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Royal Palace of Caserta: The world's largest palace by volume

Naples' Royal Palace of Caserta, a UNESCO World Heritage site, is a grandiose 18th-century palace known for its Baroque architecture and expansive gardens. Designed to rival Versailles, its opulence and historical significance draws visitors from...

Founded On

1752

Founded By

Luigi Vanvitelli

Quick information

RECOMMENDED DURATION

4 hours

NUMBER OF ENTRANCES

2

EXPECTED WAIT TIME - STANDARD

30-60 mins (Peak), 0-30 mins (Off Peak)

EXPECTED WAIT TIME - SKIP THE LINE

0-30 mins (Peak), 0-30 mins (Off Peak)

UNESCO YEAR

1997

Plan your visit

Did you know?

With 5 floors, 1200 rooms, a museum, library and theatre, it is the largest royal residence in the world by volume. The gardens alone extend beyond 11 acres.

The Royal Palace of Caserta was the chosen spot where the Germans signed their unconditional surrender at the end of World War 2. This guaranteed the permanent removal of German and Italian fascist troops.

In 1943, precious canvases within the Palatine Chapel were destroyed by the bombing during WW2. Some standing columns still bear evidence to this fateful episode.




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Why visit Royal Palace of Caserta?

  • See the world's largest royal residence: With 1,200 rooms, the Caserta Palace is a grand testament to the Bourbon Dynasty. Wander through expansive halls and private apartments, each echoing stories of the past.
  • Explore an 18th-century Versailles-inspired palace: Designed by Luigi Vanvitelli, the architect behind the iconic Trevi Fountain, the Caserta Palace takes inspiration from the Palace of Versailles. Prepare to be wowed by the palace's grandeur, from its imposing facade to its meticulously-designed interiors.
  • Saunter through the landscape masterpiece: Don't just tour a palace – wander Caserta's sprawling English Gardens. Picture meticulously landscaped grounds, cascading fountains, sculptures, and a reflecting pool stretching to the horizon, rivaling Russia's Peterhof Palace.
  • Admire the artistic treasures: The palace is a treasure trove of art and history. Explore the Palatine Library's vast collection of books and manuscripts, and marvel at the frescoes, sculptures, and opulent furnishings throughout the palace's many rooms.
  • Escape the crowds: Enjoy a more relaxed, uncrowded experience compared to other European palaces, letting you appreciate the grandeur at your own pace.

Technical information of the Royal Palace of Caserta

  • Dimensions: 247 m x 184 m x 36 m (42 m including the roof)
  • Floor area: 61,000 sq. meters, 657,000 sq. ft. 
  • Number of rooms: 1200
  • Number of windows: 1742
  • Number of chimneys: 1026
  • Number of stairs: 56 stairs
  • Garden length: 3.3 km
  • Garden area: 120 hectares or 1,200,000 sq. meters
  • Royal Palace of Caserta complex length (palace square + palace + gardens): 4 km
  • Length including the Carolina Aqueduct: approx. 40 km

Design of the Royal Palace of Caserta

About Royal Palace of Caserta

Structure

The Royal Palace of Caserta is the largest palace in the world when measured by volume. It was designed by Naples’ most famous architect at the time, Luigi Vanvitelli. The multi-directional spatial illusion can be seen inside the palace and the vast gardens and fountains have been aligned in a telescopic fashion. 

About Royal Palace of Caserta

Architecture

The architecture of the palace has been referred to as the Swan Song of the Baroque style and it is visible in every detail of the palace. As the Palace of Caserta was constructed during various periods, you will also find certain Neapolitan influences in the architectural design.

Royal Palace of Caserta history explained

Conception & construction

1750s-1770s

In 1752, Charles VII of Naples commissioned Luigi Vanvitelli to design the palace. Inspired by Versailles, it was intended to be a grand royal residence and administrative center. Charles never lived there, as he became King of Spain in 1759, and construction continued under his successor, Ferdinand IV.

Design and purpose

18th Century

Vanvitelli envisioned a palace that housed the king, court, and government, functioning as a virtual city. Vanvitelli planned it as a complete city, with a university, museum, and administrative offices. The palace symbolized Bourbon power, differing from Versailles by being a cohesive project by a single architect.

Development and changes

1750s

To support the palace construction, an entire town (Caserta Vecchia) was relocated to provide workers. A silk factory was even disguised as a pavilion within the vast parklands. Security was paramount, with troop barracks built within the palace walls. Despite being unfinished, Vanvitelli's son, Carlo, continued construction, leaving behind a magnificent testament to Baroque architecture.

Role in world wars

1923-1947

From 1923-1943, the palace housed the Italian Air Force Academy. During WWII, it served as Allied Force Headquarters, where the surrender of German and Italian forces was signed in 1945. The palace also hosted the first Allied war crimes trial.

Modern recognition and media

20th Century - Present

In the late 20th century, the palace was restored and gained fame as a filming location for movies like "Star Wars" and "Mission: Impossible III." Today, it stands as a UNESCO World Heritage site, celebrated for its architectural grandeur and historical significance.

Who owns Royal Palace of Caserta?

