CASTELLO ARAGONESE D’ISCHIA
Ischia's Castello Aragonese stands as a testament to all the civilisations that have passed through the island, from the Greeks and Romans to the Aragonese dynasty and finally to the Colonna family. So many centuries and different civilisations have contributed to making this ancient fortress, built on the islet right in front of Ischia, a strategic stronghold for the defence of the island. From being the outpost of the Syracuse Greek ruler Hiero I to the conquest of Alfonso of Aragon, from the splendour of Vittoria Colonna's wedding to the British bombardment in 1809, from total abandonment to full recovery thanks to the intuition of a far-sighted lawyer from Ischia: twenty five centuries of history unfold here among churches, convents, prisons, lush gardens and unbelievably breath-taking views, suspended between the sky and the sea in a timeless atmosphere.
THE HISTORY OF CASTELLO ARAGONESE D’ISCHIA
THE ORIGINS: CASTRUM GIRONIS
The Castle was originally named Castrum Gironis, believed to be derived either from the name of Girone (Hiero) of Syracuse (to whom the first settlement dating back to the 5th century B.C. is attributed), or to the ‘giro di mura’ (ring of fortified walls) that surrounded the trachytic rock islet.
THE MIDDLE AGES: INSULA MINOR
During the Middle Ages, Castello Aragonese was always referred to as Insula Minor to distinguish it from Insula Major (the island of Ischia), which was slowly becoming populated. It is to this period that the present crypt of the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Assumption with its fine frescoes
THE RENAISSANCE: CASTELLO ARAGONESE
The Castle’s current name originates from the dynasty that left the most significant mark on the islet: Alfonso I of Aragon transformed the pre-existing Angevin Maschio medieval castle during the 15th century. He built powerful defensive walls and had a pedestrian access gallery carved into the rock.
THE CASTLE TODAY
The third generation of the Mattera family now takes care of the Castle, ensuring it remains open to the public 365 days a year, carrying out any necessary maintenance and restoration work and promoting cultural events which bring it to life.
In effect, the most important work, beyond the restoration, is to keep the Castle alive: it is not simply a museum of historical artefacts, but a living entity pulsating with energy that can help us understand the past and the future. Of course, it no longer has the laboured movement of a stronghold defending itself, just as the tumultuous daily life of 1,800 families working and meeting there no longer exists. Today, an unrivalled serenity and peace envelops the Castle, animated by exhibitions of ancient and contemporary art, studied by historians and admired by the thousands of tourists who visit it and commit it to memory.
Art interacts with the Castle and brings it to life; after having played so many roles, it resumes the privileged role of interlocutor of all art forms and once again asserts its presence as essential to the balance of the entire "kingdom" that surrounds it.
Lawyer Nicola Ernesto Mattera's initial intuition is still upheld today by his enthusiastic heirs, confirming the wisdom of a gesture that, although seemingly inexplicable at the time, has ensured the rebirth of a protagonist in the history of the island and the entire Kingdom of Naples.
EXPERIENCE THE CASTLE
Visitors have the unique opportunity to experience the castle beyond just a visit. They can stay, dine, and organise special events in its most beautiful spaces on both the eastern and western sides of the islet. Castello Aragonese offers an unparalleled setting whether you are planning a peaceful holiday, a dinner overlooking Ischia from one of our terraces, or preparing for a special event.
The castle is open all year round, 7 days a week, from 9 a.m. until sunset. LAST TICKETS ARE ISSUED ONE AND A HALF HOURS BEFORE CLOSING TIME. However, please note that the cafés and bookshops may have different closing days and times compared to these visiting hours.