Thursday, March 7, 2013

Baia Castle and Archaeological Museum

We're finding it hard to find another place in Europe that has so many items of archaeological, historical, and mythological interest squeezed into such a compact area as the Campi Flegrei (Phlegrean Fields) region of Naples. Above all of these wonders sits Baia Castle, about 10 minutes from our home. Baia Castle was thought to be the summer residence of Julius Ceasar, but archaeologists speculate that the villa belonged to Emperor Nero. The castle became an outlook point in order to scare pirates away from the shores.

Taken from here

When I arrived at the castle it was pretty deserted and I wasn't sure if it was open. Even with posted hours online, many places in Naples (even tourist sites) are unreliable in their hours. After I parked and walked up to the entrance a man came out and directed me where to go. Just as I was about to pay him the four euro entrance fee he said, "No no, oggi e' gratis!" meaning "Today it is free!" I still have no idea if he even worked there or not.

A statue inside the castle grounds

Entering the castle
The outside terraces of the castle boast stunning views of the sea. Unfortunately it was raining on the day that I visited so the views aren't the clearest. I guess we'll just have to go back on a clear sunny day!

The sea - Mt. Vesuvius is on the right

View from the top terrace

View of Monte di Procida
Inside the castle is the Archaeological Museum of Campi Flegrei. The museum has a long stretch of rooms displaying a wealth of archaeological material from the area.

Besides being a fortress that helped protect the Gulf of Naples, Baia Castle served other functions such as hosting visitors to the kingdom, serving as a base under the Spanish for early studies of volcanism in the Campi Flegrei area, and performing gruesome executions. After the unification of Italy it no longer served a military role and became an orphanage for the children of killed soldiers. After that it was neglected for years until after the earthquake of 1980 where it served as a shelter for those displaced from their homes. In 1993 the Archaeological Superintendency got a hold of the castle and instituted the Museum of Archaeology of Campi Flegrei inside of it.

Baia Castle lies right on the Bay of Naples, sitting about 94 meters above the sea, so it's hard to miss this impressive structure if you're in the area. It's definitely worth a visit just for the views alone! 

1 comment:

  1. Very interesting! A hidden treasure right in your own backyard! The castle may not be the most beautiful building that I've ever seen (at least in my opinion!), but I will say that it is very huge! (It seems to me that there is at least one castle in every country in Europe! Am I right?) And even though the weather wasn't the best, the view from the castle is absolutely breathtaking! I loved seeing the pics of the Archaeological Museum! Fascinating and amazing pieces! (By any chance was that a Greek urn I saw in one of the pics?!! You know how much I love Greek urns!!) Looked like I saw a pic of something that resembled a cave drawing. I learned all about that in my art history class! It always amazes me how ancient Europe is compared to the United States!