Castel Nuovo (Maschio Angioino)

The Castles of Napoli: The Fortresses of the City

Did you know that the city of Napoli, also known as Naples, is home to seven historic castles that played a significant role in defending the city and the Gulf of Naples from naval attacks in ancient times? These castles are not just mere fortresses but rich cultural landmarks that hold stories of legends, medieval battles, and the city’s resilience. Let’s embark on a journey to explore the Castles of Napoli and immerse ourselves in their captivating history.

Key Takeaways:

  • Seven historic castles in Napoli played a crucial role in defending the city and the Gulf of Naples.
  • Each castle has its own unique stories, legends, and historical significance.
  • Explore the castles of Napoli to appreciate the city’s rich cultural heritage and architectural grandeur.
  • Guided tours are available to provide insights and a deeper understanding of each castle.
  • Plan a visit to these castles to experience the fascinating history of Napoli’s fortresses firsthand.

Castel dell’Ovo

Castel dell’Ovo, meaning “Egg Castle,” is the oldest castle in Napoli and is located on the islet of Megaride. According to legend, the Roman poet Virgil placed an egg in a cage within the castle’s foundation, and as long as the egg remained intact, the city would be safe. The castle offers stunning views of the Gulf of Naples and is a popular landmark in the city.

LocationIslet of Megaride
LegendVirgil’s egg
ViewsStunning views of the Gulf of Naples

Castel Nuovo (Maschio Angioino)

Castel Nuovo, also known as Maschio Angioino, is a medieval castle located in Piazza Municipio. Originally built in 1279, it was later renovated by Alfonso of Aragon to become a modern fortress.

The castle is known for its distinctive trapezoidal layout and features several towers, including the Barons’ Hall, where a conspiracy against Ferrante I d’Aragona took place. Today, it serves as a cultural venue and houses the City Museum.

The History of Castel Nuovo

Castel Nuovo has a rich history that dates back to the Middle Ages. It was originally constructed as a royal residence for Charles I of Anjou. Over the centuries, it underwent numerous transformations, reflecting the architectural styles and military strategies of the time.

During the Renaissance, the castle underwent extensive renovations under the rule of Alfonso of Aragon. He added new defensive structures and commissioned the creation of the Barons’ Hall, an impressive space that served as a meeting place for nobles and witnessed significant events in the city’s history.

In the following centuries, Castel Nuovo played various roles, serving as a royal palace, military fortress, and residence for the viceroys of Naples. It also witnessed political conspiracies and battles, making it an important symbol of power and resistance.

Today, Castel Nuovo stands as one of the most famous and iconic landmarks of Napoli. Its historical significance, architectural beauty, and cultural importance make it a must-visit attraction for locals and tourists alike.

Exploring Castel Nuovo

Visitors to Castel Nuovo can embark on a journey through the castle’s rich history and experience its grandeur firsthand. Upon entering the castle, they will be greeted by its imposing exterior and formidable towers.

Inside, there are several notable areas to explore, including the Barons’ Hall, the Chapel, and the Sala dei Parlamenti. The Barons’ Hall features magnificent frescoes and a stunning wooden ceiling that depicts scenes from mythology and medieval life.

The Chapel, with its intricate medieval artwork and architectural details, offers a peaceful and contemplative space within the castle walls. Meanwhile, the Sala dei Parlamenti, also known as the Hall of Parliaments, hosted important political discussions and deliberations during the Renaissance.

Throughout the castle, visitors can also admire a vast collection of artworks, sculptures, and artifacts that chronicle the history and culture of Napoli.

A Glimpse of the City Museum

Castel Nuovo is not only a fortress and historical landmark but also home to the City Museum. The museum showcases a diverse range of collections that highlight the art, history, and culture of Napoli.

From ancient artifacts and archaeological discoveries to Renaissance masterpieces and contemporary artworks, the City Museum offers a comprehensive exploration of the city’s rich heritage.

Visitors can discover the evolution of the city’s architecture, witness the impact of historical events, and gain insights into the lives of its inhabitants throughout the centuries.

Whether it’s exploring the castle’s architectural wonders, immersing oneself in its history, or marveling at the treasures held within the City Museum, a visit to Castel Nuovo promises a memorable and educational experience.

