Occupying the summit of its namesake hill, Castel Sant'Elmo commands strategic views over the city. The dominant castle was originally a fortified royal residence known as Belforte, built in the 13th century. A century later, Robert d'Angiò decided to improve the city's defences and enlarged the residence into a fortified castle. He awarded the job to the architect, Tino da Camaino, who was already working on the neighbouring Certosa di San Martino. In the 16th century, the Aragonese rulers of Naples further expanded the castle and gave it the existing six-pointed star shape that has survived to this day. It is from this expansion that the two-headed eagle of the House of Habsburg was mounted on the castle (see attached photos). In its later history, the castle also served as a prison for high profile personalities. Finally, in the 1970s, the castle was restored and turned into a multi-functional complex containing a few municipal offices, archives and venues for performing arts. The castle is not open as a museum.
Castel Sant Elmo is perched atop a hill that overlooks Naples and Mt. Vesuvius. Getting to Elmo can be done in various ways, I found the best way was by walking up the narrow, winding streets from Piazza de Plebiscito. All I had to do was keep Elmo in sight and I was able to get there without a problem and was treated to a magnificent walk through old Naples...definitely a adventure. I didn't have a chance to tour the Castle as it was closed on Wednesdays, but the views of the Bay of Naples made it well worth the trek.
No, you won't find "Tickle Me Elmo" anywhere here.
I've read two explanations of how this imposing fortress came by its name. One explanation is that it is on the site of what was once a church dedicated to St. Erasmus - which over the centuries was "corrupted" to St. Elmo. The other story is that the Aragonese who constructed the castle in the fourteenth cenutry were thinking of an obscure Spanish monk, San Telmo - which the Neapolitans converted to their own Elmo. Take you pick!
At any rate, this fortress dominates the city which it towers above. Coming up here really gives the visitor a sense of the lay of the land. For centuries the Castel served as a clear reminder to the inhabitants that they had better mind their manners or they might end up in one of the dungeons here. There is a long history of attacks upon this site, accidental explosions and destructions and imprisonments here. Many brave souls who risked their lives in the 1799 "Parthenopian Revolution" were executed here. Nowadays Castel Sant' Elmo serves a kinder, gentler purpose: as an civic exhibition space for historical and artistic exhibitions.
Castel Sant'Elmo is a majestic, six-point star-shaped building that dates back to 1329 and which was first used as a prison. It is surrounded by ramparts and forts and stands over the city: there is a spectacular view from its terraces.
Castel Sant' Elmo. This is a castle on the hill overlooking Naples. We did not actually go into it but we took the funicular railway to the castle one evening to see the view. It is really spectacular and I would recommend going here late in the day so you can see it by day and by night. Very romantic.:o)
This castle dominates the whole city. It was built in 1329, and reached its current state in 1538 under the Spanish rule. It can be seen from most open spaces of the city, as here in Mergellina.