February 24


Visiting Caserta Palace and Naples Pizza

By Rick

February 24, 2014

I must be getting sentimental in my middle-age.  A few weeks ago I talked about weddings and now I’m recalling a Valentine’s Day a couple of years ago—Jessica and I visiting Caserta Palace, strolling around the gardens, just outside of Naples, in the clear, crisp February air.  Soon after arriving, I had noticed a man with a horse-drawn carriage riding around the grounds and thought, “My, how romantic.  Maybe I should inquire into his services and impress my fidanzata.”

Sure enough, as he drew closer, he began to shout.  I couldn’t really understand him, but it seemed obvious enough I was being subjected to his sales pitch.

visiting caserta palace

I cut to the chase, “Quanto costa?”  How much?

I don’t think he actually heard my words, as he continued his passionate monologue, determined to make me hear the whole spiel before the bargaining process began.  Finally, I reluctantly gave up my role in the “conversation,” shrugged, and turned over the reins to Jessica and her knowledge of Neapolitan dialect.

From that point, I could only watch.  But what struck me was that while Jessica was attempting to engage him, he continued to look squarely at me.  I was the man, after all, and this sort of hard bargaining is clearly not women’s work.

“80 euro?!?” Jessica scoffed, “Dai, nun pazzia’…quanto?” (80 euro?  Let’s get serious, how much?).

Still looking at me, he replied, “Signo’, voi siete un gentiluomo, nun volete porta’ questa principessa in carrozza?” (Sir, you’re a gentleman, don’t you want to take this princess on the carriage?)

This, Jessica could not stand for.  “Non ci sono principesse qui; dai, facci un prezzo onesto.”  (There are no princesses here; come on, give us an honest price).

“Signo’, onesti comme a mme nun ce ne stanno! Vi faccio 50 euro e trattate la signorina dalla principessa che è.  Oh, signo’!”  (Sir, there are no others as honest as me.  I’ll make it 50 and you can treat the Miss like the princess that she is.  Oh, sir!)

Jessica was quick with her retort, “Niente, non ci accordiamo. Buona giornata.”  (No deal.  Have a good day).

Now he got even more theatrical with his gestures and tone of voice.  “Signo’! Aspettate! Tengo famiglia, mio figlio è disoccupato, mugliereme è disoccupata, il cavallo mangia assaje… Facciamo 25 euro?   (Sir! Wait! I have a family, my son doesn’t work, my wife doesn’t work, this horse eats so much… Let’s make it 25 euros?).

That last bit I understood.  25 euros.  I nodded and reached for my wallet.

“See?” he said, addressing Jessica for the first time. “These are men’s businesses.  See?  The gentleman here knows how to treat a princess.”

And he took us for a lovely ride that lasted about 7 minutes, which certainly did not significantly increase the horse’s appetite.  But it was lovely. Here, see for yourself:

History of La Reggia and Visiting Caserta Palace

The sprawling royal complex at Caserta was built by the Bourbon kings, starting in 1752, and was meant to rival Versailles and the Royal Palace in Madrid. One of the most beautiful features is the way that the buildings—the last remnants of the Baroque era—blend in with the natural setting, never taking away from the parks, gardens, and surrounding woodlands.

ceiling detail at Caserta PalaceAt the end of World War II, the royal palace served as the seat of the Supreme Allied Commander.  In April 1945 it was the site where they signed the unconditional surrender of German forces in Italy.  The first Allied war crimes trial took place in the palace in 1945.

The Caserta Palace has also been used as a filming location in a number of movie productions.  For example, it was used as the Queen’s Royal Palace in the 1999 film Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace, and then again in the 2002 sequel, Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones.  Other films such as Mission Impossible III and Angels & Demons have used the palace as a substitute for the Vatican.

If you have a chance for visiting Caserta Palace, I highly recommend this destination as a nice weekend away from Rome.

Here’s their website for tickets and info: La Reggia di Caserta

Here’s where we stayed and ate:

Our Bed and Breakfast: http://www.lanticocortile.it/

Our restaurant: http://www.ristorantemassa.it/cucina.php

Speaking of food…

No, it’s not “just” pizza!

The next days we went to visit Naples. This city deserves much more attention than most tourists are willing to give it—and more than I can write about in the rest of this post. But I’d be remiss if I didn’t at least give homage to that icon of the Neapolitan kitchen: pizza

wikicommonsNaples is the birthplace of pizza and to try the original version will make you believe that you’ve never eaten pizza before in your life.  In fact, it is so good and so original that the Italian government has petitioned the European Commission to designate Naples’ three (and there are only three) versions of pizza as Specialitá Tradizionale Garantita “Pizza Napoletana.” And I quote:

In the designation “Pizza Napoletana,” we define the following names: “Pizza Napoletana Marinara,” “Pizza Napoletana Margherita Extra,” and “Pizza Napoletana Margherita.”

The products that provide the base for “Pizza Napoletana” include wheat flour type “00” with the addition of flour type “0,” yeast, natural water, peeled tomatoes and/or fresh cherry tomatoes, marine salt, and extra virgin olive oil.

Other added ingredients can include, garlic and oregano for “Pizza Napoletana Marinara;” buffalo milk mozzarella, fresh basil and fresh tomatoes for “Pizza Napoletana Margherita Extra;” and mozzarella STG or Fior di Latte Appennino and fresh basil for “Pizza Napoletana Margherita.”

