Twelve families found living in Italian palace for €5 a month

The Italian Court of Audit is investigating how 12 families came to be living in the grounds of a Bourbon palace in southern Italy for a peppercorn rent.

Twelve families found living in Italian palace for €5 a month
Houses were rented in the grounds of an Italian Unesco site for as little as €5 a month. Photo: Wikimedia

Since the 1990s, the families have been renting the homes belonging to the local authorities for between just €5 and €15 a month.

They were also exempt from paying gas and electricity bills. 

The properties are located a stone's throw from the Royal Botanical Gardens in the grounds of the Palace of Caserta, an 18th Bourbon mansion near Naples, which is often dubbed 'the Italian Versailles' as it was inspired by France's Palace of Versailles.

Over the past two decades the families, believed to be ex-employees of the palace and their descendants, have been free to roam the fountain-filled grounds of the Unesco World Heritage site which stretches for some 120 hectares.

The Court of Audit is now investigating how they received such favourable rates, opening a probe into possible “abuse of office”, Il Fatto Quotidiano reported.

The families were issued with eviction notices, but only one family has left, a spokerperson for the palace told the newspaper.

The spokesperson was unavailable for comment when contacted by The Local.

The eviction notices were issued before Italy’s Culture Ministry hired Tomasso Felicori to take over as director of the palace last year as part of its aim to revive the country’s cultural treasures.

Felicori, who recently received an unusual complaint from trade unions – that he “worked too hard” – made a statement on Facebook about the remaining lodgers.

“All the tenants have legal contracts on questionable terms,” he wrote. 

“They were served with an eviction notice by my predecessor and if they haven't done so already they should get ready to leave.”

The latest revelations come less than a month after an investigation exposed hundreds of properties in Rome, owned the authorities, that were being rented at rock bottom prices, costing the city some €100 million in lost revenue.

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Italy’s Royal Palace of Caserta bans carriages after horse’s death

The Reggia di Caserta, one of southern Italy's biggest tourist attractions, will no longer allow horse-drawn carriage rides after a horse died in the summer heat.

Italy's Royal Palace of Caserta bans carriages after horse’s death
A horse-drawn carriage in the grounds of the Royal Palace of Caserta. File photo: Andreas Solaro/AFP
The Reggia di Caserta, or Royal Palace of Caserta, will no longer allow the carriages to operate within its grounds, following public outrage after the death of a horse as it pulled a carriageload of tourists in the midday sun.
“The horse-drawn carriage service at Reggio di Caserta has ceased,” read a statement issued by the palace's management.
The current arrangement with a company operating the horse-drawn carriages on palace grounds has been terminated and new contracts will not be awarded following the death, Italian media reports.
The carriages used to transport visitors around the large grounds may be replaced with electric golf buggy-style vehicles.
The horse collapsed around midday on August 12th, at the height of the current spell of hot summer weather.
Animal rights campaigners condemned the palace following the death, saying the horse was “killed by heat and fatigue” –  though veterinarians said this has not yet been confirmed by post-mortem.

Local prosecutors are reportedly considering pressing charges of animal abuse against the company operating the carriages.
This was just the latest in a string of such incidents across Italian tourist hotspots.
In 2019, a a horse collapsed on the central Via dei Condotti while hauling a botticella, a tourist carriage, while in 2012, a horse collapsed in the sweltering summer heat, and the driver was seen beating the stricken animal before police officers intervened.

There have long been campaigns against the practice across Italy, but they seem to have had little impact. In Rome, the carriages are still use despite a law aimed at removing them being passed back in July 2019.