Last week, a few friends and I did a Castle Day in downtown Naples. We had an ambitious plan of visiting the three main castles: (1) Castel Nuovo [New Castle], (2) Castel dell'Ovo [Egg Castle], and (3) Castel Sant'Elmo. We were immediately thwarted by our walk down Via Toledo, Naples' main shopping drag, with large "Saldi" [Sale] banners in every window. We just had to do a little bit of browsing, and it was on our way. After a few side trips, a stop for sfogliatelli and cafe [traditional Neapolitan pastry and coffee], and another stop for Snickers gelato at my new favorite gelateria, blogged about here, we made it to Castel Nuovo.
I love that Castel Nuovo is called New Castle in order to distinguish it from the castle Naples already had nearby...and yet, New Castle was built in the 1200s. Of that original castle, only the Palatine Chapel is still standing - the rest is add-ons and renovations. For example, the beautiful, carved archway you might be able to see in the photo (it's between the towers) wasn't even built until 1443, the young whippersnapper! Inside the Palatine Chapel, we looked through a small exhibit of gorgeous jewelry, and I spent some time studying this beautiful Madonna and Child sculpture, carved by Domenico Gagini, who studied under Donatello and Brunelleschi. The castle also has a small art gallery and panoramic terrace overlooking the sea and the hulking Mt. Vesuvius.