That’s it!! No other ingredients are allowed including “pepperoni,” (either the Italian sweet peppers, or in the English language, spicy salami), mushrooms, onions, or God forbid, pineapple. These guys aren’t joking around by putting Thai chicken, mango chutney, barbeque sauce, or other such sacrilege on top of their capolavori (masterpieces).  They take pride in doing one simple thing.  But doing it perfectlySo sure, eat what you like, but don’t ever call it “pizza” unless it has earned the right to carry the name.pizza in naples, italy

So there we were in the center of Naples, and of course we were keen to locate the aforementioned culinary treasure in situ. We had a short list of recommended places and finally found ourselves inside the hallowed walls of a genuine Neapolitan pizzeria where all the magic takes place.

I won’t repeat the whole dialogue, but suffice to say it was almost an exact replica of the horse carriage conversation, if you replace the phrase “carriage ride” with “table for two.” Once again I found myself merely observing a conversation that was directed at me. It’s such an odd feeling, an out of body experience, as if you’re watching yourself in a dream.

And the pizza itself was a dream. So if you don’t have a sweetheart for Valentine’s Day, just make a date with una pizza margherita. It might not be “romantic” in the classical sense, but at least you won’t have to cough up 25 euros for a 7-minute carriage ride.

Recent Posts:

About the author

Living in the Caput Mundi and trying to decipher Italian culture for the English speaking world.

  • Rick-Back in 1968 through 1971, my husband was stationed at the Naval Hospital in Naples, so our 3 young children and I also, lived there for 3 years. It was a wonderful experience. We bought our Fiat 500, from a dealership in Caserta. My husband was an excellent driver and had the most fun driving past the Soccor Stadium on Sundays.People just drove on the sidewalks and did NOT believe in any lanes of traffic. He drove exactly like the Italians. When we returned to the States, we went to eat in an Italian restaurant, and the waiter asked my oldest child what she wanted to drink. She asked for a glass of wine, since that was what she drank in Naples with her pizza! She was all of 8 years old, at the time. The other children were 6 and 4. People were so wonderful to us there,as the children were 5, 3 and 1, when we arrived. We would go to Edenlandia and the Naples Zoo about 3 times a week, while my husband was at work. The 1 year old was born in Japan, and we lived in NYC for a year, after Japan and before Italy! During that 13 months, my husband was in Vietnam. Some of our fondest memories are of the 3 years spent in Italy!

    • What a great story, Judith! I love the Naples area, too. Can’t wait to go back. I actually drove there (once) and vowed to never return in a car!

      • Rick-

        Thanks for the response. Whenever my husband didn’t have to work on the week-end, we drove to various Cities, either as day trips or stayed overnight at a Pensione. I really think that our little ones, contributed to our being so well received by people. The Summer before we left Italy, we spent 3 weeks making a trip to Holland, in order to buy a small travel trailer to bring to Illinois. We started out in August, and never considered the delay that “Ferragusto”, would cause us. We were delayed for hours in the Alps. We, and everyone else in Italy were leaving fora cooler Climate! On that trip, we camped on the beach.We did get stuck in the sand, and many campers helped us to get back out. I’d love to make a trip back with my eldest daughter. My husband passed away in 2013, so he never was able to go back for a visit.

    • Thanks! It certainly was hilarious! But I have to admit that even for the blog post I had to have my wife recall the conversation and “translate” the dialect for me. So fun, though…

  • Loved Caserta. Spent a few days there in December 2010 by myself and met some wonderful people who were friendly and very helpful. Stayed in the centre by the park and had amazing meals at a few restaurants recommended by he locals. Your video brings back lovely memories. I would go back someday after Naples of course which is also a great city and so vibrant with tons of things to do and see. Lucky for me I was able to go with friends who know the city. Also, some police officers and coast guards ;). Checked out e underground with my daughter in 2009. My first experience in Naples. You’re right it can be scary at first but then you need to look beyond the craziness and discover the uniqueness!!

    Last fall as you know I was in Rome and visited a church close to San Giovanni Di Laterano that has several layers or floors underground. I can’t remember the name of it. Do you know which one I’m talking about?

    Thanks for your stories Rick. Love seeing the pics and learning your experiences. Good job!!!
    Un bacio

    • Wow, thanks so much, Joce! Yes, Naples is worth the effort, but having a knowledge friend or guide is a huge advantage. Moreso in Naples than any other major Italian city, I think.
      I wonder if the church that you’re thinking of is San Clemente? It’s about halfway between the Colosseo and San Giovanni. Ciao Joce!

  • Well done Rick, great post. I have only driven through Naples, mama mia. We were taking the ship across to Sardengna. I look forward to your exciting news. Thanx Lyn

  • Enjoyable read as usual. My only t”trip” to Caserta was too bried a stop on return from Monte Cassino. I had hoped to go on my own in 2012 trip when I was in Naples, but ran out of energy I fear. I will hope for 2015. I look forward to hearing about your “un-normal” Rome tours though I have done some underground walks. Fall 2015 is coming.

  • I absolutely love Naples. I first visited 40 years ago, but went back a couple of years ago and stayed in the historical centre. It is so vibrant and alive…I would go back in a heartbeat.

    • I know, me too. So many people are “scared” of Naples, but it’s so exciting! I’ve only had 3 separate day trips there, but I’d like to stay for 4-5 days and really check it out properly.

  • {"email":"Email address invalid","url":"Website address invalid","required":"Required field missing"}

    Channel Your Inner Italian!

    Whether you're preparing for an upcoming vacation, trying to reconnect with your family's roots, or if you just want to emulate the joyful and healthy lifestyle of Mediterranean Italy, then get started by downloading one (or all) of my FREE guides to Italian living at its best!