Are you off to visit Naples, the ‘City of the Sun’? Read our essential guide of the Castel dell’Ovo!
Located in the Santa Lucia district, adjacent to the village of Borgo Marinari, Castel dell’Ovo is Naples’ oldest castle. Rising on the islet of Megaride, Castel dell’Ovo is the oldest standing fortification in Naples. As such, the castle’s history is closely tied to the history of this Italian city. It was here that the first Greek settlers of Cumae founded the original nucleus of Naples in the seventh century BC. Connected to the rest of the city by a rocky walkway, this iconic monument is a must-see in Naples!
Wondering what this “Egg Castle” is all about? From the castle’s rich history to practical information such as rates and opening hours, we’ve compiled everything you need to know to visit Castel dell’Ovo in Naples in the best conditions!
History of Castel dell’Ovo
At the beginning of the Greeks’ settlement in Campania, Megaride was an anchor point for the Cuman settlers (of Greek-Euboian origin) when they arrived in the mid-seventh century BC. Though the heart of the future city of Naples later moved eastwards, the small islet remained a coveted location as it offered an excellent view of the Naples waterfront and the surrounding area. In the 1st century BC, the rich Roman patrician Lucius Licinius Lucullus built a magnificent villa – the Castellum Lucullanum – on the site.
Famous for its lavish banquets, the villa became an imperial possession after the patrician’s death. Valentinian III, the western Roman Emperor, reinforced the villa’s walls at the beginning of the fifth century to create a fortress capable of defending the city during this troubled period. The villa, which became the Castrum Lucullanum, was the place of exile of the last western Roman Emperor, Romulus Augustulus, before his deposition in 476 by Odoacer.
At the end of the 5th century, a group of monks settled on the islet, which was renamed “San Salvatore”, and founded a monastery there. From this period until the 12th century, the history of Castel dell’Ovo is not well known. The fortifications were probably destroyed and re-built several times. The fort’s purpose was to prevent the Saracens from using Megaride as a strategic outpost to invade the city and Campania.
After the Norman occupation of Naples in 1140, King Roger the Norman decided to establish his royal residence on the islet. This period marked the birth of Castel dell’Ovo, which consisted of a citadel and small fortified town. However, the castle only acquired its name in the 13th century, when Charles I of Anjou moved the royal residence from Castel dell’Ovo to the recently built Castel Nuovo (The New Castle).
The castle was then given its current architecture: a low fortress, offering better resistance to artillery bombardments. This did not fail to happen during the Italian wars when the French and Spanish bombarded the edifice. During the 19th century, a small fishing village called Borgo Marinari was established along the southern wall of the castle. The picturesque village still exists today and is known for its marina and restaurants.
The castle’s name – the “Egg Castle” – comes from a medieval legend about the Roman poet Virgil. According to this legend, Virgil placed a magical egg into the foundations to support the fortifications. If this egg were to disappear or to be broken, the fortress would collapse, causing Naples to fall.
What to see and do at Castel dell’Ovo in Naples?
Keen to visit Castel dell’Ovo? Your visit begins with a walk along the hundred-meter long stone bridge connecting the castle to the mainland. Many newlyweds choose this charming promenade as the scene of their traditional photoshoot.
Once you enter the castle, you will discover its impressive passageway lined with stone columns. Don’t miss the Sala delle Colonne or the Regina Giovanna Prison. You can also admire the collections of the Ethno-Prehistory Museum. Housed in the castle, the museum features collections of carved stones and bone, ceramics, earthenware, and metal artifacts of ancient local civilizations.
Wander through the castle’s maze of alleyways and stairs that lead you to the rampart walk, but also to the Norman tower, the Maestra Tower and the rest of the keep. You will also discover the remains of a beautiful little church, the Church of the Savior. The rooftops of Castel dell’Ovo still house impressive cannons that were used to defend the city from invaders.
These towers and ramparts offer stunning views of Naples, the port, the bay, and Mount Vesuvius in the distance. Many consider the castle as the city’s best viewpoint. The views from the top of the large round tower, outside the castle’s walls, are particularly beautiful.
Finally, before leaving the complex, why not enjoy a stroll through the old village of Borgo Marinari? Discover the charm-filled waterfront, home to many cafés and restaurants. Take a seat at a table and enjoy a breathtaking panorama of the city in the distance.
How to get to Castel dell’Ovo in Naples?
To visit Castel dell’Ovo in Naples, you will have to go to Via Partenope in the Santa Lucia district. Once there, all you have to do is cross the rocky pier connecting the mainland to the castle, which sits adjacent to the small village of Borgo Marinari.
By public transport
To reach the castle, you can use the public transport of the city of Naples.
- By bus
Bus lines 128, 140, 154 and N1 will take you to Castel dell’Ovo. Get off at the “Santa Lucia” or “Chiatamone” stations.
- By metro
Take metro line 1 and stop at the “Municipio” station, which also serves Castel Nuovo. You will have to walk about twenty minutes before reaching the castle. Alternatively, take bus line 154.
By car or taxi
You can also reach the castle by car or taxi. The castle’s exact address is as follows: Via Eldorado, 3, 80132 Naples NA, Italy.
Good to know
There are few available parking spaces, and parking is not free. Use the Google Maps app to get around and find the itinerary that suits you best.
Visit Castel dell’Ovo in Naples: Rates & Opening hours
In summer, it is possible to visit Castel dell’Ovo in Naples:
- From 9:00 am to 7:30 pm on weekdays
- From 9:00 am to 2:00 pm on Sundays and on public holidays
In winter, you can visit the castle:
- From 9:00 am to 6:30 pm on weekdays
- From 9:00 am to 2:00 pm on Sundays and on public holidays
Entrance to Castel dell’Ovo is free of charge. However, there is an entrance fee to access to the Museum of Ethno-Prehistory. The ticket rate depends on the temporary exhibition on view.
You can also opt for a guided tour of Castel dell’Ovo. A great way to learn more about the history and architecture of the castle, as well as the myths surrounding its name. It is sometimes possible to combine the visit of Castel dell’Ovo with one or more other monuments in Naples, including Castel Nuovo, the former residence of the kings of Naples, Aragon, and Spain until 1815.
GOOD TO KNOW:
– The last entrance is 30 minutes before closing time. After this time, it is no longer possible to enter the castle. The change from summer to winter periods coincides with the switch from summer to wintertime.
– The peak period is from 3pm to 6pm from Monday to Saturday. Saturdays and Sundays are the busiest days.
– Allow at least one hour to visit Castel dell’Ovo. The visit may last longer if you take the time to contemplate the magnificent panoramas or if you wander through Borgo Marinari.
– The best times to visit Castel dell’Ovo is at sunset: the already sublime panoramas are tinged with tawny hues. Both amateur and experienced photographers greatly appreciate this moment, especially for its beautiful lights.
– The castle is not particularly accessible for people with reduced mobility, though it would appear that some parts are equipped with elevators to facilitate access.
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