about this incredible road trip. In the meantime enjoy the photos!