Known to locals as Maschio Angioino, in reference to its Angevin builders, this imposing castle is now used more for marital than military purposes—a portion of it serves as a government registry office. A white four-tiered triumphal entrance arch, ordered by Alfonso of Aragon after he entered the city in 1443 to seize power from the increasingly beleaguered Angevin Giovanna II, upstages the building's looming Angevin stonework. At the arch's top, as if justifying Alfonso's claim to the throne, the Archangel Gabriel slays a demon.
Across the courtyard within the castle, up a staircase, is the Sala Grande, also known as the Sala dei Baroni, which has a stunning vaulted ceiling 92 feet high. In 1486, local barons hatched a plot against Alfonso's son, King Ferrante, who reacted by inviting them to this hall for a wedding banquet, which promptly turned into a mass arrest. (Ferrante is also said to have kept a crocodile in the castle as his pet executioner.) You can also visit the
Sala dell'Armeria, where a glass floor reveals recent excavations of Roman baths from the Augustan period, with resine plaster casts of the skeletons also found here (the originals are in the Museo Archelogico). To one side are giant photographs of three Roman ships, wood amazingly intact, unearthed during recent digging of the nearby metro station and now hidden away for restoration. In the next room on the left, the Cappella Palatina, Nicolo di Tomaso's frescoes adorn the walls along with a few tiny remaining fragments of the famous Giotto pictures described by Petrarch.
Before climbing to the castle's first-floor gallery, with its beautiful Renaissance-era masterpieces, check out the magnificent 16th-century Cappella delle Anime del Purgatorio and its richly decorated gold plated altar. Tours of the Beverello Tower, with three unrivalled views of Piazza Muncipio's Roman excavations and a vertigo-inducing look at the Sala dei Baroni and its ceiling, are held every hour on the half hour until 4:30.