When traveling to the southern half of Italy there are many sights to see. You might want to soak up the sun off of the Amalfi Coast, visit the ghost town of Pompeii, or even see the volcano that caused its dismay from the Bay of Naples in the bustling city.
But, what if I told you that some of the best sights are off the beaten path that previous tourists have paved? A great example of this is a palace hidden away in southern Italy. Most people know it as “the place they filmed Star Wars”, but there is so much more to it than that!
Reggia di Caserta: The Hidden Gem
Nestled away in a small town named Caserta is the Reggia di Caserta, which translates to Royal Palace of Caserta in English.
Caserta lies in the Campania region of Italy, and is located less than an hour from the city of Naples. This region is best known for its rugged coastlines and rich historic sights, which the place is no exception to.
Reggia di Caserta began its construction in 1752 by Charles VII of Naples. The palace wasn’t finished until the 1800’s when his son decided to take over and complete the lifelong project. The finished product came with 5 floors, 1,200 rooms, and a 120 hectares long park.
Today, the palace is recognized as a United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) World Heritage Site. This means that the palace has cultural significance to the country and the citizens that live here.
So, why should you visit Reggia di Caserta?
- The first reason being that it is like traveling back in time. For a small fee you may gain entrance into the palace and begin exploring (guided or on your own, you choose!). Now, not all 1,200 rooms are open; but you will have a chance to walk through the throne room with its golden ceiling. You will see the room for a child, with ghostly artifacts from centuries ago. There is also the library that holds books from the 1700’s onward. All the items in the palace are authentic and were recovered from inside the walls. This means the items you are seeing were used by the royals that resided here!
- Next, you get to explore the 120-hectares of fountains and shrubbery that extend behind the palace. You will find locals jogging along the reflecting pools, getting in their daily workout. You will also find families having picnics among the luscious grass and hedges. As you explore the land behind the palace it will become clear that Reggia di Caserta is a place where residences of the town like to spend their day. The beauty of this space holds something for all ages; shade for adults to relax and a small play castle for children to exhaust their imagination! At the very back of the park you will find the fountain of Diana and Acteon. This fountain beautifully illustrates the Roman tale of the two, and adds to the magical element of the palace.
I have a secret tip for you! Above this grand fountain you will see a tower sitting atop of the cascading water. If you are lucky, the stairs to the tower will be open; which are located to the right and left of the Diana and Acteon sculptures. If you are one of the lucky ones to make the ascend, you will see the Palace from above; just as Luigi Vanvitelli meant for those to see his completed work.
- Another thing to check out is the English Garden. After walking to the very back of the park you will notice a path to your right. This path leads to the botanical garden which houses plants and flowers from around the world, beautiful sculptures, and hidden waterfalls. You can walk around and see the actual ruins of Pompeii that were transported to the 24-hectare garden, just adding to its beauty. Stop and take a walk through the Cryptoporticus, which is masterfully replicated to look like a Pompeiian ruin. If you are looking for a place to rest, take a seat next to the Bath of Venus. Admire the statue of Venus as she dips into the pond, and take in the breathtaking waterfall while kicking back and relaxing.
- So, I talked about what there is to do in the daytime at the palace, but what about in the evening? At night, the palace shuts its doors to everyone, the business is closed for another day. But, the square welcomes locals and visitors to mingle on the grounds. Many nights I would sit at the square with my friend, drinking wine and eating food, while talking to the other locals. We would light sparklers and set off paper lanterns, it truly was magical! At night, the palace is lit up every color you can imagine, even the colors of the Italian flag!
Overall, Reggia di Caserta is a sight that most travelers do not know about. It is a hidden gem nestled in a town that is a sight to see itself. When traveling it’s important to see the sights you want, but it’s also amazing to see the sights many do not know about!
Travel tip shared by Jaimie Watts