Considered the oldest of Naples Castles, Castel dell’Ovo juts out into the bay on the tiny isle of Megaride. The same island where Siren Partenope washed ashore after plunging herself into the sea because she failed to lure Ulysses. The same siren that gave Naples its first name, Partenope.
It was the infamous Roman poet Virgil (Oct 15, 70 BC – Sept 21, 19 BC) and the legend of his magical, mythical egg however, that gave Castel dell’Ovo, the Egg Castle it’s name. The legend has it that Virgil placed an egg into a glass jar, the jar into a metal cage and hid it beneath the castle. As long as the egg remained safe and intact, the city would too. The only flaw with this myth of course, is that Virgil lived long before Castel dell’Ovo was actually a castle.
What stood on Megaride during Virgil’s time was Castellum Lucullanum, an expansive villa built by the Roman knight and patrician Lucius Licinius Lucullus (c. 117BC – 57/56 BC). By the 5th century BC however, this Roman playground had lost its allure and it had been converted to a fort. The perfect location for a prison it seems, as it was here that the last Roman Emperor Romolus Augustolus was exiled and imprisoned until his death.
Transformed into a castle by Roger the Norman in the 12th century, all those who followed added their own touches and uses. It’s use as a prison however continued until the 19th century.
Today, the prison cells are long gone and the halls of Castel dell’Ovo are home to temporary art exhibits and events like Vitigno Italia, a wine trade fair and show.