Does it look hot? It ought to look hot. It was hot! We are in the gardens behind the Royal Palace of Caserta, about 20 miles north of Naples, Italy. Trust me - that Mediterranean sun in late July is, well, hot.
Did I say it was hot? The sun just beat you into submission that day.
Did I say gardens? More like a park. Almost 300 acres and two miles in length. Although similar, it is widely believed to be superior in beauty to the park at Versailles. One of the things I remember vividly is that it was so hot, my girls weren't really up for the excursion. The younger one insisted on being carried everywhere. Sure - that cooled us down. If the truth be told though, I would jump at the chance to carry her around again. Tempus fugit.
Inspired by the Versailles, Charles VII of Naples began construction of this palace in 1752. Never heard of him or it you say? Maybe not, but you've probably seen it. The Palace was used as the location for Queen Amidala's Royal Palace on Naboo in the 1999 film Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace and in the 2002 film Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones as Queen Jamilla's palace. The same room was also used in Mission: Impossible III as Vatican City, and the main staircase is used in Angels & Demons as the Vatican's staircase.
My other memory of this day was what happened at the train station. We were traveling by chartered buses as a large group of American and Italian students. After our tour of the palace, we had all returned to the buses where many sacked out. Even the Italians were worn out by the heat! One of the Italian parents rounded up a small group of us and said lets go over to the train station where there was place we could get something to drink. I jumped at the opportunity while my three ladies were resting.
I had just finished one of those wonderful Italian concoctions and was standing on the train platform waiting for the others. I looked up and saw the station sign "CASERTA," and it hit me. My wife is Italian. Her father was born in Italy. Her mother's parents were also born in Italy, and they immigrated from very near Caserta. Surely I was standing on the platform where her maternal grandparents said there last good-byes to the area they called home.
I later told my wife where I went, and of course, we both wished she had been with me. Had I known the café was going to be in that train station, I would certainly have suggested it to her. I know it would have been a most special experience for her.