Thursday, October 29, 2009

The Castel Tour

Naples Tour: Four medieval castles give Naples a princess and dragon flair. Castle dell'Ovo, Castel Nuovo, Castle Sant'Elmo, and Castle Capuano are the best reasons to roam the narrow streets of the city.

Castle Capuano (at the end of the narrow street shown above) was built in the 12th century by William I, the first monarch of the Kingdom of Naples. Today, the building serves as municipal offices. If you walk down Via Tribunali, you'll see its facade and, bending the rules, you can walk into the courtyard. During the Monuments of May when the archeological parks and museums are free, the castle is open for tours.

The other three castles can be visited all year around and for a fuller experience touring these dungeons and guard posts, I suggest bringing kids along.

A day-trip might look like this:
  • Start at Castel Nuovo, which overlooks the port in downtown Naples. Here you can amble past the turrets, into the exalted courtyard, and up the stairs to the Hall of Barons.
  • From there, walk down to Piazza Trento e Trieste, take a left and pass through Piazza del Plebiscito until you come to the sea. Walk along the Bay of Naples and you will come to Castel dell'Ovo, where you can search for Virgil's egg. It's free to go inside.
  • Walking further down the promenade, a park in the middle of the city has gelato, donkey rides on the weekends, an aquarium, as well as playground equipment.
  • Return from where you came, passing Piazza del Plebiscito until you are on Via Toledo. Here, you can take the famous funicular to Vomero. Opened in 1928, it is one of the longest funicular lines in the world, descending 170 meters in altitude and carrying over 10 million passengers annually.
  • Walk to Castel Sant'Elmo, which touts a breathtaking 360 degree view of Naples.
  • Next door to the castle, the St. Martin's Charterhouse has a museum replete with an exhibition of the presepe -- Neapolitan nativity scenes.
For those who live in Campania, I recommend visiting these castles over a series of several weekends. Kids will naturally want to try to spot ogres, knights, and fairy princesses -- and that can take a while.

Safety Tips for Traveling With Children:

  • Traffic is intense. Watch children carefully in Naples. It's best to visit the city on Sundays when traffic is mild.
  • Strollers don't work well on cobblestone streets, so carry children in backpacks or hold their hands while they walk (which, depending on the age of your child, might mean seeing less or stopping frequently for gelato).
  • Italy has one of the densest population concentrations in the world. A visit to parks and castles can mean crowds. If your children have trouble with lots of people around, stick to places like the Phlegraean Fields where fewer people visit.
For the next three days I'll post a special to this blog all about the other three castles. Comments from princesses, ogres, and dragons are welcome!
Castel Capuano is the fourth castle, which can only be visited from the outside.


Fern Driscoll said...

Hi Barbara - I just found your blog and am looking forward to following it as we have never visited Naples proper. You might like Rubber Slippers in Italy blog (of all the Italy blogs the one I most enjoy) - from the north,entertaining as can be and full of great photos. Anyway, I'm enjoying your castle tours and complimenti on your blog. FD

Barbara Zaragoza said...

Hi Fern -- Wonderful. Glad you are enjoying the tour. And thanks for the tip about Rubber Slippers. I'm going to check it out now!