There is no doubt that the Royal Palace of Caserta is impressive. In a country with so much world-famous architecture, the nickname “Italy’s Versailles” has to be earned.
Covering an area of 47,000 meters and comprising five floors, the palace has its own chapel, library and theatre. Still, it’s something outside that will keep you coming back.
The Royal Park features expansive lawns, wooded areas, reflecting pools, fountains and gardens, making it a great place to take the kids to explore or find a quiet spot away from the chaos of Naples.
To get there, take a 45-minute train ride from Naples Central Station to Caserta. It will not be difficult to find the palace; it is in front of the train station. A five minute stroll through an expansive garden puts you at the main entrance.
From there, you have a choice to make. Cross the portico of the palace and exit through the rear entrance if you want to see the park first. Halfway through the portico, on the right, an impressive staircase leads to the palace apartments.
Depending on the time of year, the park can close as early as 3:30 p.m. and the guards are very firm on the closing time. Apartments close at 7:30 p.m., last entry at 6:30 p.m.
Once you pass through the back entrance of the palace, stop to take in the telescopic view leading from the parterre through a series of reflecting pools, also known as the waterway, to the grand waterfall.
It’s like you can take in the entire 11-acre park at once.
Designed by architect Luigi Vanvitelli, whose son Carlo completed it after his father’s death, the park combines the Italian tradition of a Renaissance garden with influences from the Palace of Versailles in France, according to the website of the palace.
Like the gardens of Versailles, the park has a large “boulevard” that stretches from the castle to the main waterfall. Along the way, a multitude of paths can be explored.
Go there and allow yourself a diversion, but don’t forget to back out onto the boulevard or you’ll miss the waterway and its series of waterfalls and ornate sculptures of Roman goddesses. Some of my favorites were the Fountain of Ceres and the Fountain of the Dolphins.
Continue on the boulevard to see the great waterfall and the fountain of Diana and Actaeon. From there you can take a selfie with the park and the palace in the background.
Head back down the boulevard to visit the palace, also designed by Vanvitelli, and started in 1752 for Charles de Bourbon (Charles III of Spain). Take the Grand Escalier and cross the rotunda to the Palatine Chapel, once again inspired by Versailles and with Renaissance, Mannerist and Baroque influences.
Outside the chapel, a door to the right leads to the apartments, halls, ballroom and throne room, each richly decorated and featuring captivating frescoes.
Spend a minute gazing at the fresco in the vault of the Hall of Alexander depicting the wedding of Alexander the Macedonian and Roxana by Sicilian painter Mariano Rossi, according to the palace.
You’ll also want to spend some time in the Palatine Library, which spans three rooms and is furnished in oak and mahogany. The self-guided tour also includes the Bourbon nativity scene and an art gallery.
The Palace of Caserta is one of the largest in Europe. And a tour of the palace and its extraordinary grounds comes with the added bonus of traversing a UNESCO World Heritage Site off your must-see list.
Royal Palace and Park of Caserta
How to get there: Take the train (about 7 euros return) from Naples Central Station (Piazza Garibaldi) to Caserta. The palace is in Piazza Carlo di Borbone. Fares and timetables available online at trenitalia.com/it.html.
Cost: A full ticket costs 14 euros and includes entry to the Apartments, the Royal Park, the English Garden and, when open, the Royal Court Theatre. Tickets for the Royal Park and the English Garden only are priced at 9 euros. Tickets can be purchased online for 15 euros.
Hours: 8:30 a.m. opening time for the entire palace complex, which is open every day of the week except Tuesday. Also closed on Christmas and New Year’s Day. The palace apartments close at 7:30 p.m., but park and garden times vary. The Royal Court Theater is open Saturdays and Sundays from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Check the palace website for more details.