The 18th-century Royal Palace at Caserta with the Park, the Aqueduct of Vanvitelli, and the San Leucio Complex were inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1997.

Located outside of Naples, the palace and grounds make for a pleasant day trip from Rome or from other locations in Campania, Lazio, and central-southern Italy.

Short History of the Royal Palace of Caserta

Inside the Royal Palace at Caserta. Source: © Melanie Renzulli

King Charles VII Bourbon of Naples (later known as King Carlos III of Spain) was envious of the Palace of Versailles and wanted to build something bigger and better. The king commissioned Luigi Vanvitelli to construct what would become the largest palace constructed in Europe during the 18th century.

King Charles laid the foundation stone for the Reggia di Caserta on 20 January 1752 as part of his 36th birthday celebration. The estate’s inland location, far from the sea and Mount Vesuvius, would also ensure the palace was at a safe distance from volcanic explosions and invaders from the sea.

According to architectural historian Robin L. Thomas, slave labor was used at the Reggia di Caserta and “most of the slaves employed there were Muslim corsairs who had been captured at sea, and they were caught up in long-standing political and religious conflicts between the Two Sicilies and the Maghreb states.”

Reggia di Caserta was inaugurated in 1774, one year after Vanvitelli’s death. But the entire complex — including palace, park, and gardens — was not completed until 1845.

Reggia di Caserta: By the Numbers

Gardens of Reggia di Caserta looking towards palace. Source: Miguel Hermoso Cuesta, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons
  • The Royal Palace of Caserta has an area of 47,000 square meters and a height of 42 meters.
  • The palace contains 1,200 rooms over five stories. It contains a large library and a theater.
  • There are 1,742 windows.
  • The Royal Park extends for 3 km and covers an area of 120 hectares.

Short History of Luigi Vanvitelli

Reggia di Caserta from above
Violin landscaping designed by Luigi Vanvitelli. Source: Reggia di Caserta

Luigi Vanvitelli, also known as Lodewijk von Wittel, was born in Naples in 1700. His father was Dutch landscape artist Caspar Van Wittel (aka Gaspare Vanvitelli), whose vedute paintings of Rome and Venice inspired Canaletto and helped popularize landscape and cityscape paintings of Italy.

Before Luigi Vanvitelli was commissioned to design the Royal Palace at Caserta, he worked with Nicola Salvi, the architect of the Trevi Fountain.

Vanvitelli also designed the pentagonal Lazzaretto of Ancona, a quarantine station known as the Mole Vanvitelliana. La Mole is now connected to mainland Ancona via three bridges and is used as an arts space.

Luigi Vanvitelli died in Caserta in 1773 before he could see his design to completion. His son Carlo helped continue the project.