The palace was commissioned and built under the direction of King Charles III of Spain, who was the King of Naples and Sicily at the time. After Charles III left for Spain in 1759, the construction and completion of the palace continued under his successors, the Bourbon kings of the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies.

It remained a royal palace until the unification of Italy in 1861. After the fall of the Bourbon monarchy, the palace became state property and is now owned and managed by the Italian government as a major cultural heritage site and museum.

Frequently asked questions about the Royal Palace of Caserta

What inspired the design of the Royal Palace of Caserta?

The Royal Palace of Caserta drew inspiration from the Palace of Versailles in France. Both aimed to house not just the royal family but also government officials, cultural elites, and even a university and museum. However, Caserta wasn't a mere copy. Architect Luigi Vanvitelli added his own touches, creating a masterpiece of Italian Baroque architecture.

Who was the architect behind the Royal Palace of Caserta?

The architect behind the Royal Palace of Caserta was the talented Luigi Vanvitelli. His design impressed King Charles VII so much that it reportedly moved him to tears. Vanvitelli oversaw construction until his death in 1773. His son Carlo continued the work, but the original grand design with sprawling wings remains unfinished.

Why did King Charles VII never reside in the palace?

Though construction began in 1752 under King Charles VII of Naples (later Charles III of Spain), he never actually lived in the completed palace. In 1759, he abdicated the throne of Naples to become King of Spain, leaving the project unfinished for his son Ferdinand IV.

How does the layout of the palace compare to Versailles?

Similar to Versailles, Caserta boasts a central palace building with sprawling gardens. However, Caserta has a more rectangular central block and a slightly different approach to the gardens. Caserta's English Garden, for example, reflects a more naturalistic style compared to the formal gardens of Versailles.

What are some unique architectural features of the palace?

Caserta is brimming with architectural marvels. Here are a few:
- Grand Staircase: A masterpiece by Vanvitelli, it features a central flight splitting into two lateral ones and a grand tripartite wall at the top. The design has inspired countless other staircases.
- Hidden Orchestra: Beneath the majestic dome of the Grand Staircase there's a concealed space for the orchestra, creating an "invisible choir" effect.
- Royal Apartments: Each room offers clues about the lives of the Bourbon kings and queens, showcasing opulent decorations and unique features.
- Palatine Library: This vast library houses a collection of books and manuscripts, a treasure trove for bibliophiles.

How did World War II affect the Royal Palace of Caserta?

World War II was a difficult time for Caserta. It was damaged by U.S. bombers and virtually emptied of furnishings by looters. However, the Italian government undertook extensive restoration efforts to return the palace to its former glory. Interestingly, the Allied Forces also used the palace as their headquarters in the Mediterranean during the war.

What are the most notable artworks and frescoes within the palace?

The Royal Palace of Caserta is a treasure trove of art. While a comprehensive list would be lengthy, some highlights include:
- Frescoes by Gaetano Filangeri and others: These adorn the palace walls and ceilings, depicting mythological and allegorical scenes.
- Collection of Neapolitan paintings: This collection showcases the artistic talent of the region.
- Sculptures: Statues and busts grace the halls and gardens, adding to the palace's artistic richness.pen_spark

How is the palace used in modern times?

The Royal Palace of Caserta is no longer a royal residence. Today, it serves as a museum, tourist attraction, and a cultural venue.

Are there any guided tours available for visitors?

Yes, guided tours are highly recommended for visitors to the Royal Palace of Caserta. These tours offer a more in-depth experience, providing historical context and insights you might miss on your own. Tours are available in multiple languages and can be booked in advance or upon arrival (subject to availability).

How can visitors best explore the expansive gardens and fountains?

- Start your visit early to avoid crowds and enjoy the serene beauty of the gardens.
- Join a guided tour to learn about the history and design of the gardens and fountains.
- The gardens are vast, so consider renting a bike or using the shuttle service to explore more efficiently.
- Pack a picnic to enjoy by one of the many scenic spots within the gardens.
- Make sure to visit key highlights such as the Fountain of Diana and Actaeon, the English Garden, and the grand cascades.

What was the significance of the silk factory at San Leucio?

The silk factory at San Leucio, located near the Royal Palace of Caserta, was an innovative project initiated by King Ferdinand IV of Naples. It was part of a larger social and industrial experiment aimed at creating a self-sufficient community focused on silk production. The factory not only produced high-quality silk but also provided education and welfare benefits to its workers, reflecting progressive social ideas. The factory’s establishment helped elevate the region's economic status and demonstrated the kingdom's industrial capabilities.

How has the palace been preserved and restored over the years?

The Royal Palace of Caserta has undergone extensive preservation and restoration efforts to maintain its grandeur. After suffering damage and looting during World War II, the Italian government undertook significant restoration work to repair and replace lost or damaged decorations, furnishings, and artworks. Continuous efforts include maintaining the palace's structural integrity, restoring frescoes, and preserving its vast gardens and fountains. Modern technology and historical research guide these efforts, ensuring the palace remains a pristine example of Baroque architecture and a UNESCO World Heritage site.