Discover the Largest Palace in the World | Royal Palace of Caserta
The Royal Palace of Caserta, or Reggia di Caserta, is a creation of the famous architect Luigi Vanvitelli and was built to rival the Palace of Versailles and the Royal Palace in Madrid. Featuring sprawling gardens, fountains, a hunting lodge, natural woodland, and a silk factory, the Royal Palace of Caserta is most definitely worth a visit.
What is the Royal Palace of Caserta?
Why is the Royal Palace of Caserta so Famous?
The Royal Palace of Caserta was once the abode for various Kings of Naples. It is the largest palace in the world and is the finest representation of Baroque art. You can marvel at the various artworks and riches on display at the painted halls of the Royal Apartments. The Grand Staircase of Honour is also a gorgeous element of this palace that didn't only set a benchmark for many other staircases to come but also housed an “invisible choir”. You can also see the Baroque art illustrated as you walk through this grand palace. The palace’s fountains, gardens, and cascades are aligned in a telescopic manner, creating an illusion that the gardens spread till the horizon.
Who Built the Royal Palace of Caserta?
Brief History of Royal Palace of Caserta
- The Royal Palace of Caserta was commissioned by King Charles III of Bourbon in 1752.
- It was designed by Luigi Vanvitelli, but major sections were completed by his son, Carlo Vanvitelli.
- A large portion of the palace’s construction was halted during Napoleon’s rule and only under Joachim Murat’s dominion were some works carried out.
- As the Bourbons returned after Murat’s reign, they removed anything and everything that praised Bonaparte and Murat, albeit keeping the furniture in the Alexander hall intact.
- As King Ferdinand died, the Bourbon kingdom weakened and was attacked numerous times. Consequently, the kingdom fell and when Guisseppe Garibaldi rose to power, he took the Palace of Caserta as his throne.
- The Palace became a shelter for the Nazis during World War II and was plundered for various artworks.
- The city of Caserta and the palace of Caserta were damaged by bombing and later it became the headquarters for allied nations.
- In 1997, UNESCO declared the Palace of Caserta as a World Heritage site.
Things to See at the Royal Palace of Caserta
The Grand Staircase
A structure of marvel and wonder, this is another one of Vanvitelli’s miracles where he manages to hide the majesty of the structure. Various statues flank the staircase and the dome’s large size manages to mask the space for the orchestra, giving the effect of an ‘invisible choir’. The Grand Staircase in the Royal Palace of Caserta has also been an inspiration for many other beautiful staircases designed afterward.
The Royal Floor in the Palace of Caserta was divided into 4 quarters by Luigi Vanvitelli. The south-west of the floor was the quarter for the King and is called XIX Century apartments today. The south-east part of the floor was for the Crown Prince, known as XVIII Century apartments today, and was the only section inhabited by the Royal Family for more than 50 years. The other two quarters are called Old and New Apartments.
Another Luigi Vanvitelli creation, the Palatine Chapel was also inspired by the chapel in the Palace of Versailles. However, Luigi gave the Chapel its own allure by following a Renaissance, Mannerist and Baroque design. The Palatine Chapel is situated near the entrance of the Royal Apartments and was inaugurated in the Christmas of 1784.
The Palatine Library occupies 3 rooms of the Old Apartments in the Royal Palace of Caserta and is furnished beautifully in walnut and mahogany. There are about 14,000 books and booklets collected in this library over time by the Royal Family, including some important and prestigious scripts. You can also find books on the significant works of the European and Neapolitan cultures of the modern era.
Terrae Motus Collection
A Neapolitan art gallerist, Lucio Amelio, requested many contemporary artists to share their creations with the Royal Palace of Caserta after a devastating earthquake hit Italy on 23rd November, 1980. This collection, called the Terrae Motus (earthquake in Latin) Collection, has pieces of art from many contemporary artists at the time, including Michelangelo Pistoletto, Robert Mapplethorpe, Joseph Beuys, and many more.
