La Reggia di Caserta

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    Sep 04, 2012
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With huge gardens extending 3 km, this special palace attracts thousands of visitors every year and its mere presence in the town not far from Naples really captures the essence of majestic Italy.  I explored the grand building and its equally impressive gardens to discover more about its history.
The sheer magnificence of the 18th century palace invades the skyline as you approach it. With 1200 extravagant rooms and a winding marble staircase with 116 steps that lead up to them, the palace is as dramatic as it is exquisite with a mixture of both classic and baroque architecture. This is one of the reasons why it was included in the list of World Heritage Sites in 1996.
Started in 1751 by the famous architect of the time Luigi Vanvitelli and later finished by Vanvitelli’s son, the palace of Caserta was an idea of Charles III of Borbone who was dedicated to social and economic problems. Taking a look inside and its clear to see the luxury and lavishness in which the Kings and Queens of the day lived. Standing a dominant 41 metres high, it has 34 staircases and 1790 windows. To the right of the main part of the palace is the royal staircase underneath of which is an impressive statue of Hercules. Leading up the staircase and two large and rather splendid marble lions with open mouths await you almost as though they are urging you to visit the further splendours on display inside. A series of grand rooms are open to the public and each room is equally as lavish and spacious as the next with their vast array of vivid colours such as gold, green and blue with huge pictures hanging on the walls depicting people and scenes of the times. Bronze statues and mosaics encompass many of the rooms and exuberant chandeliers hang from the tall ceilings that are also covered in designs of bronze and blue. The Kings bedroom offers a particular example of royalty at its finest.
Not only is the inside of the palace a treasure of art and antiques, but once outside and looking up towards the glorious gardens that are laid out in front of you is a sight to behold. You can visit the gardens by taking the navetta bus that runs the complete length. However it’s only with a leisurely stroll that you can really enjoy the many wonders that surround you. The central area of the gardens has a series of large basins and at the far end is a spectacular waterfall that from a distance seems like part of the mountainous backdrop. There are also 6 breathtaking and monumental fountains. Exploring further and the enticing story of each fountain becomes clear, such as the Fountain of Venus and Adonis that narrates the tragic story of the goddess in love with the hunter who was later killed by Mars in an act of jealousy. Then there’s the Fontana dei Delfini named because of the two dolphins that circle the larger dolphin with their long arms and paws.Water gushes from their mouths and lands into the large basin that is 470 metres long. The very first fountain to be created on site was the Margherita Fountain. Its design is simple in that there is a single jet of water in the centre of a circular basin that is surrounded by colourful flowerbeds. 
At the very far end is the 23 hectare English Garden that was designed by Vanvitelli in the 1780s and is full of palm trees, oak trees and cedars amongst others. As you walk further into this area you find classic statues such as Venus herself who dominates a small lake. It’s also from the far end of the gardens where you have a very particular view of the whole area of La Reggia and perhaps it’s only then when the real wonder of it becomes clear.
Caserta is a 45 minute train ride from Naples and the palace is a mere 5 minutes walk from the train station. Alternatively take the A1 Autostrada for Caserta North and follow the signs for the parcheggio comunale.” Summer opening times are from 8.30 am until 6.00 pm or in winter from 8.30 am until 2.30 pm. 

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