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This medieval borgo is one of the better-preserved in all Italy. When the king built his palace in the valley below he required a large part of the population to move there as well, abandoning the town. Dominated by a castle that is today in ruins, the village is built around the cathedral, a fine example of Norman-Arab architectural style. Dedicated to St. Michael, it was built by the Normans in the 12th century, using paleochristian elements as well as material from a nearby temple to Jupiter. The church is built of tufa stone -- like the rest of the town -- with delicate highlights in white marble: the three portals, the window frames, the decorative columns, and a number of zoomorphic sculptures. The dome is covered by a beautiful tiburio -- roofed tower -- where the Arab influence is readily visible. The octagonal structure has geometric designs in alternate yellow and gray tufa stone, with an ornate intertwining of arches supported by little white columns. Inside you can admire the altar encrusted in mosaic, and the baptismal font from the 4th century. The handsome facade is completed by a 13th-century bell tower, under which passes the main street of the town; it is topped by an octagonal roof and decorated in similar fashion to the cathedral.

Behind the Duomo, on the main street, is the Chiesetta dell'Annunziata, a Gothic church built at the end of the 13th century; the portico was added in the 18th century, but behind it you can admire the original facade with the beautiful marble portal. Farther on is the 11th-century Norman Castle; most of its original structure -- a central core with six towers -- is in ruins, but the powerful main tower remains.

Do take the time to stroll through the borgo's narrow medieval streets, admiring their original paving and the well-preserved medieval decorative details of the buildings and stone archways. Not surprisingly, the town is a favorite dinner destination for locals, who come to enjoy the food, the view, and the atmosphere, especially during warm weather and on weekends. Between the last Monday of August and September 15, Casertavecchia hosts a well-established music and art festival, Settembre al Borgo (www.casertamusica.com), and the borgo comes alive with concerts, theater, and dance.