If I had the money to save a building of all those that I have seen this is the one that I would save.
We saw it for the first time this summer – small, elegant, corroded and propped up; its perfect proportions reflected in the blue green lake as the sun went down.
The lodge sits just inside the lake, completely surrounded by water, each of its sides open to different views.
To the front is the sea separated from the lake by a strip of land, while behind and to each side, buildings push up through the trees with some parts more concrete than green.
The two men who created this lodge knew each other well. Both their families had worked together before, both were the sons of famous men, and both had foreign grandfathers.
The man who commissioned the building, Ferdinando IV, King of Naples, was the son of Carlo di Borbone, the young royal from Spain who took the throne of Naples in 1734 aged 18.
The man who designed it was Carlo Vanvitelli (1739-1821), the son of Luigi Vanvitelli who was the architect and engineer for Carlo di Borbone.
But before they could start on ‘la casina’ they had to finish a very different project – the royal palace at Caserta, one of the grandest palaces in all of Europe.
Their fathers had begun this super-palace but neither of them were there to finish it off – Carlo di Borbone had been called back to become king of Spain (1759), and Luigi Vanvitelli died in 1773 the year before the palace was more or less completed.
This left Ferdinando IV and Carlo Vanvitelli in charge. By 1774 the palace, with its 1,200 rooms and almost three hundred acres of gardens, was more or less complete.
Caserta out of the way there was time for new projects and Lago Fusaro was chosen to host one of them – the little poem of a building we visited in late July – La Casina Vanvitelliana.
This royal playhouse is so cleverly designed, so pleasing, that you almost forget how many straight lines are involved. In all it has twelve sides, and two main floors each with a large central room which has been angled into a round.
The building as a whole is pale and petite, surrounded by a natural lake, and, unlike its giant of a cousin, has no fountains or formal gardens.
But what La Casina Vanvitelliana does not have in size and assertion, it makes up for with poise and position.
It sits like a pearl near the edge of a shell, with the lake for its setting.
Perhaps this was the original intention as under Frederick IV Lago Fusaro became famous for its oysters.
The lodge also entertained many of the celebrities of the day – including, as far as I can find out, Nicholas I Tzar of Russia, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Gioachino Rossini.
Inside it was well known for its landscape scenes by Sir Philip Hackert and the beauty of its tiled floor. Apparently the paintings were removed during the revolution of 1799 and the tiles on the floor disappeared after the Second World War.
So, it’s a little denuded today but the light and air are still there, as well as the careful brilliance of the building’s design.
Originally the only way to reach the lodge was by boat.
It’s easier now thanks to the addition of a relatively new feature, a wooden bridge which is sought after as a backdrop for wedding photographs.
On the evening we visited several parties waited their turn in the park but no-one seemed to mind the wait – or the weary plaster, or the scaffolding – because something else … the romance was clearly still there.
La Casina Vanvitelliana feels like a place that’s been loved, and that is still loved by those who know it.
I hope it finds its saviour because at the moment the fact that it’s open at all is thanks to volunteers.
Copyright Georgie Knaggs & The Phraser 2018
A few sources for further interest are:
A piece in Italian about the oysters on Lago Fusaro
Aeneas and Lago Fusaro the Archerusian Lake
Account of La Casina Vanvitelliana
Just found this and read it. I lived just down the road in Cuma from ,1971-74. Your article made me feel like I was there again. Thank you!
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Hi – your comment has made me so happy! Thanks. So glad you found the piece. All the best Georgie
Reblogged this on The Phraser and commented:
We visited this little lodge last August, towards the end of our two years near Naples, Italy. It was evening when we arrived. The heat had gone, the light bounced off the lake, and wedding parties posed on the bridge.
All these years and I have never visited it! What are the opening hours? You have peaked my curiosity. Bambi
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Hi Bambi – sorry so long in replying. Has been a bit hectic this Ferragosto. The opening hours according to a Facebook page I found are 3pm – 5pm but I know we went on a weekend and it was 4pm to around 7pm I think. We had to go away and come back. Cost was 3 Euro. As far as I understand it is being run by volunteers so hours etc may be subject to availability of people to be at the site. Definitely worth a look. What we found so striking on going in was the sensation of light and space especially on the first floor which was, apparently, for the king alone. Hope you find this reply. Here is the link to the Facebook site https://www.facebook.com/Real-Sito-del-Fusaro-Casina-Vanvitelliana-63342898701/ A presto Georgie
I do enjoy your blogs with their superb photographs…..your are amazing to write up so many interesting and lovely places. You must know Naples better than anyone , even most residents of the place.
I can’t seem to comment after reading….no computer seems to like my password or something.
Rowland may be able to sort the problem out.
Anyway I am just sending this quick email.
Naples is going to miss you but we all here will be pleased to see you and Charles and the gang at
Lots of love from me in sunny(today) Cirencester,
Sent from my iPad
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Dear Petronella – I am sorry not to reply instantly. We’ve just had all the gang staying so has been a bit frantic. So happy to get your comments re the blogs. I love knowing that you read them … I’m very appreciative of all your support – thanks. Even better to know that you’ve been to Naples and seen a lot of these places for yourself. We still think of you every time we see the oleander along the edges of the roads. Hope it’s not too cold there in Cirencester and that the famous magician Rowland resolves any computer issues for you 🙂 Love from us in Napoli Georgie