At Italy On This Day you will read about events and festivals, about important moments in history, and about the people who have made Italy the country it is today, and where they came from. Italy is a country rich in art and music, fashion and design, food and wine, sporting achievement and political diversity. Italy On This Day provides fascinating insights to help you enjoy it all the more.

1 March 2016

Luigi Vanvitelli – architect

Neapolitan genius drew up a grand design for his royal client

Giacinto Diano's portrait of Luigi Vanvitelli, which is housed at the Royal Palace in Caserta
Giacinto Diano's portrait of Luigi Vanvitelli,
which is housed at the Royal Palace in Caserta
The most famous architect of the 18th century, Luigi Vanvitelli, died on this day in 1773 in Caserta in Campania.

The huge Royal Palace he designed for the Bourbon kings of Naples in Caserta is considered one of the greatest triumphs of the Baroque style of architecture in Italy.

Vanvitelli was born Lodewijk van Wittel in Naples in 1700, the son of a Dutch painter of landscapes, Caspar van Wittel. His father later also took up the Italian surname Vanvitelli.

Luigi Vanvitelli was trained as an architect by Niccolo Salvi and worked with him on lengthening the façade of Gian Lorenzo Bernini’s Palazzo Chigi-Odelscalchi in Rome and on the construction of the Trevi Fountain.

Vanvitelli was eventually commissioned by Charles III, King of Naples, to build a summer palace for the royal family in Caserta and he modelled his design on the Palace of Versailles in France.

He drew up plans for a quadrilateral building, enclosing four courtyards, with 1200 rooms, a chapel, a theatre and the largest staircase in Italy.

Vanvitelli designed both the 1200-room Royal Palace and the spectacular gardens
The imposing 1200-room Royal Palace seen from
the Grande Cascata waterfall
Vanvitelli also devised an aqueduct system to bring in the volume of water needed to run the cascades and the fountains in the gardens.

The architect worked on the Royal Palace until his death in 1773, while also building a church and a monastery in Naples and designing the huge aqueduct that supplied the city with water.

He had been commissioned by Pope Clement XII to design buildings for him in Ancona and had added to Michelangelo’s design for Santa Maria degli Angeli in Rome, as well as contributing to many other famous buildings throughout Italy .

Travel tip:

Vanvitelli wrote in his memoirs that it was the King who designed the Royal Palace at Caserta. This may have been to flatter him or because Charles III knew what he wanted. The celebrated staircase, 18th century royal apartments and court theatre are among the star features of the palace. The architect also designed the famous park, with its Grande Cascata waterfall.

Vanvitelli's pentagonal building was also known as Mole Vanvitelliana
Vanvitelli's unusual Lazzaretto di Ancona, a
pentagonal building on an artificial island
Photo: Claudio Stanco (CC BY-SA 3.0)
Travel tip:

Vanvitelli designed the unusual Lazzaretto di Ancona for Pope Clement XII, which is also sometimes known as the Mole Vanvitelliana. It is a pentagonal building built on an artificial island, which served as a quarantine station for the port town of Ancona in the 18th century.


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