Castel Sant’Elmo

Castel Sant’Elmo is a medieval fortress situated on the hill of Vomero. Built in the 14th century, this historic castle is one of the most iconic landmarks in Napoli. The fortress offers breathtaking panoramic views of the entire city, allowing visitors to truly appreciate the beauty and grandeur of Napoli.

During the Neapolitan Revolution of 1799, Castel Sant’Elmo played a significant role as it was captured by the people in their fight for freedom. The castle later served as a prison for prominent revolutionaries, standing as a symbol of resistance and the desire for change.

Today, Castel Sant’Elmo has been transformed into a museum and cultural center. It hosts a variety of art exhibitions, showcasing both contemporary and historical works. The castle’s interior is filled with captivating artworks and artifacts, offering visitors a glimpse into the rich cultural heritage of Napoli.

When exploring Castel Sant’Elmo, visitors can also visit the nearby Certosa di San Martino, a stunning monastery that is connected to the castle. This beautiful complex allows visitors to delve deeper into Napoli’s history and art scene, providing a comprehensive experience.

To truly appreciate the magnificence of Castel Sant’Elmo, it is recommended to take the time to explore its various levels and enjoy the panoramic views it offers. From the top of the fortress, visitors can admire the Gulf of Napoli, the bustling city below, and even Mount Vesuvius in the distance. The stunning vistas coupled with the castle’s rich history make Castel Sant’Elmo a must-visit destination for history enthusiasts and travelers alike.

Castel Capuano

Located near Porta Capuana in Napoli, Castel Capuano has a rich history that dates back to the 12th century. Originally built as a royal residence, it later transformed into a courthouse and prison, playing a significant role in the city’s legal affairs. Today, the castle stands as a testament to Napoli’s past and serves as a fascinating historical landmark.

Historical Significance

Castel Capuano holds immense historical importance in Napoli. Throughout the centuries, the castle hosted gatherings of nobles, officials, and influential figures, shaping the city’s political and social landscape. The castle’s architecture reflects the grandeur and power of the ruling class, showcasing the historical significance of Napoli as a city.

“Castel Capuano stands as a testament to the power and authority that once existed within Napoli. It served as more than just a residence; it was a symbol of the city’s legal system and the center of political activity during its time.” – Local Historian

Architectural Elements

The castle features several notable architectural elements that are worth exploring. The Court of Appeal’s Hall is a grand space that showcases the castle’s judicial importance. Inside, visitors can admire remarkable frescoes and ornate decorations. Additionally, the Busts Hall is dedicated to Neapolitan lawyers, honoring their contributions to the city’s legal history.

The Castel Capuano Experience

Visiting Castel Capuano allows you to immerse yourself in Napoli’s past and appreciate the architectural and historical wealth of the city. As you explore the castle’s halls and courtyards, each step unveils stories of power, justice, and intrigue. The castle provides visitors with a fascinating glimpse into the noble and legal realms of Napoli’s history.

Castel Capuano Quick Facts

Napoli, Italy12th centuryRoyal Residence, Courthouse, Prison

Castello del Carmine

The Castello del Carmine, also known as Sperone, is one of the historic castles of Napoli that stands as a testament to the city’s rich architectural heritage. Constructed in 1382 by Charles III of Durazzo, this fortress was strategically positioned at the southern corner of the city walls, serving as a defensive stronghold.

Throughout history, the Castello del Carmine played a crucial role in safeguarding the city and its inhabitants, protecting them from external threats. Today, although the castle has undergone significant changes, only remnants of its former grandeur remain. Visitors can still witness the Torre Spinella and a section of the Aragon walls, which offer glimpses into the castle’s illustrious past.

Exploring the Castello del Carmine provides a unique opportunity to step back in time and imagine the castle’s original splendor. The blend of medieval architecture and strategic positioning makes this castle a fascinating destination for history enthusiasts and tourists alike.

Notable Features of Castello del Carmine:

  • Strategic location at the southern corner of Napoli
  • Defensive stronghold against external threats
  • Remnants of Torre Spinella and Aragon walls
  • Medieval architecture

Visitors to Castello del Carmine can immerse themselves in the history and grandeur of this ancient fortress. The castle’s strategic positioning and architectural beauty make it a must-visit attraction for those interested in discovering the historic castles of Napoli.

