Do you know that Italy has a royal palace that rivals Versailles in measurement and splendor? Situated about 40 minutes north of Naples, the Reggia di Caserta was constructed within the 18th century by King Charles III (generally known as Charles of Bourbon), who regarded to the well-known French palace for inspiration. Designed by Luigi Vanvitelli, the Reggia di Caserta has 1,200 rooms, a 123-hectare royal park, and English gardens with greater than 200 species of vegetation and 24 sculptures. So why does no person appear to learn about it?
The palace welcomed 770,000 folks in 2022, which can seem to be so much, however not when you think about that round 10 to fifteen million folks go to Versailles yearly. As a Rome-based journey author, I used to be curious to see this under-the-radar palace. And when my husband requested me to attempt to get a reservation at Pizzeria I Masanielli di Francesco Martucci in Caserta, which was topped the very best pizzeria on the earth by High 50 Pizza in 2022, I figured we may mix the 2. I booked our desk two months upfront and deliberate our journey across the reservation. We’d go to the palace, eat award-winning pizza for dinner, and spend the night time in a cute little bed-and-breakfast known as A Corte earlier than returning to Rome the subsequent day.
It takes a few hours to drive to Caserta from Rome, so we left within the morning and arrived by lunchtime. Not eager to wreck our urge for food earlier than dinner, we determined to forgo a sit-down lunch and simply grabbed sandwiches on the café contained in the Reggia earlier than our go to.
Strolling by the royal residences, it wasn’t laborious to see why the palace is likened to Versailles. The throne room is greater than 130 ft lengthy, with ornate gilded moldings. The throne itself is product of carved and gilded wooden with mild blue velvet upholstery.
We filed by a sequence of rooms, each completely different from the one earlier than it. Some had painted ceilings, whereas others had chandeliers product of crystal or Murano glass. We noticed the just lately reopened Nineteenth-century wing with ornate four-poster beds and lavish antiques within the bedrooms of rulers Joachim Murat (Napoleon Bonaparte’s brother-in-law) and Francis II of the Two Sicilies. I used to be particularly intrigued by the unique purple granite bathtub and Carrara marble dressing desk, in addition to the library with a telescope and vintage globe. Items of Twentieth-century trendy artwork have been displayed in most of the rooms, which appeared a bit misplaced, however didn’t detract from the palace’s splendor.
Further restorations are underway within the room devoted to Mars and on the grounds of the palace, which stretch for almost two miles. Strolling by the Royal Park towards the English Backyard, we admired the neoclassical statues of Apollo and the 9 muses and elaborate fountains poised alongside a by way of d’acqua. A number of the fountains depict sea monsters, whereas others depict historic gods and goddesses like Ceres, Venus, and Diana. We walked alongside the gently sloping by way of d’acqua, lastly reaching a waterfall, which distributes the water carried to the fountains on the palace grounds. We gazed again on the palace, admiring the view, earlier than returning. Maybe essentially the most unbelievable factor about our go to was that we felt like we had the palace and the gardens all to ourselves.
That night, after a stroll by the Medieval a part of the town perched excessive above the palace, we have been blown away by the flavors and textures of the pizza at I Masanielli. Francesco Martucci is understood for utilizing haute delicacies strategies — flash freezing, sous vide cooking, dehydrating, and fermenting — to make chic pizza. And he’s not the one lauded pizzaiolo within the space. Although Napoli is famously the birthplace of pizza, the pizzaioli of Caserta appear to have perfected it. As quickly as we obtained again to Rome the subsequent day, I booked a desk at Pepe in Grani, whose proprietor Franco Pepe paved the best way for gourmand pizzerias like I Masanielli, and who appeared on the Netflix present Chef’s Desk: Pizza.
I’ve now eaten at each pizzerias and have gone again to visited the Reggia di Caserta twice since that first journey. So, I can attest that, for vacationers who need to get off the crushed path in Italy, a detour to Caserta is definitely worth the detour. Simply remember to plan forward — these pizzerias guide up a month or two upfront.