The Royal Palace and adjoining park are among the world’s largest and most famous monumental complexes. In 1997, along with San Leucio and the Carolino Aqueduct, it was awarded UNESCO “World Heritage List” status.
Work began on this monumental complex in 1752 at the behest of Charles of Bourbon, who was keen to create “a second capital” in Caserta, connecting the city to the local area and Naples via parks and gardens, kilometres of straight roads and navigable canals. Despite its extensive size, he wanted the Park to be an exquisitely ornamental palace garden, inevitably in competition with the magnificence of Versailles. Luigi Vanvitelli created what is rightly considered to be the last great utopia built by a European royal dynasty. The pre-existing landscape and its morphology inspired the design’s underlying nature: an agrarian plain on which the Park and the long Via d’Acqua with six fountains and a rich statuary develop, along with a hill on which a fountain-waterfall was built. The Peschiera Grande and the Castelluccia building line the left-hand side of its large central avenue; in dialectic relation to the Park, the English Garden is located to the right, towards the top. Commissioned by Queen Maria Carolina as advised by Sir William Hamilton, the English garden was built between 1786 and 1798 by gardener and botanist John Andrew Graefer; Carlo Vanvitelli designed the buildings. Consistent with the idea of an informal garden, it was conceived as a fragment of natural landscape embellished with refined architecture and waterworks, resulting in ponds with statuary (for example, Tommaso Solari’s Venus), artificial ruins of small temples, the mysterious Cryptoporticus, greenhouses, and large buildings such as the Aperia. Among reliefs and mini-valleys, an esoteric path commissioned by the Queen starts from the Cryptoporticus’s dark corridor and runs past Mitteleuropean- and Neapolitan-style masonic lodges.
In 1769, the old Pernesta Tower, built originally by the Acquaviva princes, was renovated and adapted to be used for young King Ferdinand’s military training and play. Octagonal in shape, it is surrounded by a moat, several pavilions and a garden filled with exotic plants. Its current neoclassical appearance dates back to work carried out in 1818.
The Via d'Acqua
The Via d’Acqua waterway runs for more than 3 km, following a route interspersed with meadows, pools and fountains. Scenographically, the composition concludes with a waterfall that runs down Mount Briano; the Aeolus, Dolphins, Ceres, Venus and Adonis, and Diana and Actaeon Fountains convey an evident symbolic meaning in their explicit reference to Ovid’s Metamorphoses.
Parterre and Old Wood
So named because it existed before the Reggia was built, the Old Wood stands to the left of the large central parterre, which ends in an exedra. By the end of the 16th century, it had already become a garden for the Acquaviva d’Aragona palace. The property then passed on to the Caetani di Sermoneta, before it was taken over by Charles of Bourbon. Luigi Vanvitelli kept faith with the former avenue layout, adding holm oak vegetation.
Commissioned by Charles of Bourbon, the aqueduct was built in 1753 by Luigi Vanvitelli to supply the Royal Palace, the city and the Carditello estate, as well as to improve water supply to Naples. The conduit begins at the Airola springs and runs for 38 km underground; the only external section is at Ponti della Valle in Maddaloni, which has three levels of 67 arches and pillars.
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GREAT WOMEN, GREAT GARDENS
A wide-eyed, intelligent and ambitious woman, educated at the Viennese court, in 1768 she married Ferdinand IV by proxy, directing the political direction of the court.