This fortification, once isolated by sea, has a past in which history and legend blend together.
According to popular tradition the name of Castel dell’Ovo does not derive from the shape of its plan, which recalls the shape of an egg having an elongated ellipse.
Storia del Castel dell’Ovo
Legend has it that many years ago the castle did not exist and in its place there was a beach. Parthenope, a mermaid took refuge on that beach, exhausted after having followed the ship of Ulysses, the king warrior. Before dying, the mermaid left an egg, at the point where the castle stands today. According to this legend, the egg is located just below the building, in a golden cage, and from that comes the name Castel dell’Ovo. That’s how the Roman poet Virgil tells this story. He loved the story of Ulysses so much that in memory of this, he said: until the egg exists, Naples will prosper. That’s why the fate of this magic egg is linked to that of the city and, according to legend, its destruction would have caused the collapse of the castle and a series of catastrophes.
According to history instead, in the first century BC, a small island of “Megaris” was transformed into the luxurious residence of the Roman commander Lucius Licinius Lucullus.
The building had already been equipped with fortifications in the pre-Norman era, even if the Castel dell’Ovo was built by the Normans and Frederick II. The latter transformed the residence from luxurious to fit for royalty, making it the seat of the royal treasure. This function was maintained even by the Angevins.
The fortified castle, with medieval characteristics, was mostly destroyed in 1503, when Ferdinand the Catholic blew it up during a siege.
The Castle was rebuilt in a Spanish bastion shape. There have been massive and radical renovations since 1975, when the castle was abandoned from its former military use. Castel dell’Ovo was then subject to consolidation works, which have given us the structure that we admire today.
The main access road to Castel dell’Ovo is the Norman ramp.
The entire fortification is lined and crossed, for its entire length, by an uphill road. From there, you have a spectacular view of the sea and the city of Naples. From that road, you can also observe the stratification of the structure, evident in some parts, like the Hall of Columns and arcades dating to Gothic and Aragonese eras.
Inside the castle, you can visit the Hall of Columns, the Church of the Saviour and open galleries.
Today Castel dell’Ovo houses the Regional Directorate for Cultural and Landscape Heritage of Campania. It is used for exhibitions, events, conferences and cultural events, and some of its rooms hold the collections of the CAI Museum of Ethno-prehistory. Here, you can admire prehistoric tools, fossils, ceramics as well as ethnographic materials.
At Castel dell’Ovo there is a small nineteenth century fishing village, which is home to a harbour, some restaurants and cafes that are always packed with tourists. Do not miss a walk on the waterfront, starting from Via Saint Lucia, which begins with a typical sacred shrine, dedicated to the homonymous Saint, to reach the inlet of Mergellina. Also worthy of mention is the eighteenth-century Fountain of the Immaculate by Bernini, located at the beginning of the coast.