The name of Casa Hirta is quoted for the first time in the 11th century. It is evident that it refers to the geographical position of the medieval town founded in the 8th century, which is situated in a defensive position on a slope of the Monte Virgo belonging to the chain of the Tifatini mountains. It was a landmark for all the inhabitants of the Campania plains, victims of the Saracen raids. With its conquest by the Normans, it became a feudal domain of the Sanseverino family, who lost it in 1268 after they supported Conradin of Swabia against Charles I of Anjou.
The town then passed from one family to another and with the construction of the Reggia (Royal Palace) of Caserta, it gradually depopulated. But the medieval town of the Casertavecchia, perfectly intact, tightly surrounding the cathedral, with its tufa houses, its portals, courtyards, loggias and mullioned windows, is different to the magnificence and the grandiosity of the Royal Palace. The emotional impact however, is the same. While the construction of the Bourbon Reggia di Caserta (Royal Palace of Caserta) resulted in stealing from the old Caserta (its name included) and thus brought about its decline, the project of the royal palace on the other hand brought about the birth and the prosperity of another place: San Leucio.
The hill of San Leucio was bought in 1750 either to facilitate the provision of water for the Royal Palace or to enlarge the dominion of the Bourbons. A hunting lodge belonging to the Duke of Atri, Andrea Matteo d’Aragona-Acquaviva, called the Belvedere, was part of the sixteenth-century village of Torre, which was the feudal property of the Princes of Acquaviva. Ferdinand IV started the restoration of the Belvedere and the construction of a vaccheria (cow house) between 1773 and 1774. In 1789, San Leucio was declared a Royal Colony. Ferdinand IV’s plan was to create a colony with its own statute, devoted to silk manufacturing, and to set up in a town which had yet to be built: Ferdinandopoli.
The construction of the town dreamt by Ferdinand IV was never completed, but its plan, still visible today, is extremely interesting.
The houses started in 1786 are terraced along two rows and show the regular geometric plan which was intended: a central square and radial and concentric roads. Nowadays many factories are active in San Leucio, carrying on the traditional manufacturing of precious fabrics used for furnishing, thus spreading this village’s art of silk manufacturing throughout the world. While the royal dream of San Leucio represented a tangible example of the Bourbon enlightenment, the Royal Palace was for Charles of Bourbon not only the granting of his wish of creating an imposing palace which could compete with Versailles, but also and more practically, the necessity of providing the Napoleonic government with a secure place from a strategic point of view, which was healthy and fertile, and was also exploitable from a political and economic point of view.
One of the largest and most majestic buildings in Italy, it is also one of the most visited places by tourists. It took 22 years to build, from 1752 to 1774. The plans of the Royal Palace of Caserta and the park were designed by the architect Luigi Vanvitelli who followed part of the works, which were completed by his son Charles.