Castel dell’Ovo is the oldest castle in Naples and is one of the constructions that stand out the most when you approach the city from the sea.
Its name derives from an ancient legend about the Latin poet Virgil, who hid an egg in the foundation of the fortress, saying that its breaking would have caused not only the collapse of the castle, but also a series of disastrous catastrophes to the city of Naples.
During the 14th century, the castle suffered extensive damage due to the partial collapse of an arch and, to prevent the panic spreading among the population for the alleged future catastrophes that would have hit the city, the queen Giovanna I had to swear she had replaced the broken egg.
In a document dating back to 1128, a fortification is mentioned on the island of Megaride, now a peninsula, the place where the Castel dell’Ovo will be built later. In 1140, Roger the Norman, conquering Naples, settled in this fortress.
Castel dell’Ovo is further fortified in 1222 by Frederick II, who makes it the seat of the royal treasure and has other towers built, the castle becoming a palace and a state prison.
The king Charles I of Anjou built a new castle, Castel Nuovo, and moved the court there, but he kept at Castel dell’Ovo the royal treasure. Alfonso V of Aragon, initiator of the Aragonese domination in Naples, brought further renovations to the castle, restoring the pier, strengthening the defensive structures and lowering the towers.
The castle was damaged by the French army of Louis XII and by the Spanish army of Gonzalo Fernández de Córdoba. In 1503, the siege of Ferdinand II of Aragon definitively destroyed what remained of the towers.
The castle was then again renovated, taking the form we see today. The octagonal towers were rebuilt, the walls thickened, and the defensive structures were oriented towards the land, and no longer towards the sea.
During the reign of the Spanish Viceroys and later of the Bourbons, the castle was fortified even more with batteries and two drawbridges. The structure completely lost the function of royal residence in the 18th century, and was used afterwards as a shelter and military outpost.
During the period of the Risanamento, which changed the face of Naples after the Unification of Italy, a project developed in 1871 proposed the demolition of the castle to make room for a new district. However, that project was not implemented and the building remained in the possession of the state until the beginning of a new restoration in 1975.
HOW TO GET THERE
At the same distance from the castle, around 400 meters, there are two bus stations – Chiatamone and Santa Lucia – Regione Campania, both reachable with the buses 128, 140, 154 and C25. If you want to discover Naples on foot – a thing that we strongly recommend, use the map below.