Caserta Tourist Attractions
SituationThe provincial capital of Caserta, the "Versailles" of the Bourbon rulers of Naples, lies at the foot of the Monti Tifatini in the northern part of the Campanian plain - some 30km/19mi north of Naples.
Opposite the station in Caserta is the former Royal Palace (247m/925ft long, 41m/135ft wide; 1,200 rooms and 1,790 windows), a magnificent residence in the manner of Versailles built by Luigi Vanvitelli for King Charles III of Naples and Sicily from 1752 onwards. The interior, with its well-preserved decoration and furnishings, forms a museum of the Bourbon dynasty which ruled the kingdom of the Two Sicilies (1734-1860). Particularly fine are the Grand Staircase (116 steps), the Cappella Reale, the Royal Apartments and the Theater. In the Second World War the Palace served as the headquarters of the Allied Middle East Command; on April 29th 1945 the German armies in Italy signed the surrender document here.
Address: Viale Douhet, I-81100 Caserta, Italy
Opening hours: 8:30am-7pm; Closed: Mon
Always closed on: New Year's Day (Jan 1), Christmas - Christian (Dec 25)
Entrance fee: FREE
Disability Access: Full facilities for persons with disabilities.
Behind the Palazzo Reale is the park, with magnificent fountains adorned with statues, and the magnificent "Grand Cascade". From the terrace beyond the beautiful English Garden (45 minutes' walk north of the palace) there are very fine views.
The surroundings of Caserta include the towns of Santa Maria di Capua Vetere and Capua.
About 10km/6mi northeast of Caserta is the dilapidated village of Caserta Vecchia (401m/1,323ft), originally founded by the Lombards, which has retained its medieval character. It boasts a castle of the counts of Caserta and a cathedral (12th-13th century), built in Normano-Sicilian style, with a fine campanile (1234).
Santa Maria Capua Vetere
From Caserta there is an interesting trip (7km/4mi west) to the developing town of Santa Maria di Capua Vetere (36m/119ft; pop. 32,000), on the site of the ancient capital of Campania, Capua, which was originally founded by the Etruscans. As the center of this fertile region Capua became a wealthy and powerful city renowned for its luxury, but after its destruction by the Saracens in the ninth century the town was moved to its present-day site.In the northwest of the town is the Amphitheater, built in the reign of Augustus (A.D. first century) and restored by Hadrian, which was the largest in Italy until the building of the Colosseum in Rome (170m/561ft long, 140m/462ft across). Under the arena (76m/251ft long, 46m/152ft across) are well-preserved substructures (passages, cages for wild beasts). Near the amphitheater are the remains of a fine triumphal arch (three arches), dedicated to the Emperor Hadrian (A.D. second century).
About 500m/550yd south of the ampitheater, in an underground passage, is a mithraeum (second century A.D.), a shrine of the Persian god of light, Mithras, richly decorated with paintings.
About 500m/550yd southeast of the Mitraeum is the cathedral of Santa Maria Maggiore, with columns from the amphitheater.
5km/3mi northwest of the ancient city of Capua Vetere, in a bend of the River Volturno, is the modern town of Capua (25m/83ft; pop. 19,000), the see of an archbishop, built on the site of the ancient Capua after its destruction in the ninth century and held for many years by Norman rulers. In the center of the town, near the Volturno, is the cathedral, rebuilt after its destruction during the Second World War, the only parts that survived unscathed being the campanile and the 11th century forecourt, with its ancient columns (third century). Nearby is the Campanian Provincial Museum, the most important archeological museum in Campania after the National Museum in Naples.
Sant'Angelo in Formis
5km/3mi east of Capua, on the western slopes of Monte Tifata (604m/1,993ft), lies the village of Sant'Angelo in Formis, with a Romanesque basilica built in 1058 on the site of a temple of Diana Tifatina. The beautiful portico has Oriental pointed arches. The church contains ancient marble columns and fine frescoes of the school of Montecassino (11th century).