The baby of Naples four castles, this star-shaped military fortress perched atop Vomero Hill dominates the Naples skyline. The yin to Vesuvius’ yang, Castel Sant’Elmo looms over the San Martino Chartherouse just below. The two, creating an unrivaled vista that has greeted travelers arriving from the sea for centuries.
Carved into and out of Naples famed tuff rock, the Angevins 14th century fortress was replaced by the six-pointed star structure we see today. Set like a crown on the crest of Vomero hill, this unique example of 16th century military architecture is owed to Viceroy Don Pedro Alvarez de Toledo and Pedro Luis Escriva, a military engineer from Valencia.
Part of his design was a “roof-top terrace,” encircling the entire perimeter of the castle. While its intent was clearly defensive, today it is the castle’s most important asset. Though visitors often forgo visiting Castle Sant’Elmo, the 360° panoramic views of the city and the bay from the terrace alone are worth the trip. Best time to visit, after 4:00 pm when entrance to the Castle is free and the views of the eastern side of the city are at their best.
But if that is not enough to tempt you, one flight below in Piazza d’Armi you’ll find the Napoli Novecento Museum. Inaugurated in March 2010, it is housed in the High Prison, Carcere Alto and features an impressive collection of 20th Century (Neapolitan) Modern Art. Back out in Piazza d’Armi you can’t miss Giancarlo Neri’s large scale metal sculpture Luna e Laltra or the Mimmo Paladino helmet. They are just two of a number of contemporary art installations that were donated to Castle Sant’Elmo by local artists.
Castel Sant’Elmo is part of the Neapolitan Museum Network Polo Museale Napoli, which is supported by Amici di Capodimonte – Friends of the Capodimonte Museum. In addition to supporting these museums, Amici di Capodimonte memberships include discounts, special tours, and more. Memberships start at €30,00 for students, €80,00 for adults.