If you ever find yourself south of Rome enjoying the Amalfi Coast, I highly recommend taking a detour on your return north to the once-famous Royal Palace of Caserta. This palace and surrounding grounds are incredible.
Back to the impressive nature of the palace — Caserta is the "Italian Versailles," with over 1,000 rooms, greater-than life sculptures, sumptuously decorated hallways, and large windows that frame the sprawling fountains and lawns behind the palace.
This massive building is the supposedly the largest royal residence in the world, built for the Bourbons in the 19th century.
The Bourbons were the ruling kings in southern Italy (Naples) until 1816 when the kingdom joined with that of Sicily.
All of this was dissolved in the 1860s when the fight for Italian unification began.
Unfortunately, Caserta seems to be a hidden gem that few people know about, which has resulted in forgotten restorations and only a handful of the rooms accessible by the public. So please go if you're even remotely nearby it is completely worth it and I can only imagine the impact this palazzo would make if it was as well funded as Versailles.
When you enter the palace you are led through cavernous arcades that tunnel on the ground level dotted with marble statues. These hallways lead you to the grand staircase.
There's a reason this is a 'grand' staircase, few places have made me feel as small and irrelevant this area of Caserta.
The ceilings rise incredibly high and split into triplets of archways that are covered in heavy, multicolored marble, and every surface has been covered in skilled detail work. To say this is an ostentatious display of wealth is an understatement.
The artistry continues throughout the entire palace, one ornate room leading into one more decadent than the last. No expense was spared to create this residence.
Most of the rooms have unique, geometrically designed flooring and painted ceilings that all compete to be the most vibrant and beautiful. The royal family knew exactly what they were doing when designing this palace.
As a visitor or petitioner, you would have to wind your way through the ground level maze of arched hallways, muster the strength to climb the grand staircase, go through at least five receiving rooms each grander than the last until you finally make it to the throne room.
Definitely a clever way to condescend on your subjects. It was enough going through this place as a visitor, and I bet most petitioners found themselves completely tongue-tied by the time they made it in front of the king.
While the main rooms are overdone with paintings, sculpture, and sumptuous wall coverings, the bedrooms are definitely nicer than your average place to catch a few z's.
Fun fact: if you're a Star Wars fan, the top of the grand staircase will look familiar as the Naboo Palace in Episode I.