Nestling graciously on the Tifatin hills at an altitude of approximately 400 metres above sea level, this magnificent medieval town is located less than 10km from Caserta. Steeped in history and renowned for its architectural gems, it is considered an Italian national monument. Boasting a view that stretches as far as the Bay of Naples, low tuffa stone houses and narrow medieval streets paved with different types of flagstones, it is the ideal spot for a stroll or a picnic. Its charm is further heightened by the mullioned windows of the buildings lining its streets, its tiny, picturesque shops displaying local wares, its restaurants and its old-world inns where you can recharge your batteries and, if the mood so moves you, also stay the night.
Accessible either by car or a private coach service along a panoramic road that starts from various points of the new city, including the Reggia Vanvitelliana, this medieval town is one of the better preserved in Italy. A destination for tourists from all over the world, while strolling through its narrow, stone-paved streets, visitors will have a chance to admire it elegant, picturesque houses including Casa Pisano, Casa Ferraiuolo, Casa Farina and Casa Uzzi. Built around piazza Vescovado and dominated by the Cathedral, a fine example of Norman-Arab architecture, the town is crossed by via San Michele Arcangelo, which leads to the splendid belvedere located at the end of the residential area.
Dominated by the ruins of an old castle, formerly the stronghold of different dominions, Casertavecchia is truly an open-air museum, boasting buildings and monuments just waiting to be discovered.
Dedicated to St. Michael, the medieval Cathedral features a meld of different styles: Sicilian-Arab, that of Romanesque churches found in Puglia and the Benedictine style of Montecassino. Facing onto Piazza Vescovado, construction on the cathedral began in 1113 and was completed in 1153. Its 32-metre bell tower, boasting hints of Gothic influence, was built some ten years later and completed in 1234. The Cathedral’s exterior, at once austere and elegant, boasts three white marble portals. The portal in the middle is decorated with floral patterns and supported by two lions. Its interior is particularly evocative. Measuring 46 metres in length, it has three naves separated by eighteen columns originating from a Roman temple. The 14th century Madonna with Child adorning the pillar at the end of the right nave is the only remaining fragment of the church’s medieval frescoes. Also worthy of note are its medieval and Renaissance tombstones and a 14th century wooden cross in the sacristy. Behind the Duomo, on the main street, is the Chiesetta dell'Annunziata, a Gothic church built at the end of the 13th century. Its austere façade is decorated with three windows and a rose window, while its bell tower is topped by a pinnacle-shaped dome.
The Castle was built around the 9th century A.D on the highest point of the hill to defend the town. Damaged by several earthquakes and the passage of time, though standing in ruins, it still makes for an impressive sight. Parts that have remained intact include its Frederician keep and its 30-metre-high cylindrical tower, the ancient symbol of the city. According to legend, the tower is thought to house a hidden treasure which, to-date, has never been found.
How to get there
By train: Caserta railway station
By plane: Capodichino Airport (Naples) situated at a distance of 24 km
Where is it?