Nook of Naples: Today, Castle Sant'Elmo is best known for its incredible views of the city. The visitor can make a full circle along the open fortifications, passing guard outlook posts and cannons, climbing stairs, and racing down long semi-dark passageways.
Made of volcanic tufo stone, the castle has existed since 1275 when relatives of Charles d'Anjou lived inside and the fortress went by the name of Belforte. King Robert d'Anjou renovated the castle in the early 1300's. This is when the building began to be known as the 'castrum Sancti Erasmi', probably because there was a chapel dedicated to Saint Erasmus on the site.
King Robert the Wise of Naples was considered to be the 'peacemaker of Italy'. Petrarch and Boccaccio wrote that he was a generous patron of the arts. After his death and for two centuries, the castle was enlarged until it had an unusual hexagonal shape in the 1500's. From 1604 to 1952, the castle was used as a prison. It then became military property until 1979. Six years later, it was turned into a museum. Inside the walls of the castle today, Robert d'Anjou's legacy continues in the form of modern art exhibitions that are on display in many of its cavernous halls.
While I wanted to study the rich history of the castle, my children pulled me in many directions. We searched for fairies, ogres, and princesses, concocting stories that turned out to be just as interesting.