2 Castles & 2 Bonuses

The plan I formulated at lunch for this afternoon was to have a castle theme. My plan called for visiting two castles, the Castel Nuovo and Castel dell’Ouvo. Things didn’t go completely according to plan, but the route brought me a couple of bonus sights.

I’m tired. Let’s get right to it, shall we?

First of Two Castles: Castel Nuovo

You might remember from yesterday that I was shocked upon seeing a big, imposing fort down by the port. The reason I was shocked is I had absolutely no recollection of it from my previous trip to Naples, but there is absolutely way I could have not seen it then. As, I said. It’s big. It’s imposing.

I guess the best-before date on my memory is less than ten and a half years. That’s how long it’s been since that first trip to Naples.

With that refresher from yesterday out of the way, it turns out it’s not a fort. It’s an old castle, Castel Nuovo, as you might have guessed from the title.

I went to the ticket counter at the castle and asked how much it costs to go in. They told me it’s six euros for entry into the courtyard, museum, and chapel, but for ten euros more I could get a guided tour that also took me into an archaeological area and up to a terrace on the roof with a view of the port.

I asked for the 16-euro ticket. They told me no, they could sell me only the six-euro ticket. I had to go to another ticket office across the courtyard to buy the tour ticket. You’d think they could organize things more efficiently, but whatever. I bought my two tickets.

Most of the information below comes from the guide, but some comes from my guidebooks.

The original castle was constructed in a gothic style and completely in 1282. I was named Castel Nuovo, New Castle, to distinguish it from the older castles already in Naples.

According to the guide, there used to be seven castles in Naples. Today, you can visit only four. I’ll probably limit my visits to just the two I saw this afternoon.

I guess a city can’t have too many castles. Toronto, my hometown has only Casa Loma, and that’s pretty much a faux castle.

While the original castle was Gothic, what’s standing now is in the Renaissance style. In 1443, King Alfonso V, who was based in Valencia, Spain, dropped by and conquered Naples. Some people just can’t be satisfied with what they have. I thought about trying to conquer Naples while I’m here, but I wasn’t sure I had the time.

King Alfonso had much of the Castel Nuovo knocked down and rebuilt in the Renaissance style. I guess if you’ve got enough money you can go around doing gut rehabs on castles to suit your tastes. I wouldn’t know.

Today, the only remaining gothic part of the castle is its rather stark chapel.

There is a lot of archaeological history under the Castel Nuovo. One room at ground level has a glass floor that you can walk on. Below that is the excavated lower part of the walls of a large villa that used to be on the site. The glass floor also shows some bones from the cemetery that was on the site after the villa.

The guide took us downstairs to show us some more excavations, including one that dug down quite deep so you can see the stratification of the layers of deposits from explosions of Mount Vesuvius, including ones that preceded the one that destroyed Pompeii.

One of the rooms the guide took us to used to be the thrown room. Now it’s called the Hall of the Barons. Some barons plotted a conspiracy against King Ferdinand I, son of Alfonso V. Ferdinand got wind of it and, as you can imagine, was less than pleased.

Alfonso staged a fake wedding and invited the barons. When the barons arrived, archers positioned in a corridor around the thrown room near its ceiling that’s open onto the thrown room shot their arrows and killed the barons. Nice of them to name a room in honour of the people they’ve executed.

There is a room in the castle that displays some of the bones of the executed barons. History can be quite brutal, can’t it?

Today, Naples city council uses the Hall of the Barons for council meetings. I hope for their sakes that none of the councilors plot a conspiracy against the mayor.

At the end of her time with us, the guide took us to a staircase leading up to the rooftop terrace. She then told us we had to walk up floor floors, where a colleague of hers would meet us. Two elevator doors sat in front of us at the base of the stairs. The guide said we couldn’t use the elevators because they are only for the people who work there. The city council has some offices in the fort because, what city doesn’t have offices in a castle?

The rooftop terrace doesn’t surround the whole castle. It affords a nice view of the port, but the rest of the castle blocks the view of Mount Vesuvius.

The castle also contains a small municipal museum with some paintings. I made a mental note of the centuries the paintings dated from so I could report that here. One day I’ll learn to not rely on mental notes. I forget.

That was just one of the two castles I sort of visited this afternoon. I had a couple of bonuses along the way between them.

Bonus 1: ‎⁨Basilica of St. Francesco

As I walked along I came to a large square with two buildings on opposite sides of it. Unlike Castel Nuovo, I remembered seeing those buildings on my previous visit to Naples. On one side is a large red brick building that’s the Royal Palace. I seem to remember going into it during that long ago visit, but I don’t remember what’s inside. What I remember most about it is what is visible from the outside, some jaunty statues in small alcoves on the wall of the palace.

My guidebooks tell me it’s not worth going in, so I didn’t go in to refresh my memory.

On the other side of the square is a large circular building with two curved wings protruding off either side of it. I remembered the building, but I didn’t remember going into it before. My guidebooks didn’t have much to say about it, positive or negative. But the circular building was open and I was there, so I went in.

It’s the ‎⁨Basilica of St. Francesco. I very much liked it. It’s, as I said, a circular building. It’s quite austere, but it has a perfectly domed roof and a simple elegance to it.

Bonus 2: The Port and Vesuvius

My route also took me along a street that overlooks the port, particularly the small-craft port. The cruise-ship port is close to it, but before the point where I joined that street.

From that street, I got a good view of the sea and Mount Vesuvius across the bay. That is to say, I would have had a good view if it wasn’t hazy, which it was.

You can, nevertheless, clearly make out Mount Vesuvius in the accompanying photo. The lower mountain to the left is not Vesuvius. It’s an extinct volcano, the name of which I forget and I couldn’t find it quickly on a map. Vesuvius is on the right and definitely not extinct. It erupted most frequently in 1944. And it’s expected to erupt again some time.

Second of Two Castles: Castel dell’Ovo

Castel dell’Ovo is another imposting castle on the sea, but almost beyond the harbour. It was built in the 12th century by the Normans. It sits on a small islet just off the mainland, to which it is connected by a causeway.

Second of Two Castles: Castel dell'Ovo
Second of Two Castles: Castel dell’Ovo

Castel dell’Ovo, Castle of the Egg, got it’s name because the ancient Roman poet Virgil is said to have buried an egg on the site of the castle and warned that the castle and Naples will fall if and when the egg breaks. I guess the egg is unbroken because the castle and Naples are still there.

One of my guidebooks tells me that climbing up the ramparts of the castle provides excellent views. It also says they sometimes mount temporary art exhibits in the castle.

There was just one problem. When I got there, a heavy chain was drawn across the walk to the castle. There was some construction scaffolding around some of the base of the castle. What looked like probably a construction sign hung off the front of the castle. It was too far for me to read.

I suppose I could have climbed over the chain to read the sign. It was only at tripping height, not blocking height. But I figured the sign was probably in Italian anyway and I wouldn’t have understood it.

It’s possible to walk around only two sides of the castle, and not even all of one of those two sides. The rest of the fort fronts immediately on the sea. I walked around as much as I could and couldn’t find another door. Nor was there any signage pointing to one.

In truth, I was secretly (not so secret now) happy it wasn’t open. Ramparts are typically at the top. That’s how those things work. It’s a tall castle. After the climbing I did at Castel Nuovo, I wasn’t sure I was ready to climb another one.

But I did get a good view of the castle from the outside.

And, with that, there’s another day done.


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