Reggia di Caserta
In 1750 Charles of Bourbon decided to build the Reggia, or palace, intending it to be the ideal centre of the new Kingdom of Naples. The design of the impressive construction was entrusted to the architect Luigi Vanvitelli: building started in 1752, but in 1773, on the death of Vanvitelli, the works had still not been finished. In the following century other architects brought this majestic royal residence to completion. The building has a rectangular plan with large inner courtyards, extends over an area of approximately 47,000 m2 and rises five storeys high. The magnificent palace has three entrances - one for carriages and the other two for pedestrians - and boasts 1200 rooms, 34 staircases and 1742 windows. The staircase of honour, a creation of eighteenth- century scenographic art, leads inside. Across from the entrance hall are the royal apartments; these rooms for the use of the royal family were built over the course of more than one century, between the 1700s and the 1800s. Among the most typical rooms, mention might be made
of the Sala degli Alabardieri, with frescoes by Domenico Mondo and valuable stuccoes; the Sala delle Guardie del Corpo; the Sala di Alessandro, known as the ‘Sala di marmi’, next door to which visitors can view the permanent exhibition of contemporary art Terrae Motus. Moving on we come to the New Apartment, or Nineteenth- Century Apartment, with the Sala di Marte, the Sala del Trono (the largest), the Apartment of the King with the Sala del Consiglio, the drawing room of Francis II, which houses a console table with
a top made from semi-precious stones worked by Neapolitan craftsmen, the bedroom and the bathroom. The Murat Apartment contains the Empire-style furnishings from the Palazzo Reale di Portici, the favourite residence of Gioacchino Murat and Carolina Bonaparte. Finally, we come to the Old Apartment or Eighteenth-Century Apartment, with the two rooms used by Ferdinand IV of Bourbon, which is dominated by the colours white and gold on the furniture and furnishings, and has fabrics from the silk mills of San Leucio, and then to the Apartment of Maria Carolina. Next is the Biblioteca Palatina, which gives on to the elliptical room where the royal nativity crib is kept with its eighteenth and nineteenth-century shepherds.
Leading off the upper lobby, opposite the staircase of honour, is the Cappella Palatina, the space that more than any other shows a clear analogy with the model of Versailles.
On the west side of the Reggia is the Teatro di Corte, a temple of music and for the parties that were held at court. It is an example of eighteenth- century theatre architecture of rare beauty. The park that surrounds the Reggia is awe- inspiring, and its lawns, spectacular fountains with jets of water, cascades, bridges, and sculptures make the site one of the most important and popular tourist attractions in the region. Among the many places of recreation frequented by the Bourbons, mention should be made of the English Garden created for Queen Maria Carolina, characterisedbyplantsoriginatingfromvarious parts of the world: cedars of Lebanon, holm-oaks, plane trees, succulent plants and camellias, which were planted here for the first time. The Reggia also houses the Museo dell’Opera e del Territorio, where visitors can learn about the history of the Real Fabbrica di Caserta maiolica factory.
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