Castel Nuovo (Maschio Angioino) – Italy’s Middle Age Jewel


A beautifully constructed Gothic fortress, Castel Nuovo is a symbol of Middle Age grandeur. Home to a spectacular art collection, vintage artillery units, and surrounded by beautiful grounds, this castle is a definite must-visit for all travelers. Here’s all you need to know about it:

The resignation of Pope Celestine V was documented by the renowned poet Dante Alighieri as “The great refusal.”

Castel Nuovo in its present form.
Castel Nuovo in its present form. Palickap, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Frequently Asked Questions


Early History

Construction and Early Years (13th-15th centuries)

The magnificent Castel Nuovo came into being by the initiative of Charles I of Anjou, who became the ruler of Sicily in 1266 after defeating the Staufer Dynasty. The castle remained uninhabited until 1285 when Charles I passed away. 

King Charles II of Naples succeeded Charles I and moved into the palace with his family. He expanded and decorated the place. On the 13th of December, 1294, Pope Celestine V resigned from the papacy in the main hall of Castel Nuovo and was replaced by Pope Boniface VIII at the same venue.

An 1847 rendering of Castel Nuovo.
An 1847 rendering of Castel Nuovo. Friedrich von Gärtner (1791-1847), FAL, via Wikimedia Commons

In 1309, King Charles II was succeeded by Robert, King of Naples. Being an art and literature connoisseur, Robert renovated and scaled up the castle to turn it into a centre for cultural arts. Noteworthy artists of the time–including Pietro Cavallini, Montano d’Arezzo, as well as Giotto–were hired to paint the walls of the palace in 1332. 

Between 1343 and 1347, the castle was inhabited by Joanna I of Naples, who departed for France and left the castle to be plundered and looted by the army of King Louis I of Hungary. Upon her return, Joanna had to reconstruct the castle. The castle withstood several other attacks including a second assault by Louis I. During these conflict-ridden times, the ownership of the castle switched from Charles III to his son Ladislaus to Louis II and then back to Ladislaus of Naples, who lived there from 1399 until his death in 1414. Ladislaus was succeeded by his sister, Joanna II. She is rumored to have set up a trapdoor in the castle to expel her various lovers into the sea to be devoured by a crocodile, in order to protect her name. 

A photo of Charles VIII of France.
A photo of Charles VIII of France. After Jean Perréal, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

15th to 18th Centuries

In the mid-15th century, the castle was taken over by Alfonso V of Aragon. He made the castle a center of royal power and completely reconstructed the court into what we see today. The court was given strong defensive characteristics and the castle was given a Catalan-Majorcan-Gothic style. The gate was rebuilt into a triumphal arch shape. The process took place between 1453 and 1479. 

In 1486, a group of nobles, including Antonello Sanseverino and Francesco Coppola, was accused of a conspiracy against the king. He trapped them by inviting them to a wedding party in the castle, where he then promptly arrested them.

A closer look of Castel Nuovo tower.
A closer look of Castel Nuovo tower. Castel Nuovo flickr photo by Rapid Spin shared under a Creative Commons (BY-ND) license

At the end of the 15th century, the castle was attacked by Charles VIII of France. In the early 15th century, Ferdinand II of Aragon made the Kingdom of Naples a part of the Kingdom of Spain, and the castle lost its position as the royal residence. It then became a military garrison due to its strategically useful location and defensive attributes. It did, however, continue to host prominent royal figures and also housed the Viceroy of Spain until the early 17th century.

Closer look of Castel Nuovo architectural detail structure.
Closer look of Castel Nuovo architectural detail structure. Triumphal Arch, 1470; Castel Nuovo, Naples (1) flickr photo by Prof. Mortel shared under a Creative Commons (BY) license

Current Times

19th Century Onwards

The castle was renovated for a final time in the year 1823 by Ferdinand I of the Two Sicilies. Later, it became the location for the artillery arsenal, pyrotechnic office, and a prominent center for the armory.

A 1924 image of Castel Nuovo.
A 1924 image of Castel Nuovo. Unknown authorUnknown author, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

In the 1920s, various beautiful flower gardens were established beside the Maschio Angioino. In 1923, the ownership of the castle was attained by the Italian State. The state demolished several buildings in the territory and expanded the castle. An esplanade was created in place of the vast expanse of gardens. Apart from the door of the citadel, the whole castle was renovated. Currently, the castle is open to the public for recreational visits and guided tours. 

A human-eye view of Castel Nuovo in current times.
A human-eye view of Castel Nuovo in current times.

Interesting Castel Nuovo Facts

  • The house of an officer who served Alfonso, who went by the name of Nicola Bozzuto, had to be demolished in order to construct the triumphal arch.
  • The resignation of Pope Celestine V was documented by the renowned poet Dante Alighieri as “The great refusal.”
  • The designer of the Triumphal Arch has been said to be Pietro di Martina, Giuliano da Maiano, or Francesco Laurana.

Visiting Castel Nuovo – Tips and Tricks

Castel Nuovo is majestic in its might and is one of the most fascinating destinations to visit in Italy. Here’s everything you need to know for planning your visit to this amazing structure:

Visiting tourists around Castle Nuovo.
Visiting tourists around Castle Nuovo. МаратД, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

How to get to Castel Nuovo?

You can get to Castel Nuovo from Rome by 3 means: via train, bus or car. The most recommended way to make this journey is via train. You would board at Roma Termini and get off at Sicignano D.Alburni. From Sicignano D.Alburni, the castle is a 38-minute drive by taxi. The whole journey can take around 4 hours and 10 minutes and cost you between €62-€132 ($70-$150 USD).

The cheapest yet longest way to get there is by bus. It would cost between €18 and €53 ($20-$60 USD) and take you around 7 hours and 40 minutes. 

The third means of reaching the castle is via car. The approximate fuel cost for this journey would be around €44-€62 ($50-$70 USD).

Ticket Prices, Visiting Hours & Travel Tips

Ticket pricing for adults is €6 ($6.80 USD). If you opt for a guided tour, you will be charged an extra €10 ($11.5 USD). Visiting hours every day from Monday to Saturday are 8:30 am to 6:00 pm. On Sundays, the castle can be visited between 10:00 am and 1:00 pm. 

It would be useful to make a reservation in advance, especially during tourist season, in order to avoid waiting in line. Do book yourself a guided tour- you’ll find it immersive and worth every penny!

Side view of Castel Nuovo rfoma across the water surrounded by buildings.
Side view of Castel Nuovo. Naples Port 2 flickr photo by Averain shared under a Creative Commons (BY) license

How Long Will It Take to Tour Around?

It would take you about 1 to 2 hours to tour the castle and its vicinity.

Some words of advice and tips: 

  • Make sure you carry cash in hand as tickets can only be purchased with cash. 
  • Be sure to take a camera along in order to capture the wonderful views of the Bay of Naples.
  • Certain areas are limited to be accessed via guided tours only, so do book yourself one in order to not miss out on the full experience!
  • Take something along with you to eat and enjoy a picnic with a spectacular view around!

Quick Video Tour of The Main Castel Nuovo Areas

Zunaira Ghazal
Zunaira Ghazal
Zunaira is an architect and designer on paper, but a writer at heart. She’s got a Bachelors in Architecture and a passion for traveling, both of which combine in her writings about timeworn castles and fortresses that have withstood the tests of time and stand proud to this day.

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