The story of the palace began on August 28, 1750, when Charles of Bourbon , king of the Two Sicilies bought from the heirs of the Caetani family Acquavite the flat land at the foot of the Tifatini Mountains.
It was to be the largest palace and one of the largest building erected in Europe during the 18th century.
An ambitious project, for which it was necessary to hire an architect up to the task.
The architect was Luigi Vanvitelli, a neapolitan of Dutch origin, who was working on preparations for the Jubilee of 1750, the year after Vanvitelli presented the project to the king and on the 20th of January 1752 the first stone was officially laid.
The project to build a Royal Palace was aimed primarily at giving the kingdom a new capital, in a strategic location, far from the sea and the dangers that could come from it, as was demonstrated by the British fleet in 1742 when it had threatened to bombard Naples.
The outdoor area is divided into four beautiful courtyards with rounded corners making the architecture more fluid and less massive than it might appear at first sight.
The Park : Splendor and vastness announce themselves at the entrance to the palace, where the green, as far as the eye can see, is framed between the arches of the central gallery and the pillars in the courtyards.
(Below the artificial water fall feeding the park).
The Vanvitelli Aqueduct : The architect - also strong on the experience gained from the Aqueduct Vermicino - dug wells at incredible depths, drilled mountains, and built a 60 meters high viaduct long 528 meters, similar to those of the Romans.
The work took no less than sixteen years, but at the end the park was provided with the mass of water required for the waterfall and numerous fountains.
Luigi Vanvitelli, however, could not see the completion of the project he started: it was his son Carlo to complete the park. In 1773, the year of his death, not a single fountain was yet completed. Today we can admire six monumental fountains: Margherita, the Dolphins, Aeolus, Ceres, Venus and Adonis, Diana and Actaeon.
La Fontana Margherita is the first you come onto and the most "modest", quite different is the Fountain of the Dolphins, where a body of water comprises a circular pond, decorated with two dolphins flanking a monster with the head and body of a dolphin and arms and claws.
Following is the fountain of Aeolus, where you feel the full sense of grandeur.
A passage around the hemicycle allows visitors to "enter" the palace of the God of winds among arches and portals located behind the waterfall.
The relief of the facade depicts the wedding of Thetis and Peleus, the Judgement of Paride, Jupiter and the three Goddesses and the Marriage of Paride.
Aeolus (bottom left), unleashing a wind storm to punish Aeneas and the Trojans. At the center of the pond, statues of nymphs and young children.
(The Judgment of Paris is a story from Greek mythology, and one of the events that led up to the Trojan War)
The Aeolus fountain - is the only fountain of the park that was not completed.
In its stretch of water, in fact, was never placed the colossal group of Aeolus and Juno that the king had commissioned.
The Fountain of Ceres is supplied by a pool of six tanks, arranged on different levels to allow the waterfall and the evocative effects that this creates.
The group of statues includes dolphins and tritons launching powerful jets, Nereids blowing trumpets, the statues of the rivers Simeto and Oreto and Goddess Ceres in the center, surrounded by nymphs and with a Trinacria medallion in her hands (Trinacria is the three legged head present on the flag of Sicily, at the time it symbolized the Bourbons Kingdom of the Two Sicilies).
The Fountain of Venus and Adonis. It was built between 1770 and 1780 by Gaetano Salomone on a long field where twelve small waterfalls make up as many small lakes. Like all the other fountains is inspired by Greek and Roman mythology, in this case the myth of love between Venus and Adonis.
The goddess, kneeling, takes the hand of Adonis, about to leave, imploring him to be careful during the hunt, while Adonis, unaware of what is about to happen, reassures her.
Crowing the couple are statues of nymphs and cherubs, on the lower lever at left, the wild boar that kills Adonis (the wild boar, according to legend, was a jealous God (God Mars or God Volcano) which took on the appearance of the animal).
The Fountain of Diana and Actaeon , located three kilometers from the entrance to the Park. Semi-elliptical shape.
Includes two groups of statues. Goddes Diana's and God Actaeon's, who having seen the goddess naked , was torn apart by his own dogs and transformed into a deer, as in the legend.
The fountain is preceded by balustrades decorated with 14 statues of hunters and nymphs.
In 1997, the Palace was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site, described in its nomination as "the swan song of the spectacular art of the Baroque, from which it adopted all the features needed to create the illusions of multidirectional space"
The Palace belonged to the Bourbon family for over a century, from 1752 to 1860, when it passed to the Savoy following the defeat of the Bourbons and the unification of Italy.
On 14 December 1943, after the Allied landings at Salerno, was occupied by the Allied Armies. On 27 April 1945 welcomed the plenipotentiaries who signed the surrender of German arms in Italy.
Not to miss is the Nativity Scene room where the "Presepe" (Nativity Scene) is on display and where you can admire the refined execution of the individual characters, the variety of action and the movement and intensity that distinguish the canon scenes.
The work proves to be a valuable evidence of a tradition that reached its zenith during the reign of Charles III Bourbon.
The room is located beside the reading room near the Library.
The statues are made of different materials (clay and wood) and held together by wires to allow for different poses and different scene year after year.
The statues are a complex symbolism, not always easy to decipher, especially because the many and various popular traditions of the past have become a part of the code of the imagination.
(Figurines can be bought at Via San Gregorio Armeno, Naples.)
The English Garden less symmetrical then Italian style is best suited to highlight the surrounding lush nature.
Among which the swan pond reflects a disappeared world of poetry and beauty. In the lake there is a statue of Venus which shows the goddess as she prepares to take a bath.
After centuries of domination of Italian style gardens, the English Garden had come into fashion. The garden is full of native and exotic plants, including beautiful cedars of Lebanon,and the camellia imported from Japan in 1880, there is also large greenhouses, a cottage, a group of artificial ruins and the ruins of a Roman temple and a botanical garden.
The shepherd of the fountain is nothing more than a literary tribute paid to the poetic world of the time.
The Palace has been used as a filming location in a number of movie productions. In 1997 it served as a filming location for Star Wars when it was used as the setting for Queen Amidala's royal palace on Naboo in the 1999 film Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace.
It featured 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 the film, a Lamborghini car is blown up in a square inside the palace. The main staircase is also used in Angels & Demons as the Vatican's staircase. Mezzo soprano Cecilia Bartoli used the palace as the primary location for the film L'art des castrats that accompanies her album Sacrificium, dedicated to the music written for the castrato singers of the baroque period.
The palace featured in Beautiful But Dangerous, starring Gina Lollobrigida, in 1955 and in the opening scenes of the film Anzio from 1968, starring Robert Mitchum.
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