Surfing on the internet in search of festivals, events and manifestations in Campania, I was interested in a very original exhibition: “Cake Fest at the Belvedere di San Leucio“. I coludn’t miss the sweetest event of the season, so I invited some friends of mine – who were fond of pastry – to go and participate in the event.
As soon as I cross the threshold of the ancient Bourbon residence, I find myself immersed in a dream! Not cakes, but real sculptures, so beautiful that I’d be sorry to spoil them by eating them! My attention is immediately captured by a cake whose predominant colours are red and yellow. At first I can’t explain my attraction for this cake, but after a while I realise that it is inspired by the motifs of my favourite painter: Gustav Klimt.
Another artistic creation that fascinates me is a sculpture that perfectly reproduces two goldfish chasing each other in the water. It looks like glass, but instead it is sugar! The ingredient which is used to make these works of art is isosmalt, a sugar substitute. It looks like sugar, but when it melts it becomes as thin as hair. When it dries, it becomes like glass.
A large part of the exhibition area is inspired by the world of fairy tales: many cakes reproduce Alice in Wonderland, The White Rabbit, The Mad Hatter, Pinocchio, Jiminy Cricket, The Wolf disguised as grandmother. And there’s also the gingerbread house of Hansel and Gretel!
Visitors can take part in cake design classes and make their own cakes. Their works are going to be on display at the exhibition. In addition to cakes, it is also possible to see fruit and vegetable sculptures. Moreover, people who actually want to learn this kind of art can buy cake design magazines andget to know the experts who are organizing courses on the subject.
The monumental complex of the Belvedere di San Leucio, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is the ideal place for exhibitions, weddings, festivals and other events. For exemple the so called Leuciana Festival is a summer music festival that started in 1999. Every summer, in July, Italian and foreign singers perform in the Cortile dei Serici, the yard of the building. Same of the artists who have taken part to the festival so far are: Ron, Luca Carboni, Avion Travel, Samuele Bersani, Enzo Avitabile, Enrico Ruggeri, Eduardo Bennato, Bob Geldof.
San Leucio is the ideal place to spend summer evenings: breathtaking views, starry sky, a landscape and a climate that allow you to regenerate yourself and forget the noise and the heat of the town for a while. Yet the Belvedere is not only a beautiful panoramic terrace, it is a place with a charming, unbelievable story.
The hill – owned by the Acquarivas, princes of Caserta – was bought by the Bourbons in 1750. The area was destined to become a hunting reserve of the king.
Since the local population had spontaneously started working silk, Charles III – at the suggestion of Minister Tanucci – thought of sending the young people of the place to France, to perfect the techniques of weaving. But it was Ferdinand IV who gave this activity an industrial characterization. In 1778 the Royal Colony of San Leucio was established, which in 1879 acquired its own statute. Workers and their families were given public education and health care, as well as a house with running water. The houses of the silk factory workers are perfectly preserved and inhabited even today! The benefits enjoyed by the inhabitants of the colony – including gender equality – were such that they attracted workers from Genoa, Piedmont and France.
This social project was the result of the entrepeneurship of an enlightened king. Unfortunately, the project was abandoned with the arrival of Napoleon, and it was totally forgotten after the Unification of Italy. But the silky tradition has survived and is still carried on by private individuals. San Leucio silk is appreciated all over the world, and is requested by Buckingham Palace, the White House, the Quirinale. If silk was originally used almost exclusively for bedspreads and curtains, we can now appreciate it in flags, coats of arms, centrepieces, Christmas decorations etc.
The old factory has been replaced by the Silk Museum, where one can see the the ancient machinery of the eighteenth century. “Silk Mills” for exemple had to strenghten the silk thread produced by worms, which could be several hundred metres long, but also particularly thin. The machinery moves with the hydraulic energy produced by the Caroline Aqueduct.
The San Silvestro Wood is close to the Belvedere. In the forest there were the rooms intended to house the king and his court during the hunting trips. These rooms, the old sheepfold and the rooms used by the servants to cook the products of the land have been transformed into a shelter with beds, bathrooms and heating sytem. It is also possible to stay in the woods – oasis of the WWF – with a camper van.
The wood is now a WWF Oasis run by an association called La Ghiandaia and students and families can take part in guided tours this association organises. Night-time visits allow you to observe phenomena such as bioluminescence or species such as bats. It is also possible to admire the stars with the help of telescopes. Among the daytime routes are: the honey trail and the olive oil route. The honey tour that allows visitors to witness the opening of hive and to taste honey. In the olive oil tour visitors can see the harvesting of olives and their milling, and finally taste freshly produced oil.
Walking in the wood one could be lucky enough to meet foxes, turtles, butterflies, etc.
It is not surprising that Ferdinand IV preferred San Leucio Belvedere to the Royal Palace of Caserta. This place is magic and after 250 years it still transmits that sense of peace and equality that was at the base of the social experiment wanted by the enlightened monarch. We are all equal when, every summer, we return to sit down on the magical steps of the Belvedere to observe the stars!
Copyright photos: Anna Visconti
Article written by: A. Visconti