You know that, from time to time, I like and need to escape to survive to my rather stressful life style. I'm lucky enough to have quite grown-up children, an understanding husband and very special girlfriends who make that possible. This time we left from Rome by train and went  to Caserta for a couple of days, guests at one of our friends'.  She,  her lovely mother and her sister were our impeccable, generous host ladies and we had a great time! 

First of all, we visited Caserta 18th Century Royal Palace and its park,  roaming around the crowded fields and gardens for hours.

The sunny spring day was warm and slightly windy so perfect for trips and picnics. In Italy it was a national holiday (we celebrate the liberation from Fascism  every year on 25 April), so the place was full of joyful groups of friends and families.

Created by the Bourbon king Charles III in the mid-18th century to rival Versailles and the Royal Palace in Madrid, the complex is exceptional for the way in which it brings together a magnificent palace with its park and gardens, as well as natural woodland, hunting lodges and a silk factory. It is an eloquent expression of the Enlightenment in material form, integrated into, rather than imposed on, its natural setting.

The Palace as film location
Out of curiosity and of ... "my one weakness",  can you believe that the Palace was used as the location for Queen Amidala's Royal Palace on Naboo in the 1999 film Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace?   In that movie the TDH Brit actor (my one weakness, in fact) we often mention here at FLY HIGH! was a fighter pilot. Does that mean  he was there while shooting the movie? Nobody knows for sure but he may have been there. If he actually did,  I hope he liked it as much as I did.
This scene of The Phantom Menace was shot at Caserta Palace
The Palace was then used again in the 2002 film Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones as Queen Jamilla's palace. The same room was also used in Mission: Impossible III as Vatican City. In fact, the square where the Lamborghini is blown up is actually the square inside the Palace. The main staircase is also used in Angels & Demons as the Vatican's staircase. 
These are the international productions shot here you may have seen, but many other films, especially Italian ones have Caserta as their location. For instance, Ferdinando and Carolina (1999) or Il resto di niente (2004).

Historical Description

In 1734 Charles III (Carlo Borbone), son of Philip V, became King of Naples, a self-governing kingdom that was no longer part of the Spanish realm. He decided in 1750 to build a new royal palace, to rival, and perhaps outdo, the palace of Versailles, as the symbol of the new kingdom. It was designed to be the centre of a new town that would also compete with the leading European cities. He employed the famous architect Luigi Vanvitelli, at that time engaged in the restoration of the Basilica of St Peter's in Rome. The tist stone was laid in 1752 and continued throughout the reign of Ferdinand IV, Charles's successor, until Vanvitelli's death in 1773.

The Bosco di San Silvestro (Wood of St Sylvester), on the two neighbouring hills of Montemaiuolo and Montebriano, was covered with vineyards and orchards when in 1773 Ferdinand IV decided to enclose it, together with some adjacent land, and create a hunting park. The building there served as a hunting lodge on the upper floor, the lower being used for agricultural purposes.
The hill of San Leucio takes its name from the Lombard church at its top. A hunting lodge, known as the Belvedere, had been built at its foot in the 16th century by the Acquaviva family, Princes of Caserta. The fief had been purchased by Charles Ill, and in 1773 Ferdinand IV initiated work on the socalled Old Hunting Lodge, to be abandoned after the death of his son. Between 1776 and 1778 the Belvedere was restored, the main hall being converted to a church.

In 1778 the King decided to begin the production of silk. His architect, Collecini, converted the building for this purpose, as the centre of a large industrial complex, including a school, accommodation for teachers, silkworm rooms, and facilities for spinning and dyeing the silk. He issued a series of laws in 1789 to regulate the San Leucio Royal Colony: this laid down piecework rates of pay, abolished dowries, and prescribed similar clothing for all the workers, in what has been described as a form of protosocialism. During the decade that followed, plans were made for enlargement of the village, and Collecini produced designs for a town, to be known as "Ferdinandopolis," but this dream was not realized because of the French occupation.
The fishponds in the gardens of the Royal Palace, the Royal silk factory, and the planned new town all required large amounts of water, and so the Carolino Aqueduct was built (completed in 1769) to bring water from the Fizo spring over a distance of 38km to the top of Montebriano. The final stretch runs through the Tifatini hills, where the medieval village of Casertavecchia, with its Romanesque cathedral, forms part of the panorama visible from the Royal estate.