The Royal Palace of Caserta boasts a flamboyant collection of paintings from the 16th to 19th centuries. There are 9 rooms in total, each room filled with paintings sorted by specific subjects. Some of these collections include still life paintings, portraits of the Royal Family, stills from history, landscape paintings, and many more.
Royal Court Theatre
Modeled after the Teatro di San Carlo in Naples, the Royal Court at the Reggia di Caserta was among the first theatres to take on the shape of a horseshoe. The theatre, despite being modeled after the San Carlo, was said to be better and offered better acoustics. The sovereign used this theatre for private executions of the Neapolitan Theatre shows.
Apart from paintings, the Royal Palace of Caserta also has posh collections of other artwork, including furniture, porcelain, furnishings, drawings, frescoes, and much more. For more than 200 years, this artwork was subject to damages, looting and theft, and yet, each piece in these collections is absolutely extraordinary
The Parterre and the Old Woods
A nod to the French Gardens by Vanvitelli, the Par Terre is a clearing that is visible as you leave the palace. Luigi took inspiration from French Gardens and designed the garden to represent weaves similar to colourful flower carpets. Adjacent to the Par Terre is the Old Woods of Bosco Vecchio, which has existed since before the park itself.
The fountains in the Royal Palace of Caserta pass through the park and have been carefully curated after centuries of landscaping. Its waters come directly from the Carolina Aqueduct. Vanvitelli’s optical illusions are on full display as he manages to hide the true length of the avenue along the waterfall. While the canal is almost 3 kms long, it appears much shorter because of a combination of little waterfalls and big basins.
Saint Leucio Belvedere
The Saint Leucio hill, located to the north-east of the Royal Palace of Caserta, has a beautiful mansion situated here for the views and is called the Belvedere of Saint Leucio. Today, the mansion holds one of the most prestigious silk factories in the world. You can also view the restored antique looms and learn about the production of silk here.
San Silvestro’s WWF Oasis
King Charles bought a 100 hectare land close to the Royal Palace of Caserta and expanded it for hunting, cultivating olive trees and vineyards, breeding cattle and producing cheese. Within, there is an 8 hectare rectangular vineyard called San Silvestro’s Oasis. Today, it is funded by the World Wide Fund for Nature and preserves not just the fruit that was once served to the King, but also offers a trail to understand the small creatures of nature.
The Carolina Aqueduct
A 38 km long engineering masterpiece by Luigi Vanvitelli, the Carolino Aqueduct was one of the most important works carried out by the Bourbon Empire. Its purpose was to feed water to the palace, gardens and fountains along with supplying water to the upcoming city of Caserta around the palace. This showed that the Bourbon dynasty, unlike the other European dynasties at the time, wanted to build something useful for their people as well.
Design of the Royal Palace of Caserta
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.
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.
Layout of the Royal Palace of Caserta
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
Other Highlights of Royal Palace of Caserta
Fountains in the Caserta Palace Gardens
Luigi Vanvitelli designed the Carolina Aqueduct to fill up small basins at intervals along the long straight canal that runs through the gardens of the Palace of Caserta. Many fountains in the Palace Gardens are watered by this canal, some of which include
- The Fountain of Diana and Actaeon
- The Fountain of Venus and Adonis
- The Fountain of the Dolphins
- The Fountain of Aeolus
- The Fountain of Ceres
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Royal Palace of Caserta on Screen
Being the biggest palace in the world, the Royal Palace of Caserta has been shown on screen multiple times for its magnificence.
Movies: Caserta Palace Dream (short movie), Angels and Demons, Mission Impossible III, Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace, Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones and many more.
Documentaries: Rai Ulisse - La Reggia, Rai Ulisse - The Kingdom of the Two Sicilies, Sky Arts Italy - The Palace of Caserta and many more.
Music Videos: Cecilia Bartoli: Sacrificium. L’art Des, Noemi - I Miei Rimedi