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The Aragonese Castle of Baia, located at about half an hour from the centre of Naples, is undoubtedly a special place: built on the ashes of an illustrious Roman past, this imposing fortress overlooking the crystal clear sea of the Gulf of Pozzuoli has gone through many centuries of history and lived very different lives.
If its rich and glorious past was not already enough to intrigue you and convince you to give Castle of Baiae a place of honour in your next itinerary, you will be glad to know that in 1984 this place was chosen as the seat of the Archaeological Museum of the Phlegraean Fields. Since then, this ancient Aragonese fortress has become a real treasure trove that houses all the most significant finds found in the area of the Phlegraean Fields. If this still does not seem enough to you, we think you will be interested to know that with a short boat trip you can reach the Castle beach, one of the most beautiful in the whole area.
The history of the Castle of Baiae began over 2000 years ago, way before its actual construction: the famous Latin historiographer Tacitus tells us about an elegant villa belonging to Julius Caesar, built above a hill from which it was possible to enjoy a magnificent panorama of the Gulf of Baia. The remains of this Roman villa were partially incorporated into the new structure that was built on the promontory starting from 1495 at the behest of the Aragonese family, the Spanish sovereigns who at the time had control of the Kingdom of Naples. In fact, King Alfonso II of Aragon chose this place to build an almost impregnable fortress, located in a strategic position that allowed to control the surrounding area from above. In the following centuries the Aragonese Castle of Baia was renovated and enlarged until it reached its current appearance, with its characteristic star shape. The building maintained its defensive function for a long time, despite many political changes: the area in fact passed from the Spanish to the Austrians, and was later controlled by the Bourbon family.
After the Unification of Italy, the Castle lost importance as it was deemed no longer useful for strategic purposes. The building remained in a state of neglect until 1927, when it was used as a military orphanage; this will remain its main function until 1975, except for a parenthesis as a military prison in the years of the Second World War. Following the dramatic earthquake that hit Irpinia in 1980, the Castle hosted some displaced families for some time.
In 1984 the Aragonese Castle of Baia passed under the control of the Ministry of Cultural Heritage and Activities, which immediately chose it as the ideal location for a museum dedicated to the various archaeological treasures found in the Phlegraean Fields area. However, it had been necessary to wait until 1993 for the definitive opening to the public of the Archaeological Museum of the Phlegraean Fields.
It is a project designed to be in constant evolution: the rooms are in fact organized with a topographical criterion, each dedicated to a specific area of the Phlegrean Fields, and destined to be enriched over time with the finds that are gradually discovered. Among the rooms that most deserve to be admired, we cannot help to mention the ones that host the reconstructions of the Sacello degli Augustali in Miseno, with its magnificent sculptural groups dedicated to emperors and divinities, and the Punta Epitaffio Nymphaeum found in the submerged park of Baiae.