Are you planning to visit the beautiful city of Naples? Discover our essential guide to Castel Nuovo, an iconic monument of this beautiful Italian city!
Located in the aristocratic district of San Ferdinando, a stone’s throw from the port and the Royal Palace, Castel Nuovo is one of the must-see landmarks of Naples. Built between 1279 and 1282, the castle has been extended or renovated several times since then. The history of the castle dates back to Charles I of Anjou, who in 1266, upon taking over the throne of Sicily, transferred the kingdom’s capital to the city of Naples.
The architecture of this imposing castle, surrounded by deep moats, was inspired by the Château d’Angers. Unfortunately, this Angevin influence has mostly faded, and not much remains from the original structure. The rest is the result of Aragonese renovations in the 15th century. Nevertheless, the Neapolitans still call it “Maschio Angioino” (“Angevin Keep” in Italian). Today, the monument is the headquarters of various Neapolitan and Italian institutions such as the Museo Civico (Civic Museum). If you’re in Naples, visit Castel Nuovo to discover and learn more about an essential landmark of Neapolitan history.
There is definitely a lot to discover in this “New Castle” which replaced Castel dell’ Ovo as the royal residence of the kings of Sicily and Naples. What follows is an essential guide to Castel Nuovo, featuring information about its rich history to practical information such as rates and opening hours. Read below to find out everything you need to know before you visit Castel Nuovo in Naples!
History of Castel Nuovo
In 1266, – the last son of King Louis VIII of France – ascended to the throne of Sicily, including the island and the southern part of Italy. Since he was also in control of possessions in Tuscany, northern Italy, and Provence, the king strategically established the capital of his kingdom in Naples, rather than Palermo in Sicily.
As soon as Naples became the capital, Charles I of Anjou ordered the construction of a new castle to establish his royal residence and accommodate his court. Most of all, the castle formed part of an ambitious plan to expand the port and city walls. Its primary purpose was to develop a strategic area, set between the historic center of Naples and the sea, and to become the new seat of power, previously established at Castel dell’ Ovo. The edifice was named Castel Nuovo (New Castle) to distinguish it from the two former royal residences, Castel dell’ Ovo and Castel Capuano.
Carried out by the French architects Pierre de Chaulnes and Pierre d’Angincour, the works began in 1279 and were completed in 1282. Ironically, this was the year the kingdom lost its Sicilian part and became the sole “Kingdom of Naples.” Due to the unrest in Sicily, the castle was not inhabited until Charles I’s death in 1285. Charles I’s successors – notably Robert I – continued to enlarge and embellish the castle, including the construction of the Palatine Chapel (Cappella Palatina), the only remaining structure of the Angevin dynasty.
In the 1330s, the war between Angevins and Aragonese caused significant damage to the castle, which was also besieged and damaged by the Hungarians. In 1442, the Aragonese conquered the kingdom of Naples. The new dynasty largely restored and rebuilt Castel Nuovo.
In the 15th century, Castel Nuovo became the largest fortified royal residence of its time. King Alfonso V modernized the fortress, enabling it to resist modern artillery. The original square-shaped towers were replaced by round towers.
In addition to the military-focused additions, Alfonso V wanted to increase the castle’s attractiveness. He entrusted the restructuring of the fortress to Majorcan architect Guillem Sagrera, who rebuilt it in Catalan-Majorcan-Gothic style. Sagrera notably refurbished the Hall of the Barons – the castle’s main hall – which takes its name from the arrest of the nobles who had conspired against the successor of Alfonso V of Aragon: his illegitimate son Ferrante, who became Ferdinand I, King of Naples.
Decorated by Father Johan and Guillem Sagrera, the monumental triumphal arch at the entrance to the castle is the most remarkable illustration of the renovations carried out under King Alfonso V. Decorated with beautiful bas-relief, the Renaissance-style arch commemorates the triumphant entry of the new sovereign into Naples in 1443. Many famous artists of the time, such as the Pietro di Martino and Francesco Laurana, were commissioned to decorate the arch.
With the disappearance of the Aragonese dynasty following the Italian Wars, the castle lost its status as a royal residence and became a fortress, less prestigious than it used to be. The castle was redesigned on several occasions throughout its history. Its current appearance is a result of the renovations undertaken by the Municipality of Naples at the end of the 19th century. Nowadays, it houses various cultural institutions, such as the Museo Civico – exhibiting artworks inherited by the city of Naples, dating from the 18th to the 20th century. It is also the seat of the Società Napoletana di Storia Patria, which produces publications and manages a library on the history of Naples and its province. Until 2006, the Naples Municipal Council held its meetings in the Hall of the Barons.
What to see and do at Castel Nuovo in Naples?
When you visit Castel Nuovo in Naples, you will first discover the castle’s outer walls. You will be able to observe the rampart walk and the imposing crenelated towers of the time, built atop steep foundations, to protect the castle from a frontal assault. These facilities date back to the Aragonese period. The deep ditches surrounding the castle illustrate the fortress’ military power.
After a short walk around Castel Nuovo, make your way towards the remarkable triumphal arch which serves as the entrance of the castle. Commemorating King Alfonso I, the first Aragonese king of Naples, the arch is a striking example of the city’s Renaissance architecture. You will also notice that the large niche on the second floor is strangely empty. According to some specialists, it was to house a horse sculpture, commissioned to the great Florentine sculptor Donatello but unfinished. The head of the statue is currently housed in the National Archaeological Museum.
Continue your visit through the castle’s inner courtyard. Climb up the staircase leading to the magnificent Hall of the Barons, where you will admire a beautiful ribbed vault blending ancient Roman and Spanish late-Gothic influences. Continue towards the castle’s panoramic terrace, offering a sublime view of the city and the bay.
Don’t visit Castel Nuovo without taking the time to admire the works exhibited in the castle’s Museo Civico. The museum features several paintings from the 16th to the 19th century, as well as numerous sculptures and religious artworks.
How to get to Castel Nuovo in Naples?
Castel Nuovo in Naples is situated in Piazza Municipio, in the San Ferdinando district. The exact address is Via Vittorio Emanuele III, 80133 Naples NA, Italy.
- By public transport
The Municipio metro station is only a stone’s throw from Castel Nuovo. It is served by Naples’ main and tourist metro line. You will, therefore, have no trouble reaching the castle from another part of the historic center.
- By car or taxi
You can also reach the castle by car or taxi. If you’re Be aware that street parking spaces are difficult to find and expensive. However, you’ll find several paid car parks in the vicinity of the castle.
It can be convenient to rent a car in Naples as there are multiple excursions outside of the city.
Castel Nuovo in Naples: rates & opening hours
It is possible to visit Castel Nuovo in Naples every day from 8:30 am to 7:00 pm, except on Sundays.
- Full price ticket: €6
The ticket office closes one hour before the end of the visiting time. After this time, it is no longer possible to access the building.
GOOD TO KNOW:
– The peak hours are from 10 am to 12 pm Monday to Saturday. The castle usually has a high queuing time on Wednesdays.
– It takes visitors approximately one hour to visit Castel Nuovo.
– It seems that touring the castle is not suitable for persons with reduced mobility or persons with disabilities.
– The area around Castel Nuovo is packed with monuments and places to discover: the Teatro San Carlo, the Royal Palace of Naples, the Giardini del Molosiglio, as well as the charming palaces and churches of the Spanish Quarter.
– From Castel Nuovo, you can also walk to Castel dell’ Ovo to enjoy superb views of Naples and its bay. Like Castel Nuovo, Castel dell’ Ovo is an iconic landmark the city of Naples.
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