Lonely Planet review
Known as the Maschio Angioino (Angevin Keep) by the locals, this hulking 13th-century castle is one of Naples' most striking icons. It's also home to the Museo Civico (Civic Museum), whose collection include frescoes, paintings and sculptures spanning the 14th to the 20th centuries.
The castle's bio stretches back to Charles I of Anjou, who upon taking over Naples and the Swabians' Sicilian kingdom, found himself in control not only of his new southern Italian acquisitions, but also of possessions in Tuscany, northern Italy and Provence (France). It made sense to base the new dynasty in Naples, rather than Palermo in Sicily, and Charles launched an ambitious construction program to expand the port and city walls. His plans included converting a Franciscan convent into the castle that still stands in Piazza Municipio.
Christened the Castrum Novum (New Castle) to distinguish it from the older Castel dell'Ovo and Castel Capuano, it was completed in 1282, becoming a popular hang-out for the leading intellectuals and artists of the day – Giotto repaid his royal hosts by painting much of the interior. Of the original structure, however, only the Cappella Palatina remains; the rest is the result of Aragonese renovations two centuries later, as well as a meticulous restoration effort prior to WWII.
The two-storey Renaissance triumphal arch at the entrance – the Torre della Guardia – commemorates the victorious entry of Alfonso I of Aragon into Naples in 1443, while the stark stone Sala dei Baroni (Hall of the Barons) is named after the barons slaughtered here in 1486 for plotting against King Ferdinand I of Aragon. Its striking ribbed vault fuses ancient Roman and Spanish late-Gothic influences.
Only fragments of Giotto's frescoes remain in the Cappella Palatina , on the splays of the Gothic windows. Above the chapel's elegant Renaissance doorway is a beautiful Catalan-style rose window. To the left of the chapel, the glass-floored Sala dell'Armeria (Armoury Hall) showcases Roman ruins discovered during restoration works on the Sala dei Baroni. Among the finds are the remains of a private swimming pool, as well as skeletons dating to the medieval period.
All this forms part of the museum, spread across several halls on three floors. The 14th- and 15th-century frescoes and sculptures on the ground floor are of the most interest.
The other two floors mostly display paintings, either by Neapolitan artists, or with Naples or Campania as subjects, covering the 17th to the early 20th centuries. Worth seeking out is Guglielmo Monaco's 15th-century bronze door, complete with a cannonball embedded in it.