The Royal Palace of Caserta might be less well-known than the Palace of Versailles, but it’s one of the largest royal residences in the world, and it was included in the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1997.
It immediately strikes the eye of every visitor with its glittering Baroque style and its sumptuous rooms. Still, it’s also an oasis of peace thanks to its huge park dotted with statues, fountains, and basins, creating an idyllic landscape.
This impressive architectural complex represents the power of one of the royal dynasties that left a great mark on Italian history: the Bourbon family, who ruled Southern Italy from 1734 to 1861.
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Visiting the Royal Palace of Caserta
History of the Royal Palace of Caserta
The palace’s construction began in the 18th century, thanks to Charles of Bourbon. He was born in Spain, but he conquered Naples in 1734 after defeating the Austrian army at only 18. He then chose Naples as the capital of his new kingdom, bringing political renewal and a cultural melting pot while giving new impulses to art and architecture.
A few famous landmarks were built under his reign, and San Carlo Theatre in Naples is a great example of his “grandeur” attitude. He was inspired by the greatest European royal palaces, and he gave Luigi Vanvitelli the task of designing a majestic residence for his family and his guests.
Work began on his 36th birthday: January 20th, 1752. The huge palace was only completed in 1845, and even its famous architect didn’t manage to see the final result of his efforts, leaving the completion of the project to his son Carlo.
What to see at the Royal Palace of Caserta
One of the highlights of the Royal Palace of Caserta is its park covering about 120 hectares. It’s inspired by the gardens of Versailles, and it can be roughly divided into three sections: Parterre, Water Way, and English Garden.
The Parterre is dotted with trees and lawns, and it was designed by Vanvitelli together with the French gardener Martin Biancour. It includes the so-called “Old Wood” (an area that was left exactly as it was before the construction of the palace), the Castelluccia (a small tower that was used to practice the king’s military technique), and the Peschiera (a basin used to simulate some naval battles using wooden model ships).
The impressive Water Way recalls an elegant avenue made of water, basins, and fountains. It’s 3 Km long, and it offers the visitors a scenic walk and plenty of picturesque views featuring Mount Briano in the distance.
Its fountains are so famous that everybody stops in front of them to take at least a picture! Take your time to admire them, and figure out the reason why they were given their evocative names: Daisy, Dolphins, Aeolus, Ceres, Venus & Adonis.
At the end of the waterway, you’ll find an 82m high waterfall offering the best views of the complex. Climb the stairs to get to its top and reach the artificial cave that was used as a viewpoint by the nobles who loved sitting there to admire the palace from above.
From there, you’ll be able to experience the so-called “telescope effect,” which is the special perspective created by Vanvitelli. It’s a long walk from the palace, but that idyllic landscape is definitely worth it!
The furthest section of the park is named English Garden, which was designed with the help of an English botanist named Andrew Graefer. It was an idea of Queen Maria Carolina, the wife of Ferdinand IV, who personally funded the project.
This area covers 24 hectares, and it’s a perfect mix of nature and art. Vanvitelli added his personal touch, making it an original and incredibly beautiful place that still fascinates every visitor. Among its highlights, don’t miss the “Bath of Venus”: a small pond where the statue of Venus can be seen while taking a bath, just like a “real” person.
Another popular spot is the accurate reproduction of an archeological site displaying some original pieces from Pompeii to re-create the setting in detail. The Cryptoporticus was an attraction within the attraction: at that time, the Grand Tour was a must for every European nobleman, and visiting Italy to see its archeological treasures was an unmissable experience, so Vanvitelli wanted to re-create the feeling of surprise one could experience during an archeological exploration.
At the bottom of the garden, there is also an unusual building you would not expect to find in a royal park: a bee house really used to produce honey, but initially conceived as a reservoir and later turned into a greenhouse.
Where does all that water come from?
It still comes from the Caroline aqueduct, a purpose-built facility designed by Vanvitelli to provide the park’s basins and fountains with the necessary amount of water! It is 38 Km long, and it’s almost entirely underground. You can see a part of it on the surface in Valle dei Maddaloni, 12 Km away from Caserta. It looks like a Roman aqueduct, and it’s easy to see where Vanvitelli’s inspiration came from.
Inside the palace
The palace has a rectangular plan, and it covers 47thousand square meters. The average height is 40m, and it has more than 1200 rooms and four courtyards. It’s impossible to explore it all in just a few hours, so it’s best to select the areas you’re most interested in and stick to them as much as possible.
