The Italian city of Naples holds on to its roguish, old-world charm and layers of history with an iron fist, and with good reason: its medieval fortresses have been used to defend the Bay of Naples from naval attacks for centuries. Here, we’ve picked out which castles in and near Naples – from Castel dell’Ovo to Castello Aragonese – are most worth a visit.
Considering a trip? You can visit Naples, as well as the Amalfi Coast, Matera and several fantastic destinations in Puglia as part of Culture Trip’s exclusive 10-day southern Italy adventure, led by our Local Insider.
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Castel dell’Ovo is one of Italy’s most historic buildings. Sitting on the waterfront and overlooking the Bay of Naples, this imposing fortress and former royal residence owes its name to a legend concerning the poet Virgil. For reasons unknown, he is said to have buried an egg nearby, claiming that if it broke, both the castle and Naples would fall. Entry is free and includes access to art exhibitions, conferences and special events. Not surprisingly, it’s also a popular wedding venue. Recommended by local insider Matt Barker
Vomero, the leafy hilltop district of Naples, is a destination in its own right, thanks to its miles of galleries, museums and upscale hotels. It’s also where visitors can climb the steep steps to Castel Sant’Elmo, an imposing fortress and former prison which sits on a layer of volcanic rock. While the castle dates all the way back to 1275, the Novecento a Napoli Museum on-site is home to an impressive collection of 20th-century art. Recommended by local insider Matt Barker
Right in the heart of Naples, a small piazza surrounds the great Castel Capuano, built in 1140 by order of King William I. Before you take to one of the palm-fringed cafes where locals sip rosé and enjoy la dolce vita, we recommend a look indoors. Castel Capuano is the second oldest in the city and boasts a stunning courtyard, the Formiello fountain and a gallery filled to the brim with frescoes. Recommended by local insider Debbie Oakes
Few places in Naples are as distinctive as this landmark. The Medieval masterpiece was commissioned by Charles I of Anjou in the 13th century and has withstood years of weather damage and neglect. One of the city’s most famous legends involves a crocodile that infiltrated the castle through a hole in the moat’s walls, keen to feast on prisoners – a cautionary tale, perhaps. Crocs aside, the castle is now home to the Civic Museum and the library of the Neapolitan Society of Homeland History, though it’s mostly popular for Giotto’s historic frescoes. Inside the Armoury Room, visitors are also privy to Roman ruins that lay under a glass floor. Recommended by local insider Debbie Oakes
If you like epic views, ancient ruins and rocky islands, Castello Aragonese should be on your radar. Located on a small island connected to Ischia by a stone bridge, the entire fortress is surrounded by blue water, suspended between sky and sea. Guided tours are available, including access to the 11th-century crypt. The courtyards, meanwhile, brim with clusters of olive trees and flowers, making this one of the most visited castles in Italy – understandably. Recommended by local insider Debbie Oakes
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