I visited Caserta twice during my year in Italy, once in October and once in December, 1998. My first visit accomplished little research and my second not much more, but I definitely enjoyed the city very much. Overall, I did not uncover anything substantial; however, just to have visited this beautiful city was rewarding enough.
|The Comune di Caserta is located directly North of Naples, in the Campania region of Southern Italy. It is reachable easily by a commuter train from Naples. Caserta is known as the "Versailles of Naples" because the Neapolitan Bourbons established it as their capital and built a magnificent palace there in the Eighteenth century.|
|The city is located in a valley, chosen for its flatness and access to nearby quarries for the building of the palace. It is quite an expansive city by Italian standards, although no where near the size of Naples.|
|The Palazzo Reale stands as the obvious center of the city. The famous architect Vanvitelli designed the palace for Carlo III, the Bourbon ruler of the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies, or the Kingdom of Naples. Started in 1752, construction lasted only a little over twenty years, a remarkable feat considering the times and the scale of the project. This palace is considered one of the greatest architectural works of the Eighteenth century. Another interesting fact is that it served as the setting for the Naboo palace in the recent Star Wars movie, The Phantom Menace.|
|Caserta was heavily bombed during the Second World War because it was a thriving industrial center. Later during the war, it served as a base for the Allies during the invasion of Italy. It still bears many scars from the war, including a cemetary holding the bodies of fallen soldiers of the British forces.|
|On the outskirts of the city there lies Casertavecchia, which has existed far longer than the more modern city. This beautiful hill-town is definitely worth the trip up the mountain.|
Now that I have discussed the city, let me move on to my research. Letters from relatives have indicated that Steven Natale was born in Caserta. On my second visit in December, 1998, I went to the Municipio, the city hall, to research his name. Although the gentleman in the Vital Records office was less than enthusiastic about my research, he agreed to look in the index because I had an exact date of birth. He did not find any Natale's born in April of 1893, but he did find one, Stefano Natale, who was born in July of that year. I was very excited and the next day rushed to the office in San Clemente, the frazione of the city where this man was born, to further investigate. As it turns out, however, this Stefano Natale was also married in Caserta in 1942, a long time after my great-grandfather had come to the US, making it impossible that they were the same person. Further research in the city did not uncover anything more.
One problem may be that Steven Natale was not from exactly the city of Caserta; rather, from somewhere in the general area. I have yet to find a passenger record for his family so possibly more research in the US will help. Another possibility is that his believed birth date is inaccurate, a likely possibility. The offices in Italy will not let you search through their records, so unless you have a correct date, at least a year, research is extremely difficult.