What you should not miss:
- Monumental Staircase
Flanked by a couple of majestic lions, the monumental marble staircase was conceived to impress the guests and it was taken as an inspiration by many other architects in the following years. In the past, it was common to “steal” marble and other materials from some ancient Roman ruins, and the monumental staircase is, unfortunately, no exception.
- Elliptical Vault
While climbing the staircase, you can look up and watch the beautiful fresco representing the four seasons and the god Apollo. It’s a painting by Gerolamo Starace, and its title is “The Palace of Apollo”. But nothing is as it seems: there’s a hole in the dome and a false ceiling where the court musicians used to play to surprise the guests with a special effect!
- Court Theater
The king asked for a private theater for his family and guests. Don’t miss its rich decorations that closely remind you of the famous San Carlo Theater in Naples.
- Apartments of the Royal Family
On the first floor (named “Royal Floor”), you can visit the apartments of courtiers and royal family members. The palace used to accommodate about 700 people in its heyday! Remember only to select a few rooms and save some time to visit the other areas of the palace and the park too!
The Royal Floor can be divided into four sections: the south-west wing (often referred to as “the XIX century apartment”) was for the king, the south-east wing (referred to as “the XVIII century apartment”) was for the prince, and the other two wings (“the Old and the New apartments”) were for the guests.
- The Queen’s Bathroom
Entirely decorated in stuccos and gold, it’s a true Baroque masterpiece. Even the bathtub is covered with golden copper, with mirrors, angels, and decorative patterns on every surface. Among all that extravaganza, you’ll notice that every angel on the wall has its eyes covered not to see the naked Queen!
- The Throne Hall
It’s 40m long and 15m high, and it’s rich in golden decorations from ceiling to floor. The throne features some winged lions (a symbol of the Bourbon family) and mermaids (a symbol of Naples).
- Palatine Chapel
The royal chapel was inspired by the one in Versailles, and it was inaugurated on Christmas Day, in 1784. It was heavily damaged during WWII, but it was later restored and it is still considered an artistic masterpiece mixing Baroque ad Neoclassicism.
- Palatine Library
It includes three rooms and more than 14.000 old and precious books.
How to get to the Royal Palace of Caserta
- By car: you can reach the Royal Palace of Caserta in about 40 minutes from Naples. There’s an underground parking space nearby, only costing 1 euro per hour. Free parking is scarce in Caserta.
- By train: it takes 50 minutes from Naples, and a one-way ticket is about 3.50 euro. The Royal Palace of Caserta is within walking distance from the railway station. That’s the best option to avoid traffic jams!
- By bus: you can take a bus to Piazza Garibaldi (Naples) and reach the Royal Palace of Caserta in about 50 minutes. A bus ticket is typically between 3 and 6 euros, according to the bus company you choose.
Best time to visit the Royal Palace of Caserta
Spring is the best time to visit the park, even if many visitors prefer summer. Just keep in mind that summer is hot in Southern Italy, so don’t forget to bring some water and a hat with you. Anyway, the Royal Palace is a great destination for a day trip from Naples every season.
Opening Hours of the Royal Palace of Caserta
Check the opening hours for the Royal Palace of Caserta at the official site here.
Tickets for the Royal Palace of Caserta
- Inside and outside: 14 euros
- Only inside: 10 euros
- Only outside: 10 euros
- Reduced admission for European Citizens aged 18-24: 2 euros
- Entry is free for kids under 18
- Audio guide: 5 euros
You can book your tickets online at Reggia di Caserta Tickets – TicketOne
Practical Tips for visiting the Royal Palace of Caserta
- Save at least half a day to visit the Royal Palace and the park. Anyway, you can easily spend an entire day there. Another option is visiting the palace and the garden in the morning and spending the afternoon exploring the medieval village of Casertavecchia!
- If you’re planning a summer trip, it will be best to book your visit online to skip the line at the entrance. Another option is taking a guided tour.
- Don’t forget to get a map! You can download one at Mappe – Reggia di Caserta (cultura.gov.it)
- Bike rental is available at 4 euros per hour. It’s a great option to enjoy the park and spend some time in nature.
- You can also book a private carriage ride in the park (5 euros for 30 minutes)
- Wear sneakers, and be prepared to walk a lot! Remember to bring your hat and sunglasses in summer!
- In summer, start from the park early in the morning (it opens at 8.30), and spend the hottest part of the day inside the palace.
- You can consider taking a paid shuttle to reach the English Garden from the palace. If you’re short on time, you can “skip” the long waterway and directly head to the core of the park. If you have to choose only one section of the park in order to stick to your schedule, choose the English Garden, which is the most scenic area!