Day trip: Reggia di Caserta from Rome/Naples

by Amy Knauff

The Reggia di Caserta, or the Royal Palace of Caserta, is not on the tourist radar. Although it’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and close to Naples, for some reason it tends to get passed over by foreign tourists in favor of other, more famous villas (like Villa d’Este in Tivoli, for example).

This sumptuous palace, once the home of the Bourbon kings of Naples, is set on enormous grounds that include a waterfall, an English garden, and gorgeous fountains and statues. The Reggia was supposed to be a new administrative center for the kingdom, far from the unrest of Naples and in a strategic, protected location. Architect Luigi Vanvitelli worked with King Charles VII of Naples to create the design of the Baroque palace and its gardens, modeled off of Versailles.

It could also be called the poor man’s Versailles – not because it was any less stunning than Versailles in its heyday, but because today, unfortunately, it is not very well-maintained. It seems to have perpetual scaffolding on the front façade and the courtyards, which makes for a disappointing arrival. Dust bunnies and debris from the day’s visitors drift around the big empty halls. Pigeons manage to get in and perch (and poo) on some high decorations. Under the front portico – that is, on the inside once you’ve already gone past the ticket booth – you’ll find some locals hawking cheap guidebooks, plastic magnets, and 1970s-quality postcards.

Having said that, these are minor issues (though it’s a shame) and the palace and gardens are truly gorgeous and well worth a visit. The best part is – unlike the seething masses of tourists inside the palace of Versailles – it never gets crowded, so even during high season you may find yourself alone to soak up the beauty of a room in santa pace.

The palace has about 1200 rooms and is the largest, volume-wise, of all the royal palaces in Europe. The Throne Room is stunning, as well as the Grand Staircase of Honor (which, by the way, masqueraded as the Vatican staircase in Angels & Demons); there are also royal apartments, a library, the Palatine Chapel, and the Court Theatre. Many of the grand halls are decorated with frescoes. The Reggia was even a movie set for a few films – most notably, it was Queen Amidala’s palace in Star Wars: The Phantom Menace.

The garden behind the rear palace façade stretches on for 120 hectares, with a series of artificial fountains and small cascades (fed by the Carolino Aqueduct) extending most of the way and ending with a waterfall. Sculptures depicting mythological or religious figures adorn the fountains, like the Fountain of the Three Dolphins, Aeolus’ Fountain, and the Fountain of Diana and Acteon.

You can also wander down the shady avenue lined by oak trees, visit the manmade lake filled with fish, and stroll through the English garden.

Finish your visit by climbing the set of stairs to the artificial cave called “the Dungeon” on top of the waterfall and get a view of the entire gardens, palace, and beyond. This view, with Mount Vesuvius and the island of Capri in the background, truly looks like a colorful Mediterranean version of Versailles.
Full ticket (palace and park) €12. Closed Tuesdays.

From Rome:
By train from Rome to Caserta (between 1 hr 15 mins – 2 hrs 20 mins, €11.80-46.10), then a 5-minute walk from the station to the palace. By car on the Autostrada A1 (Milano-Napoli), exit Caserta nord.

From Naples:
By train from Naples to Caserta (approx. 45 mins, €3.10), then a 5-minute walk from the station to the palace. By car on the Autostrada A30 (Milano-Napoli), exit Caserta sud.

Best places to stay around Rome’s Termini Station

Termini gets mixed reviews.  Many tourists read that it’s a dangerous neighborhood, and many residents, at least those that don’t live near Termini, agree.  But the truth is, in 2000 during the Jubilee Holy Year, most of the neighborhood was redone – millions were invested into new facades and many of the old pensione were renovated.   Reputations are hard to change though, even if they aren’t warranted.

The benefits to staying around Termini are many:  it’s often considerably cheaper here than in other parts of the city; getting in and out of the city by train is easy, so that you don’t have to navigate the crowded buses or metro with suitcases; and no matter where you are in the city, you can always find your way back to Termini easily.  It’s technically in the center of Rome (within the Aurelian walls) and you can walk to the Colosseum/Forum in about 25 minutes, or the same to the Trevi Fountain/Spanish Steps.  It’s probably the most well connected neighborhood in the city as a whole.

The area to the North of Termini is nicer looking though.  For those that know about our hotel, The Beehive, this is where we are located.  Most of the neighborhood is filled with office workers and students during the day, and hotel guests at night.  There are a few streets, right next to Termini, that have a lot of foreigners so you’ll see kebab, Bangladeshi laundromats, etc.  Yet you’ll also see restaurants that have been around for 60+ years with the same families in them.  Speaking of restaurants, even though many are tourist traps, they are often filled with Italians at lunch.  There are two street markets (one small one on Via Milazzo, and a larger one on Via Montebello) with fresh fruit and vegetables, as well as a few traditional bakeries, salumerie, a couple of excellent gelaterias near each other (Come il Latte on Via Silvio Spaventa and La Romana on the corner of Via Piave & XX Settembre) and one of the oldest wine shops in Rome (Trimani on Via Goito).