Up the hills: Casertavecchia
And could we resist the charm of that little medieval village up there on the Tifatini hills? We couldn't and we didn't, of course.  So, though a bit tired for wandering for kilometres around the park and the huge halls of the Palace, we decided to travel even farther back in time, to Casertavecchia and to the Middle Ages!
Pictures from Casertavecchia


How did we end the long but pleasant walking trip? In a typical pizzeria where I ate one of the most delicious pizzas in my life, accompanied by our nostalgic chats about drama and period drama we used to watch on TV when we were younger (sigh!) and finally discussing our proposals on what to watch from our "portable archives" before sleeping. Gorgeous, flawed action hero on a mission in Africa? Yes!!!

The next day, in the morning, we visited a wonderful site,  S. Angelo in Formis , the amazing Benedectine Abbey at 4 km from  Capua. The place was incredibly solitary, silent and ... impressive. Among the  ancient frescoes of the Abbey and the incredible  remains of Frederick II's great empire in town , our morning flew away in a while. Some shopping,  a delicious lunch - our diets had to be interrupted for ... irresistible temptation - and it was time to get on the train back to Rome,  proudly carrying the new addition to our luggage,  a tasty souvenir: mozzarella di bufala campana. Yummy!

Pictures from S. Angelo in Formis

Many thanks to my friend K/V for granting me the permission of using the pictures she took
My gratitude to E. and her family  for the generous hospitality  &  for the great time we had together.
Till next meeting, trip or journey!


Anonymous said...

I could be wrong, but I like to think that RA is actually pictured in the Scalone monumentale pic you've posted: what about the first pilot on the upper left?
A girl can dream, can't she?
xx K/V

Summer said...

What a wonderful trip, Maria, all places you visited are gorgeous! Thanks so much for sharing your experiences and pictures with us.
Glad you could meet your friends and have so much fun and could share with them some "Porter effect" that for sure was the icing of the cake *wink* :)

luciennemachado12 said...

Que bela viagem e que lugares lindos!! Adorei seu post Maria Grazia!Obrigada por compartilhar com a gente! :)

Vava, A country dreaming mum said...

I might have a guess at who your kind hosts and companions were :-)I had no idea that Star Wars had been partially shot at Caserta, I must tell my youngest son, a great fan of the saga. I'm sure you had a great time togheter, thanks for sharing.
PS Yes a girl CAN and MUST dream, K/V ;-)

Maria Grazia said...

I had the impression of something familiar and I thought I had spotted the right fighter pilot among those on the steps of the Palace but ... didn't dare writing it. I'm not very good at recognizing people (as you well know) . But if you say so... He might be RA :-) and I'm proud I could go down those steps too!
It was a beautiful trip and I'm so glad to my friends for everything we saw and shared, the Porter night included ;-)
Thanks for reading and commenting!
I can't speak portuguese but I can understand of course! Thanks for your comment. Obrigada :-)
I know you know my friends and that you share many of our interests. We, the two of us, just have to find the right occasion to meet each other :-) We meet "virtually" from time to time and that's already a great pleasure.
Have a pleasant evening, Vava. Thank you!

aurora said...

Thank you for this lovely and intersting description of your trip. I am sure it was lovely.

Maria Grazia said...

Yes, it was!
Thanks for passing by and leaving your comment :-)

lunarossa said...

Fantastic post! I love Caserta and the wonderful Reggia. I have some dear friends in Battipaglia and I have often visited the area in the past. Didn't know it was the setting for all those films though. Glad you all had a great time and the weather looks magnificent. Not like here under the constant pouring rain! Ciao. A.xx

Maria Grazia said...

Ciao, A.!
No pouring rain here these days, luckily. Though it rained a lot in April. It didn't seem spring at all in the first half. However, it was a wonderful trip and it was my first time at the Reggia. Loved it!
Hugs and thanks for your visit and comment!