The Royal Palace of Caserta is a former royal residence in Caserta, Southern Italy, constructed for the Bourbon kings of Naples. It was the largest palace and one of the largest buildings erected in Europe during the 18th century. 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 construction of the palace was begun in 1752 for Charles VII of Naples, who worked closely with his architect Luigi Vanvitelli. When Charles saw Vanvitelli's grandly-scaled model for Caserta it filled him with emotion "fit to tear his heart from his breast". In the end, he never slept a night at the Reggia, as he abdicated in 1759 to become King of Spain, and the project was carried to completion for his third son and successor, Ferdinand IV of Naples.
The garden, a typical example of the baroque extension of formal vistas, stretch for 120 ha, partly on hilly terrain. It is inspired by the park of Versailles, but it is commonly regarded as superior in beauty. The park starts from the back façade of the palace, flanking a long alley with artificial fountains and cascades. There is a botanical garden, called "The English Garden," in the upper part designed in the 1780s by Carlo Vanvitelli and the German-born botanist, nurseryman, plantsman-designer John Graefer, trained in London and recommended to Sir William Hamilton by Sir Joseph Banks. It is an early Continental example of an "English garden" in the svelte naturalistic taste of Capability Brown.
The fountains and cascades, each filling a vasca ("basin"), with architecture and hydraulics by Luigi Vanvitelli at intervals along a wide straight canal that runs to the horizon, rivalled those at Peterhof outside St. Petersburg.
- The Fountain of Diana and Actaeon (sculptures by Paolo Persico, Brunelli, Pietro Solari);
- The Fountain of Venus and Adonis (1770–80);
- The Fountain of the Dolphins (1773–80);
- The Fountain of Aeolus;
- The Fountain of Ceres.
A large population of figures from classical Antiquity were modelled by Gaetano Salomone for the gardens of the Reggia, and executed by large workshops.