The Royal Palace of Caserta | Photo: Jon Worth, via Flickr
At the “Reggia” or Royal Palace of Caserta, the Splendour of the Bourbon Dynasty and the Story of Modigliani
Residence of the Bourbons first and then Murat later on, the Reggia di Caserta is the world’s largest royal residence and has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1997. Not far from Naples, the palace was built inland, in Caserta, far from the sea for security reasons, following the indications of Charles VII of Naples. .
Royal Palace of Caserta: perspective from the Fountain of Venus and Adonis | Photo: Carlo Pelagalli, via Wikimedia Creative Commons
The palace is an outstanding triumph of the baroque and neo-classical styles, built in 1752 by architect Luigi Vanvitelli with the aim of making the royal residence, the general headquarters for the Kingdom of Naples, lavish and imposing. Besides the four interior courtyards, the sweeping “Honorary Stairway”, the Palatina Chapel, the Painting Gallery, the Court Theatre and the Historic Apartments, Luigi Vanvitelli revolutionised the concept of architecture, starting with the aforementioned 30-metre-high “Honorary Stairway” - which was then placed in theatres and palaces all around the world - often a location for cult films of international cinema, such as Star Wars, Angels and Demons and Mission Impossible. The furniture and the historic apartments are a rarity - completely original, decorated with gold, frescoes and fabrics from the ancient silk mill of San Leucio, near Caserta.
The immense park of 120 hectares and the cascade, etch the skyline of the Reggia di Caserta with incomparable charm. There are also the Fountains of Aeolus, the Three Dolphins, of Ceres, of Adonis and Venus and the fountain of Diana and Actaeon. Next to this last fountain is an elegant English-Style Garden, created for Maria Carolina of Austria, wife of King Ferdinand IV. It is the first garden in Italy with plants from every corner of the world and between the ponds and temples, the cryptoporticus - a fake ruin - reminiscent of ancient Pompei which was rediscovered in the same period. It is a mesmerising location, decorated with original statues found on archeological digs and from the Farnese collection itself. Completing this incredible scene is the Bagno di Venere or the Pool of Venus: a small mirror of water from which the goddess, sculpted in Carrara marble by Tommaso Solari, seems to silently ascend. Even the irrigation systems of the Reggia, the Caroline Aqueduct, 38 kilometres long, was designed by Luigi Vanvitelli and also provided water to the city of Naples.