I have this theory when traveling. If Plan A goes awry, Plan B is invariably far better anyway.
And that’s how it was when I went to Caserta.
As I was running up the stairs to the platform the train was pulling out of the station. My perfect plan to spend hours and hours at Caserta had just gone sideways. The next train wasn’t for over an hour.
Once I finally arrived at Caserta the lady in the ticket booth told me to hurry and go to the gardens first, as they would be closing in an hour. You can rent bikes and ride the 7 kilometer round trip to the top of the garden and back, which had been my plan, but the bike rental dude wouldn’t rent me one due to the garden closing in an hour.
So I walked it, which turned out to be the most perfect option! It was a gorgeous December afternoon, sunny and t-shirt weather, ideal for strolling through palace gardens. Had I rented a bike I would have been stopping every couple of minutes to take photos anyway, so I was happy as a clam. The entire 7 km round trip I only saw maybe 40 people (including the workers), so it was almost like having the entire place to myself.
See images of the gardens here
|The Grand Staircase, Caserta Palace|
Plan B got really great once I walked inside the palace itself, because that late in the afternoon on a Monday in December I literally was the only person there.
|Grand Staircase Of Honor, Caserta Palace|
If you have ever been to any palace in Europe you will already know how maddeningly full of tourists they all are, all the time.
|Upper vestibule Caserta Palace|
Normally you can’t get a clear picture of anything because there are so many people in the way.
|Empty upper vestibule Caserta Palace|
This by contrast was absolutely surreal. There was just me and and empty palace.
|Entrance tot he palace royal apartments|
Every now and then a room would have a worker in it, but I basically could have run naked through the place and not encountered a soul!
|A worker at the end of an otherwise empty hallway, Caserta Palace|
At one point in one of the grand salons I decided to take advantage of having the place to myself, and played some Verdi on my iPhone.
With no one to stop me I lay down on the floor of the Throne Room and took in the ceiling while La Traviata played.
|Throne Room Ceiling, Caserta Palace|
It was brilliant! Then, because you only live once, I danced my way around the entire salon to Verdi then Delibes, whirling round and round like a fool. The kind of red haired fool who has an entire palace all to herself.
|The Throne Room|
I sat next to an Italian ballroom dancer once on a flight to Sicily. We have always stayed friends, and I kept thinking how much fun it would have been to have him there with me, dancing around my private palace.
|empty hallway in the royal apartments at Caserta Palace|
Italy has the greatest art in all of the world, none of which is in the palace of Caserta.
|Neo classical ceiling fresco in the royal apartments, Caserta|
To quote Alessandra Stanley of the New York Times, “Art lovers shudder at the lèse-majesté ”
but in all honesty it is actually part of the mad-charm of this place.
|The Palatine Chapel, Caserta Palace|
Caserta is bombastic yet delightful. And it is enormous! It gives you an incredible insight into the world that was, and you can’t help but be impressed by how magnificent it must have been in it’s heyday.
It is definitely worth taking the time to visit, and I know that I will go back over and over.
|Bathroom, Caserta Palace|
Unfortunately the chances of me having the palace all to myself ever again are slim to none.
I found out that earlier that day there had been a few thousand visitors to the palace. My missing the first train had meant that I arrived as they were all leaving. Had my day gone as planned I would have been there with the masses, and would not have had an entire palace to myself.
I also discovered that the day before 10 000 visitors had come to the palace.
|Add captionThe New Apartment, or 19th Century Apartment, Caserta Palace|
To end this perfect Plan B day I asked the man in the palace bookstore if there was somewhere nearby where I could have a glass of wine before taking the train back to Salerno.
|The December sun setting over the Palace of Caserta|
He drew me a map, told me I could take in the town’s Christmas tree while enjoying a glass of the local Moio, and still have ample time to stroll to the train station 5 minutes away.
|Gran Caffe Margherita, Caserta|
|A glass of local Moio, Gran Caffe Margherita, Caserta|
|The Christmas Tree in Caserta|
When I got back home I did some research on Maria Carolina. She, like her palace, was just fascinating. If you are heading to Caserta read up on her first.