At ItalyIndeed we are justly proud and privileged to share the rich history of our region with our guests. It is a history that stretches back to the grandeur of the Roman Empire and beyond, to pre-Roman peoples and into the mists of prehistory. Just as fascinating as the splendours of Ancient Rome is the turbulent recent story of our nation from the eighteenth century to today. One of the most spectacular monuments of this era is the Royal Palace of Caserta, one of the many spellbinding attractions of our Culture, History and Archaeology and City and Site excursions tours. Built for the Bourbon kings of Naples, in 1997 UNESCO designated it a World Heritage Site, describing it as ‘the swan song of the spectacular art of the Baroque’.
Construction began in 1752 for Charles VII of Naples, who upon seeing architect Luigi Vanvitelli’s scale model declared that the design filled him with such emotion that it was ‘fit to tear his heart of from his breast’. An entire town was moved ten kilometres to provide an on-hand workforce for the construction. However, the years needed for such a grand project and Charles’ own abdication in 1759 to become king of Spain meant that he never actually spent a single night there. In more recent times the palace served as the headquarters of the Supreme Allied Commanders in Italy between 1943 and 1945. It was here that German forces in Italy surrendered in 1945 and the first allied war crimes trial was held and the palace also served as a rest centre for the United States Fifth Army. As you wander today through this incredible structure and admire the classically-inspired fountains in its’ beautiful gardens you might recognize certain features from some of the films that have in-part been filmed here. From ‘Beautiful but Dangerous’ with Gina Lollobrigida and ‘Anzio’ with Robert Mitchum to, more recently, ‘Angels and Demons’, ‘Mission Impossible III’, and two Star Wars films, ‘The Phantom Menace’ and ‘Attack of the Clones’. The Royal Palace of Caserta, from Bourbons to Jedi, is one of the largest and most remarkable royal palaces in all of Europe.