CastleYear BuiltLocation
Castel dell’Ovo12th centuryIslet of Megaride
Castel Nuovo (Maschio Angioino)1279Piazza Municipio
Castel Sant’Elmo14th centuryHill of Vomero
Castel Capuano12th centuryNear Porta Capuana
Castello del Carmine1382Southern corner of Napoli
Castello di Nisida14th centuryIslet of Nisida
Forte di Vigliena18th centuryTraining ground for cadets of the Nunziatella Academy

Castello di Nisida

Located on the picturesque islet of Nisida, Castello di Nisida is a captivating castle steeped in history. Built in the 14th century, this fortress was an integral part of Napoli’s defense system, safeguarding the city against potential threats. Throughout the centuries, Castello di Nisida has served various roles, witnessing significant events that shaped the region.

One notable chapter in the castle’s history was during the plague epidemic in 1626 when it was transformed into a lazaretto. Acting as a quarantine location, Castello di Nisida provided refuge and medical care for those affected by the deadly disease.

“Castello di Nisida stands as a testament to the resilience of the people of Napoli, serving as a temporary haven during times of crisis.”

As the pages of history turned, Castello di Nisida took on a different role, becoming a prison for political prisoners. It offered both a formidable stronghold and a place of confinement, witnessing the struggles and aspirations of those fighting for their beliefs.

Today, Castello di Nisida serves a new purpose as it houses an underage penal institute. This transformation reflects the ability of historical sites to adapt and find new meaning in present-day society, bridging the gap between the past and the future.

Historical Significance and Preservation

Castello di Nisida holds immense historical significance, representing the resilience, cultural heritage, and defensive strategies of Napoli throughout the ages. Its medieval architecture and strategic location on the islet make it a noteworthy and visually striking landmark.

To further appreciate the historical and architectural significance of Castello di Nisida, let’s take a closer look:

Key FeaturesDetails
Architectural StyleMedieval
Original Construction14th century
Strategic LocationOn the islet of Nisida
Role during Plague EpidemicLazaretto providing medical care
Role as a PrisonHousing political prisoners
Present-day FunctionUnderage penal institute

Despite the passage of time, Castello di Nisida remains a cherished piece of Napoli’s history, offering visitors a glimpse into the city’s storied past. The castle’s preservation ensures that future generations can appreciate its architectural splendor and learn from the historical events that unfolded within its walls.

Forte di Vigliena

Forte di Vigliena, constructed in the 18th century, is a fortress that has a significant place in the history of historic castles Napoli. Situated in a privileged location, it served as a training ground for cadets of the prestigious Nunziatella Academy. What sets Forte di Vigliena apart is its unique design, with a low height that made it practically invisible from the sea, adding to its strategic value as a defensive structure.

In 1799, Forte di Vigliena bore witness to a fierce battle between the Partenopeans and the Sanfedists, marking a critical episode in Napoli’s history. The castle played its part in the conflict, showcasing its military importance and the determination of those who fought valiantly to defend the city.

While only a few remnants of the castle remain today, there are plans for the creation of an archaeological park in the area, preserving the legacy of Forte di Vigliena and offering visitors a chance to explore its historical significance up close. Historic castles Napoli and the Napoli fortress lovers will find this site intriguing, as it provides a glimpse into the architectural and military prowess of the past.

The History of the Castles of Napoli

The history of the Castles of Napoli is a testament to the city’s rich cultural heritage. These historic fortresses, built over different time periods, showcase the architectural styles and defensive strategies employed throughout history. Let’s delve into the fascinating stories behind each castle, from the ancient legends surrounding Castel dell’Ovo to the strategic positioning of Castel Capuano and the pivotal role played by Castel Nuovo in the city’s history.

Exploring the Castles of Napoli

Exploring the castles of Napoli is an enriching experience that allows visitors to delve into the city’s past and witness its architectural grandeur. These historic fortresses, such as Castel dell’Ovo, Castel Sant’Elmo, and Castel Nuovo, offer a captivating glimpse into Napoli’s rich cultural heritage.

