Feeding the Fountains of Kings

October 25, 2012 / Places
Valle di Maddaloni, Campania
The grandeur of the Royal Palace of Caserta was surpassed only by the lavish abode of Louis XIV at Versailles. The Reggia was the largest building to be erected in Europe during the 18th century and housed not only the royal family, but the kingdom’s administrative quarters, stables, fisheries and botanical garden. In an attempt to administer the ungovernable Kingdom of Naples, Charles III commissioned Luigi Vanvitelli to design and build the complex in 1752. The plans included an immense park with fountains and waterfalls that would slope down towards the palace in a magnificent 2.5 mile water-way.

But where was Vanvitelli to find that much H2O? The solution lay 38 kilometers due east at the springs of Fizzo, in the foothills of Mt. Taburno. Building the aqueduct that would bring the water to Caserta took 9 years and was one of Vanvitelli’s greatest engineering feats.  Painstaking calculations were needed so that the water could flow at a precise slope of half a centimeter per every linear meter and scientists at the time were skeptical that this could be achieved.  The entire route was built underground; six mountains were tunneled and 67 inspection turrets were built along the way.

The aqueduct surfaced at only one point along its gently slanting route at the Valle di Maddaloni. The beautiful triple-arched bridge was based on ancient Roman designs and, with a span of 529 meters, it was longest in Europe.

A hundred years later, the bridge at Maddaloni was to be the scene of one of the decisive battles of the Unification of Italy.  But that’s another story.

Here’s a great panoramic view of the bridge.

Barbara Goldfield

by Barbara Goldfield

Owner of “Savour The Sannio”, www.savourthesannio.com, a travel consultancy for central and southern Italy.

10 Responses to “Feeding the Fountains of Kings”

  1. Evanne

    Thanks, Ann. Very informative. But…Yikes! We were robbed of our car here at our home in Italy and the car was driven to Caserta, a favorite place for car thieves to drive the cars to be transported out of the country by boat. Beware!

  2. The fountain at Casserta is indeed an amazing sight, and, the palace is very close to the train station. I have visited it several times on my way from Naples to Puglia. I make a connection at Caserta with a few hours between the two trains and can easily walk to the castle. There is also a baggage check at the castle, but not at the train station.

  3. Ann Waggoner

    We used to drive under this acquaduct on Sunsay excursions to Saint Agata dei Gotti and never realized that it was there to feed the fountains of the Royal Palace at Caserta.

  4. Great Note, Barbara. So many bits of information.Thank you! Super pics too.

  5. I have ALWAYS wanted to go find this bridge! Thanks for the wonderful history. Vanvitelli is one of my favorite architects. What he did under the Bourbons was nothing short of science fiction at the time. LOL!

  6. Can not begin to tell you how much I enjoyed this article today since I actually saw it mid September when I was in Naples. My cousin Vincenzo Digesto took me on a tour and we passed Valle di
    Maddolini. I have also had the pleasure of seeing the Casa Re di
    Casereta and walk out to the falls and now appreciate the magnificence of both these beautiful sites.
    Mille Grazie

  7. Thank you for awakening some old memories. My family saw a lovely palace and its gardens when we were in Italy to visit Nonna and all the zii and cugini – all the way back in 1960. For years I retained only vague images of the lovely fountains and Mom, whose memory became faulty after many years, would often say, “We went to Caserta, don’t you remember?” All our photos which might have clarified a lot were lost in flooding so I could only say “I think so.” And now, I know. Thanks for reminding me what it looked like and telling me how it came to be!


Leave a Reply