Castel dell’Ovo: between history and Legend

Castel dell'ovo

Castel dell’Ovo is certainly one of the most spectacular and symbolic places in Naples: it is on every postcard of Naples along with Vesuvius, which forms its backdrop. The castle stands on the islet of Megaride, more precisely on the rock of Borgo Marinari, which is home to the nautical clubs and is one of the centers of the city’s nightlife. According to Legend, it is precisely here that the siren Partenope landed. Castel dell’Ovo can be visited and is the stage for exhibitions, shows, and events.

Please choose from our best tours in Naples for a private transfer service or a personalized tour that will allow you to discover all the beauty this place offers and explore what surrounds the castle, such as Borgo Marinari, the Bourbon Gallery, and much more.

Castel dell’Ovo: the history

Castel dell’Ovo is a testament to the different dominations passed through Naples. The castle has played various roles in its history.

The castle’s basement houses the so-called stanza delle Colonne (room of columns), evidence of Lucius Licinius Lucullus’s famous villa born on the islet during the Roman Empire. The villa later became a Benedictine monastery with the arrival of monks from Pannonia and a lazaret for pilgrims from the Holy Land.

After serving as a villa and monastery, they started the construction of the castle: around 1128, the Castel dell’Ovo began to assume its present appearance. Under the Norman appellation, they started fortification and extension work on the structure in 1140. 

In addition to depositing the royal treasury there, Frederick II of Swabia added a prison to the castle.

Various reigns, including the Angevin reign, during which the royal family lived in the castle; the Aragonese reign, which developed the military aspect; and the Bourbon reign, which fortified the castle militarily and included a crystal and mirror factory, succeeded at the castle.

With the Kingdom of Italy, the fortress assumed solely the role of a military outpost and prison, housing anti-aircraft during World War II, and then left room purely and exclusively for tourism.

Walking through the rooms of this wonderful castle, you can relive all the historical phases that have characterized the city of Naples.

Castel dell’Ovo: myths and legends

Like every corner of this magnificent city, Castel dell’Ovo shrouds in legends and curiosities.

One of these is precisely related to one of the symbols of Naples: the siren Parthenope. The mermaid Parthenope and her sisters Ligea and Leucosia failed to enchant Ulysses to lure him to the bottom of the sea and committed suicide over denied love.

The deceased Parthenope was transported by the waves of the sea to the islet of Megaride, at the Castel dell’Ovo, where she was transformed right into the Neapolitan landscape: her head rests to the east, on the rise of Capodimonte, her tail to the west, toward the promontory of Posillipo.

The castle’s name also derives from an imaginative legend whose protagonist is Virgil, who composed the Bucolics and part of the Georgics in Naples. 

The famous poet was also a magician: Legend has it that he allegedly hid a magic egg inside a glass jug full of water, locked in a cage hanging from an oak beam in the castle’s basement.

No one has ever found the egg, and its integrity safeguards the castle, the city, and the Neapolitan people. The following spell is on the egg: “QUELL’OVO PENDEVANO TUTTI LI FACTI E LA FORTUNA DIL CASTEL MARINO.”

During the reign of Giovanna I, a sea storm partly destroyed Castel dell’Ovo, and, according to Legend, the escaping prisoner Visconti bumped into the egg, breaking it. The misfortunes came true, and the castle began to collapse, but, to reassure the Neapolitans, the queen confessed to having replaced the egg.

Castel dell’Ovo: the highlights

Walking on the terraces or through the tunnels dug by the prisoners, you can admire the Gulf of Naples in all its splendor from a unique and breathtaking perspective.

We divide the outdoor areas into:

  • Ramaglietto: sea-facing pier that often hosts buffets;
  • Terrazza dei Cannoni: spectacular to visit at sunset, is located at the highest and most panoramic part of the castle;
  • West Loggia: Terrace facing the sea that offers a complete view of the city;
  • East Loggia: space that occupies part of the Church of St. Peter, a sign of the passage of the monks in the Castel dell’Ovo who also created the cells carved into the tuff rock and altars. Among the most beautiful cells is the one dedicated to St. Patrick.
  • People often use these rooms for buffets and photo shoots.

Not all rooms in the inner area are open and accessible to the public. You can visit the following halls:

  • Hall of Columns, so named because of the presence of columns dating back to the villa of Lucius Licinius Lucullus;
  • Queen Joan’s Prison or Hall of Prisons, which holds treasures and secret documents;
  • Sala Italia is one of the largest halls, with a splendid vaulted ceiling;
  • Sala Sirena, carved out of tuff stone;
  • Sala della Compagna, which sits in the highest part of the Castel dell’Ovo;
  • Megaride Hall;
  • Virgil’s Antro, which a suggestive path in the castle can reach.

These rooms are rich in ancient frescoes painted on plaster that are almost illegible. Renting and privately setting up the rooms for ceremonies or events is possible.

Castel dell’Ovo: how to get there

Castel dell’Ovo stands about 4 km from Naples Central Station and can be reached by metro line 1, with a stop at Toledo, or by bus and streetcar from the central station area (line R2 or streetcar 1, respectively).

Pay attention to reaching this wonderful place with a picturesque walk.

Remember to visit our Tours of Naples, where you will find all the necessary directions and have the opportunity to choose our private transfer services or to create the tour that suits you to live this unique experience to the fullest.

Picture of Vito Minopoli

Recent Posts

Follow Us