Several tour operators provide guided tours to these remarkable sites, offering visitors a chance to explore the hidden corners and uncover the stories behind each castle. These tours provide valuable insights into the historical significance and cultural heritage of the Castles of Napoli, sharing captivating stories of conquest, intrigue, and royal power.

During these tours, visitors can admire the stunning views of the Gulf of Napoli from Castel dell’Ovo, explore the medieval architecture of Castel Sant’Elmo, and discover the secrets of Castel Nuovo, known as Maschio Angioino. Each castle has its own unique charm, history, and architectural style, making the journey through Napoli’s castles a truly unforgettable experience.

Whether you join a small group tour or opt for a private excursion, exploring the castles of Napoli will give you a deeper understanding of the city’s past and its importance throughout history. From the strategic fortifications to the opulent interiors, these castles offer a glimpse into the lives of nobles, rulers, and defenders who shaped Napoli’s destiny.

To make the most of your visit, plan your tour ahead of time and consider combining castle visits with other must-see attractions in the city. Immerse yourself in Napoli’s rich culture, sample delicious local cuisine, and discover the hidden treasures that make this city so unique.

Don’t miss the opportunity to discover the best castles in Napoli and uncover the secrets that lie within their walls. Explore the Castles of Napoli and embark on a journey through history, architecture, and enchantment.


The Castles of Napoli, with their breathtaking architecture and captivating stories, serve as remarkable witnesses to the city’s rich history. Each castle, from the ancient Castel dell’Ovo to the majestic Castel Sant’Elmo, holds its own unique charm and historical significance.

Exploring these historic fortresses allows visitors to immerse themselves in the wealth of culture and heritage that Napoli has to offer. Whether it’s gazing at the panoramic views from Castel Sant’Elmo or marveling at the legends surrounding Castel dell’Ovo, these castles provide an unforgettable experience for history enthusiasts and travelers alike.

If you’re seeking a journey through time and a deeper understanding of Napoli’s past, a visit to these castle landmarks is a must. Discover the captivating history of the Castles of Napoli firsthand and let yourself be transported to a bygone era filled with legends, conquests, and remarkable architectural beauty.


How many historic castles are there in Napoli?

There are seven historic castles in Napoli, namely Castel dell’Ovo, Castel Nuovo (Maschio Angioino), Castel Sant’Elmo, Castel Capuano, Castello del Carmine, Castello di Nisida, and Forte di Vigliena.

Which is the oldest castle in Napoli?

The oldest castle in Napoli is Castel dell’Ovo, meaning “Egg Castle,” located on the islet of Megaride.

What is the legend associated with Castel dell’Ovo?

According to legend, the Roman poet Virgil placed an egg in a cage within the castle’s foundation, and as long as the egg remained intact, the city would be safe.

What is Castel Nuovo also known as?

Castel Nuovo is also known as Maschio Angioino.

What is the significance of Castel Nuovo?

Castel Nuovo is a medieval castle known for its distinctive trapezoidal layout and towers. It served as a venue for important gatherings and later became a cultural venue and City Museum.

Where is Castel Sant’Elmo located?

Castel Sant’Elmo is located on the hill of Vomero.

What can visitors expect at Castel Sant’Elmo?

Castel Sant’Elmo offers panoramic views of the entire city of Napoli. It now serves as a museum and hosts art exhibitions and cultural events.

What is the historical significance of Castel Capuano?

Castel Capuano was initially a royal residence and later transformed into a courthouse and prison. It held significant gatherings and features notable halls dedicated to Neapolitan lawyers.

When was Castello del Carmine built?

Castello del Carmine was built in 1382 by Charles III of Durazzo.

What can visitors see at Castello del Carmine today?

Today, visitors can see the Torre Spinella and a section of the Aragon walls that remain as a testament to its former grandeur.

Where is Castello di Nisida located?

Castello di Nisida is located on the islet of Nisida.

What roles did Castello di Nisida play throughout history?

Castello di Nisida served as part of the city’s defense system, a lazaretto during a plague epidemic, and later became a prison for political prisoners.

What is unique about Forte di Vigliena?

Forte di Vigliena is a fortress known for its low height, making it invisible from the sea. It served as a training ground for cadets and witnessed a significant battle in 1799.

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