Experience close to 1,000 years of Neapolitan history, and enjoy breathtaking unimpaired 360 degree views over the city, the surrounding countryside, and the Bay of Naples. Perched high above the city, visible from everywhere, Sant'Elmo Castle is one of the main landmarks of Naples.
Saint Elmo Castle was built in 1329 by order of Charles of Anjou on the hill of Sant'Erasmo (now San Martino) to control the roads that lead into the city. Construction was assigned to architects Tino da Camaino, Atanasio Primario, and Francesco di Vito, and was completed in 1343. It was built where the Normans, in 1170, erected an observation tower called Belforte.
Many of Naples' historic events involve Saint Elmo Castle. In 1348, the castle withstood its first siege from the king of Hungary, Ludovico. The castle became a key military objective when France and Spain competed for the kingdom of Naples.
King Charles V, through the viceroy Pedro de Toledo, assigned the complete rebuilding of the castle to the Spanish architect Pier Luigi Scribà. Scribà designed a star-shaped plan with six points. The new building included defense areas, the powder magazine, royal apartments and the garrison's quarters, ample courtyards, prisons, larders, a church, and a colossal pool to assure abundant water supply.
In 1587, lightning struck the powder magazine during a storm, and the explosion caused considerable damage to the castle and many monuments and churches in the city.
Several fights took place here between the various dominating powers, as well as repeated popular uprisings, including the Masaniello's legendary revolt against the Spanish Habsburg in 1647.
Towards the end of World War II, the Germans intended to destroy it before they left the city, changing their minds only at the last minute.
The castle, which has now been restored and houses art and history exhibitions, hosts the Molaioli Library of Art and a library of video material, which supplies information about all of the city's monuments. The complex also contains the 16th century Church of Sant'Elmo and the Chapel of Santa Maria del Pilar (17th century).