Reporting on the worsening conditions of one of Itally's jewels, the Caserta's Royal Bourbon Palace, has been a rather depressing affair over the years.
The Reggia di Caserta is the largest palace built in Europe in the 18th century, only comparable to Versailles, and once hosted the kings of Naples and Sicily. It has often hit the headlines for various scandals regarding mismanagement and lack of maintanance, including the risk of closure for debts in 2009; just a year ago its image was further dented when drug pushers were arrested just outside its magnificent grounds.
One of the points disputed since the 1990s, was the presence of the Air Force occupying 20-25% of the Reggia. In 1998 the New York Times reported:
"Unlike Versailles, however, the palace in Caserta is not solely a museum. Only 44 rooms are open to the public. Eight hundred rooms are now under military occupation - specifically, the Italian Air Force's training school for noncommissioned officers.
The museum director, the Culture Ministry and art lovers want the military out. But the general in command at Caserta and his men would prefer to stay, and they argue that they have no other place to go. Local officials are caught in the middle: They want the military to leave the palace, but they also want them to stay in Caserta, where they provide 300 jobs and spend about $9 million a year."
Now, after almost two decades, Italy's culture minister Dario Franceschini, said that the Air Force would be kicked out of the Reggia di Caserta to make sure the continuous episodes of damage and disrepair will not recur and thus ending a decades-long row on the condition of the palace.
He reached a deal with Defence Minister Roberta Pinotti according to which the Air Force will soon leave the historic site near Naples, the Royal Palace "is finally going to be freed of its awkward Italian-aviator occupants", Francescini said.
This means that "a single management team" will have to take over the running of the Reggia with clear responsibility, hopefully avoiding the problems related to accountability for mismanagement faced in the past. Just recently a large hole opened up in the roof of the 18th-century UNESCO-listed Bourbon Palace , spurring a new round of complaints about the military presence there.
We hope this will be the first step in the right direction and, as usual, will continue reporting about the royal palace following the debate with the same attention we devote to the cruise ships in Venice case.