The Royal Palace of Caserta (Italian: Reggia di Caserta) is a former royal residence in Caserta, southern Italy, not too far from Naples; built by the House of Bourbon-Two Sicilies as their main residence as kings of Naples. It is the largest palace erected in Europe during the 18th century. In terms of volume, the Royal Palace of Caserta is the largest royal residence in the world.
Roll Over Versailles!
Eager to build a palace that could rival Versailles in magnificence, in 1751—just about 30 years before the French Revolution—King Charles VII, decided to build a royal residence in Caserta, a place where—just like his fellow French (colleague 😉) King Louis XIV—he already owned a hunting lodge.
Probably his choice fell on Caserta because it, being far away from Vesuvius and the sea at the same time, guaranteed protection in the event of a volcano eruption and enemy incursions. Charles too wanted the Court to be moved there so he could keep an eye on the untrustworthy courtiers always ready to plot behind the backs of the poor sovereigns.
The construction of the palace began in 1752, Charles VII of Naples (later to be known as Charles III of Spain), worked closely with his architect, Luigi Vanvitelli.
Vanvitelli officially began the works on January 20, 1752, the king’s thirty-sixth birthday, after a sumptuous ceremony. When Charles saw Vanvitelli’s grandly scaled model for Caserta, he was filled with emotion. The huge Palace was supposed to cast shadow over Versailles. Especially with the fountains and gardens, which are immense, and still very beautiful.
The Royal Palace of Caserta was defined as the last great achievement of the Italian Baroque, with its 1790 windows and 1200 rooms. For the most part the rooms and grand salons are beautifully restored and maintained. You could not see them all 1200, it would be an impossible task. The rooms that are visible during the visit have magnificent marble floors and frescoed ceiling.
Having visited both Versailles and Caserta, I can say that I liked Caserta more than Versailles. I found it much more elegant and less pompous.
I must say that Reggia di Caserta had bathrooms complete with bathtubs and a BIDET!!!!
The peculiarity of this residence is the Royal Park; always the result of the ingenuity of the architect Luigi Vanvitelli, to whom the sovereigns turned for the realization of the project. The immense park is inspired by the gardens of the great European residences of the time. All with the extraordinary sensitivity of merging the Italian tradition of the Renaissance garden in a unique and original way.
There are shuttles to go up to the end of the fountains (about 2 miles), but a walk there—both ways—or one way only, is very enjoyable. However, while visiting the gardens one gets the impression that indeed the maintenance of all that grandeur, must be almost impossible.
After All That Magnificence
In the end, Charles VII never slept a night at the Reggia, as he abdicated in 1759 to become King of Spain with the name of Charles III, and the project was carried to only partial completion for his third son and successor, Ferdinand IV of Naples.
In 1997, the palace was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site.