From the least expensive upward, here are my favorite Cross-Pollinate places in this neighborhood that always get positive reviews, north of Termini – rates quoted are based on high season:

B&B Atos – doubles from €80/night with ensuite bathroom and breakfast voucher at a nearby cafe:


Rome Best B&B – doubles from €85/night with ensuite bathroom and breakfast voucher at a nearby bar:


Simon’s Suite Apartment from €108/night for 2 guests:


Wellness Inn B&B  €130/night for a double with ensuite bathroom and breakfast included:


The area just South of Termini has a few blocks that have not been renovated as much and in recent years have had many traditional shops taken over by Chinese wholesalers.   Despite some grunge around here, there’s also some of the gems, if you know where to look.  There’s the Roscioli bakery on Via Buonarotti, which has some of the best pizza bianca and suppli in the city.  There’s Trattoria Monti, one of our favorite restaurants.  And there’s Mercato Esquilino – for food lovers and people watchers, this place is a real find.  You can also splurge and get a pricey cocktail on the rooftop bar of the Radisson SAS hotel on Via Mamiani.  The area is a closer walk to the Colosseum and Forum, as well as the hip and historic neighborhood of Monti (about 15 minutes away by foot) and there’s a few metro entrances for the red line/Line A at Piazza Vittorio which can make it easier to navigate than the metro station at Termini.   In this area, there are a lot of good, inexpensive accommodation with lots of character:

Frank’s House from €75/night, run by an expat New Yorker and his wife:


L’Altra Luna from €75/night for double with ensuite bath, breakfast, and use of the kitchen:


Clover Guestrooms from €80/night with shared kitchen – these rooms are managed by us through The Beehive.


Meltin’ Rome from €80/night:


Mr. Frills B&B from €90/night:


Walter’s Studio from €95/night:


For more information about the neighborhood, be sure and check out these posts from The Beehive’s Blog:

Is Rome Safe?

What’s Around The Beehive?

Putzing Around Piazza Vittorio

The Best of Piazza Vittorio – 3 food tips



Best places to stay in Rome off the beaten path

There’s more to Rome than Piazza Navona!  Although it’s beautiful in the historic center, there are some setbacks:  older buildings can have bad plumbing and limited power supply.  The prices are higher, in the summer there can be loads of tourists (and lots of noise along with them), and sometimes it’s hard to find restaurants that aren’t overpriced and touristy.

We don’t suggest anything on the site that’s so far out of the center that it would make it difficult to sight-see and visit Rome as a tourist, but there are some areas we love that aren’t on most tourist’s radar and that have some great options for accommodation.  Our favorites are:

Laura’s Mini-studio in Pigneto for just €49/night (for 2 guests):


Abbraccia Morfeo B&B with beautiful double rooms from €56/night, also in Pigneto:


La Lupa in Trastevere Guesthouse (actually in Monteverde) near the famous Porta Portese flea market and a short tram ride away from Trastevere, has doubles with bathroom from €68/night:


Armando’s Belvedere in the student quarter of San Lorenzo near Termini, with doubles from just €50 euro/night:


B&B Tata near the San Giovanni metro (and a new metro line opening soon) with doubles that average around €80/night even in high season:


Nomentana 1 and 2 bedroom apartments near Porta Pia (about a 20 min. walk north of Termini) – with multiple apartments in the building, these are also a great option for larger groups.  Prices start at €85/night for 2 guests and go up to €180/night for 6 guests:


For more information on this last neighborhood, Trieste, check out this blog post of ours.

For a little video on Pigneto, have a look at this video from our friend and food expert, Katie Parla, who gives her tips for where to eat and drink in Pigneto here, and promotes off the beaten track neighborhoods in general here.




Best places to stay around the Colosseum

The little neighborhood just behind the Colosseum is called Celio and it’s the first neighborhood I lived in as an official resident in Rome (so I have a soft spot for it!).  Although small, the neighborhood is a real, living neighborhood, and not just a tourist trap, despite being so close to such a famous monument.  There’s a small street market, a few coffee bars, some great restaurants, including Pizzeria Luzzi on the corner of Via dei Normanni and San Giovanni in Laterano.  There’s the metro line B/blue line nearby, and the lovely little park of Colle Oppio, which was built out of the remains of the Baths of Trajan one of the three largest public bathhouses in ancient Rome.  In Colle Oppio,  there’s a small outdoor cafe, a great place to have an evening aperitivo.  There’s also the Villa Celimontana a beautiful public park with a children’s play area and pony rides.  There’s lots of green and it’s tucked away and quite peaceful for being smack in the middle of a busy area with lots of excellent spots to have a picnic.  If the neighborhood isn’t lively enough for some, you can walk to the other side of the Colosseum to the hip and historic neighborhood of Monti, which is just as picturesque as the area around Piazza Navona, but with better restaurants and less crowds.

Some of my fondest memories are of taking my first daughter when she was 2 years old for evening strolls around the Colosseum to people watch, then to a small cafe called “Cafe Cafe” on SS Quattro, for a glass of port (for me) and some milk and cookies (for her).  Having the Colosseum and the Roman Forum practically as your back yard is pretty memorable, and these places to stay, are definitely affordable, unique and spacious:

Elsa’s B&B with double rooms for €85 /night:


Appartamento Colosseo – sleeps up to 5 guests.  Prices start at €95 /night:


Appartamento Marco Aurelio for €95 /night for 2 guests:



Left Luggage Florence – Where to Store Bags in Florence

We’ve just discovered a service in Florence that stores luggage for you – the only one in the historic center of the city! Just drop your bags off at their location a couple blocks from the Duomo and they’ll securely store the luggage for you and even drop it off for you at your accommodation — or you can pick it up at the same place, if you’re on your way out of the city. It’s open daily and costs €1/hour or €6/day.

Left Luggage Florence
Via de’ Boni 5R
Tel: +39 334 700 7714