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  • Castel dell'Ovo

    By Anthony Parente

    Castel dell'Ovo
    Guarding the Gulf of Naples is the ancient fortress Castel dell'Ovo (Egg Castle). Naples oldest castle was built in the 12th century by the Normans, but it has a storied past that spans over 2000 years. No building this old can go without some myths and legends that adds to its mystique and charm.

    Its history dates back to the 1st century BC when the island of Megaride, current home of the castle, was purchased by Lucio Licinio Lucullo. The Roman patrician built the villa Castrum Lucullanum on the island. In the 5th century Emperor Valentinian III transformed the villa into a fort. It wasn't until the 12th century when Roger the Norman conquered Naples that a castle was built, and it became the royal residence. Over the centuries the castle was modified and enhanced by various rulers, including the Normans and the Angevins. It played a critical rule during the Middle Ages protecting the city of Naples from invaders and pirates. This impressive fortress is rectangular in shape measuring 200 by 45 meters (656 by 148 feet). In the 18th century the castle was no longer the seat for the royals, and it became a prison and military base. Eventually the fortress was abandoned and there was talk of razing the castle to create a new district. Thankfully this endeavor failed. In the 1970's an extensive restoration project took place giving the castle its current appearance.

    Castle's Myth and Legends

    You may be wondering why the castle has such an unusual name. According to legend the Roman poet Virgil hid an egg under the foundations of an ancient Roman fortification where the castle now stands. Virgil developed a reputation as a sorcerer and prophet. He stated that should the egg break the castle and city would fall. Citizens feared the worst during the earthquake of 1370 when a portion of the castle was damaged. To help ease the citizens fears Queen Giovanna divulged that she had the egg replaced ensuring the city and castle would not fall.

    Another legend tells us about the siren Parthenope. Distraught from her failed attempts to entice Odysseus with her singing she threw herself into the sea and drowned. Her body was washed ashore where the Castel dell'Ovo is now located. The area became known as Parthenope. Today the via Parthenope leads you to the castle.

    Today the castle holds various conferences and exhibitions and is a vibrant part of the city. Strolling around the castle not only gives tourists a great sense of the fortress' storied history it also gives them memorable views of the coastline and Mount Vesuvius. Entrance to the castle is free so this should be a stop on your next visit to beautiful Naples.


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