Monday, May 10, 2010

Italian journal, 1: Caserta: the Reggia

In the next few weeks this site will become a travel journal, if you don't mind — notes more or less chronological, otherwise random. For the moment we skip past a day in Madrid, and arrive in...

Friday May 7: CASERTA

The chief tourist attraction of this provincial city is its amazing Reggia, the Italian equivalnt of France's Versailles or the Dutch Het Loo, built in the middle of the eighteenth century by Charles III, designed by Luigi Vanvitelli. We didn't investigate its interior, having really only one day to spend, and that a nice one. Instead we walked slowly up the central axis of its amazing series of lawns, pools, and fountains, a mile and a quarter as my pocket computer counted it. Water cascades from a source high above the Reggio, at an elevation of about 200 meters above sea level, to a basin at the top of the formal garden; this basin contains two sculpture groups representing Diana and Acteon at the moment the latter is being transformed into a stag and set upon by his own hounds.

Here is an entrance to an English garden, really a park, laid out alongside the formal garden, hidden from it by the very high hornbeam hedges themselves carved out of a dense canopy probably sixty feet high composed primariily of lime-trees.

The English garden features its own pools and fountains but is domianted by stately beeches, elms, oaks, and magnolia trees set about on huge gently sloping lawns. Halfway down the park, occupying perhaps a third its width and only a tenth or so its length, are the 17th-century greenhouses and sheds, a couple of huge staging-areas for working with bedding plants and small pots, a good-sized kitchen garden, and a very nice formal rose garden within its own walls.

It took nearly six hours to enjoy these gardens and eat a couple of sandwiches we'd brought along with us.

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