The Second Rome – Fortunes and Misfortunes of a forgotten city

Usually not in the Italian most visited top-ten areas – the province of Caserta, situated just a few kilometres northern than Naples, has a lot to offer. The main city in this area is, as one may easily guess, Caserta itself, with its world famous Royal Palace – where some parts of Star Wars I and II and Mission Impossible III were shot.
Even though there have been many films recently which have beautifully described the area and the many problems afflicting it, at the same time they scared tourists away, the area is still not as dangerous as Congo and there are many other smaller towns and villages that are really worth a visit (just keep your eyes open and your bags closed).

One may start from Santa Maria Capua Vetere, a 34.000 inhabitants’ city, that was very well known in Cicero times; good old Marcus Tullius once described it as “altera Roma”, which means “a second Rome”, and even before, the Roman historian Livy had referred to it as “urbis maxima opulentissima que Italiae”, that is to say “the biggest and richest city in Italy”. And they were not mistaken: in Santa Maria there are monuments that are of great relevance for the Roman and Pre-Roman history.

One of these is the Amphitheatre, which is the first amphitheatre ever built and the second largest in the world after the Coliseum in Rome. This theatre was built in the I century BC in the times of Roman emperor Augustus and used as an arena where different kinds of battles and games were played. There were fights between gladiators and beasts and also naval combats (in this case the arena was filled with water). Next to it there is the gladiators´ school where the famous Spartacus, leader of a revolt against the Roman army, used to train.

Another important place you should visit is the Mitreum (I century AC), a temple dedicated to the worship of the Indo-Iranian divinity Mitra. The temple is situated in the basement of a private house; this means that you have to ask the owner of the house to show it to you. But no worries, he is very friendly and can give you much information about that special part of his own house.

These are just the highlights of Santa Maria Capua Vetere. The city is freckled with numerous remains of its “opulent” past, and you can see them just by walking around. This page, however, cannot contain them all. That is why I warmly recommend you to go there by yourself and get a first-hand experience of this land´s undiscovered charms.


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