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Napoli - S.Lucia and Castel dell'Ovo

Santa Lucia (Saint Lucy) is the name of that part of Naples promenade in front of Castel dell'Ovo. Until the 16th century it was only a fishermen suburb, but in 1599 the Spanish Viceroy of Naples decided to transform it into a prestigious road: so he called to renovate that place the architect Domenico Fontana (who also built the Royal Palace). In the second half of the 19th century, they decided to advance the coastline until the current position and to build a new fishing suburb at the foot of Castel dell'Ovo, which today hosts a small tourist port with services, bars and restaurants. On the new waterfront of Saint Lucia are located the most exclusive and renowned hotels in the city of Naples.

Castel dell'Ovo (Egg's Castle) rises upon the islet of Megaride, in front of the small promontory of Monte Echia (also called Pizzofalcone), which divides the two small bays on the waterfront of Naples: the one of the harbour and the other of Riviera di Chiaia (Mergellina). The islet was the first settlement by Greek colonists coming from Pithecusa (on Ischia island) who also founded the old town of Partenope on Monte Echia, the earliest nucleus of Naples. During the 1st century b.C. the islet of Megaride became property of Lucius Licinius Lucullus, who made built there his most magnificent villa. They remain very few signs of this legendary villa, because of the several constructions made in the following times upon it.

After the death of Lucullus, the villa came under the Empire property and it was used as luxury prison for some exponents of the Emperor's family, during the numerous conspirations and succession fights for the throne of Rome. In 476 the Barbarian king Odoacre imprisoned there the last emperor Romulus Augustus, ratifying the definitive fall of the West Roman Empire. After that, Naples had been a Byzantine duchy for some centuries, under formal domain by the East Roman Empire, but with a substantial independence. Then the islet of Megaride housed a friary of Basileus monks, dedicated to Il Salvatore (the Saviour). From that period they remain some tracks inside the Saviour's Chapel and in the so-called Sala delle Colonne (Columns' Hall), a refectory decorated with some columns taken by the underlying Roman villa.

In 1140 the Normans occupied Naples and chose the blockhouse on the Saviour's Islet as their fortress and then royal palace, when they received from the Pope the authority to reign over Naples and the Southern Italy as a kingdom. So they enlarged the fort and built over it the high towers (the main one was called "Normandy") which had been for a long time the symbol of the military power in Naples. The Angevins, who replaced the Normans in the 13th century, used the fortress to house the Royal Treasure and the Financial Tribunal for collecting taxes. The Aragonese kept it as a military centre, but they pulled down the high Norman towers (by then not useful anymore, because of the development of artillery) and restructured it.

In 1495 the castle was bombed by Charles VIII from the outpost of Pizzofalcone, during his famous "descent into Italy" that swept away the small Italian states and opened the way to the sharing out of the peninsula between France and Spain. In 1503 the castle was occupied by Louis XII King of France, but in the same year it passed under the Spanish, who occupied Naples and will have ruled over there for two centuries. After the great damages received during the three subsequent besiegements, Castel dell'Ovo was completely rebuilt by the Spanish in the shapes we actually see, with the bastions adapted to underlying rocks, which were covered by walls until the sea surface.

Castel dell'Ovo has always marked the political and historical changes in the city of Naples: in 1733 it was besieged and bombed by the Bourbons, who replaced the Austrians (who had been governing Naples after the Spaniards for about thirty years, during the war for the Spanish Succession). In 1799 it was occupied by the revolutionary Jacobins and then conquered again by the cardinal Ruffo di Calabria, who guided the troops supporting the Bourbon's restoration. After the unification of Italy (and until 1963) the castle has been military centre for the Italian government. Recently Castel dell'Ovo received deep restorations that have highlighted numerous and important architectural episodes belonging to all periods along the history of Naples.

The inner and higher zone of the castle are reachable through the Norman Ramp, which is still today the main way of access. It is possible to visit only some areas of the castle, and particularly the panoramic terrace with the Catalan Loggia. The name Castel dell'Ovo (Egg's Castle) is derived from a medieval legend about the Latin poet Vergilius, at those times believed a wizard. According to this legend Vergilius, during his stay in Naples, hid a magic egg inside an amphora, which was put into an iron cage, that was hanged on the truss of a crypt under the castle: if that egg will ever have fallen and broken, this will have meant the ruin of the castle and of the entire city of Naples.

In front of the Castle, on the top of Monte Echia, there is a lookout with an extraordinary panorama. It rises upon the place where was the acropolis of the old Greek city, named Partenope. According to the tradition, Partenope was destroyed by the Greek inhabitants of Cuma during the war against the Etruscans, that was won thanks to the help given by the Greeks from Syracuse, who convinced them to rebuilt the city. For the "new city" (in Greek: Neapolis) they chose another place, to distinguish it from the "old city" (Palepolis, another name for Partenope). As the time passed, they had been lost not only the tracks but also the memory of Palepolis. But nowadays, the recovered consciousness of the real existence of Partenope gives to this place a particularly evocative character.