Following our apple festival excitement, we headed over to nearby Caserta Royal Palace, which I blogged about last year upon our first visit to the palace (see that post here). We thought Ma would enjoy seeing the place, planned as a rival to Versailles in France, and after some more GPS shenanigans, eventually found our way into the parking garage. Thankfully, a few months ago, the old movie Chevy Chase's National Lampoon's European Vacation came on and we could revisit our movie memory, confirming that our experiences are disturbingly similar to the Griswold's.
Nathan elected to buy a garden pass for only 3euro and headed off with his Kindle for some relaxing on a gorgeous, autumn day. Ma and I decided to go to the gardens first and waited for the shuttle to drive us the mile walk along the Palace's stunning water feature to the top. We had some photo ops of the waterfalls and beautiful statues, then walked around the English Garden, which is a composite of a number of areas - rose garden, bee keeping area, various buildings, bridges, ponds, large expanses of green lawn...you get the idea. My favorite is the Venus Grotto, so that's where we headed. Built in the 1700s, but made to look a couple of millenia older, the grotto has a quiet pond, a statue of Venus bathing, some neat walkways winding among rocks, and a "ruined" building with statues tucked into wall niches and mosaic floors. The peacefulness of this area draws me in, and it's the main feature I remembered about the palace from our visit a year ago - that and the presepe.
The Royal Palace holds the most amazing presepe (nativity) I've seen in Italy. I love the lifelike figures that fill the scenes, and I'm excited to visit as many of the downtown churches as possible this December to see the presepes that each church trots out at Christmas time. But Caserta's is just flat out phenomenal. We wandered through the royal rooms, which are empty for the most part, but still feature beautiful walls and chandeliers, as well as ornate ceilings. After finishing our stroll and meeting back up with Nathan, we headed home, and ended up with this parting shot of Caserta Royal Palace: