Inside the stone fortress, Sophia Loren, the new 'queen' of Naples, was receiving the southern Italian city's highest award. 'Sophia Napoletana' was written in a flourish under a portrait of the sultry 1950's film star, whose cleavage still sweeps as low as her luxurious head of hair is held high.
Her voice cracking with emotion, her grandchildren and designers Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana at her side, the actress, 82, claimed that Naples was the source of all her good fortune.
The crowd roared in response. And so it had been the evening before in the centre of the city. 'We love Sophia' shouted the residents of crumbling stone buildings, waving out of the windows at their idol as she was seated in a plush, gilded chair to watch the Dolce & Gabbana Alta Moda high fashion show.
This was fashion as entertainment on an epic scale. Stefano and Domenico have invented for their super-rich clients a way to make buying clothes at stratospheric prices Fun! Fun! Fun!
But oh! The glamour of this fashion pageant. Flowers adorned the hair and heads were elongated by papal crowns as Domenico and Stefano played every emotional note: poor-but-sexy girls in torn jeans and fancy tops; nice girls in 1950s frocks splattered with flowers; sporty girls in soccer T-shirts with a homage to famous footballer Diego Maradona on the back.
Down past the church and back up again walked 99 models, the music rising to a crescendo of operatic arias as dresses with long trains patterned with giant roses swept the pathway.
The private customers, who had flown — or yacht-ed — in from over all the world and were wearing intensely glamorous, decorative, hand-made dresses and twinkling jewels, then moved on to the Naples port and its bevy of water-side restaurants, decorated with strings of fairy lights.
'They let us do everything we wanted,' said Domenico, referring to the city of Naples, which had encouraged the make-over of the harbour's local restaurants where professional performers, dancing and fireworks added to the entertainment.
Dolce & Gabbana - as they are known — have become travelling promoters for Italy, presenting with verve, panache and a touch of irony, a cliché of a country where everyone is perpetually smiling, singing like Luciano Pavarotti and the sun is, of course, always shining.
Capri, Portofino and Venice are among previous destinations for the fashion duo's Alta Moda shows. The image is the colourful South, scanned to produce only things happy and glorious. The triple bill of shows — women's, men's and high jewellery — akes place over an entire weekend providing a light-hearted energy to what might once have been stuffy social grandeur.
Domenico said, with a laugh, that he could not confirm to me that a mighty boat floating between the castle and the twinkly lights of the town's waterfront belonged to one of his big-shot Russian clients. Perhaps the harbour was less crowded than the local aerodrome was with the private planes for other clients landing from Asia, South America and Gulf states.
Analysing the collection, it was clear that there was a strategy. For every bold outfit there was a very specific clientele — an Arabic robe, body conscious sportswear or outfits patterned with racing cars — there were impeccably tailored Neapolitan suits, the kind that tautly outline the masculine body.
I found the line-up to be a discomforting view of a male world still reflecting the James Bond era of sexist attitudes. The D&G sly wit just — but only just — carried off the collection that was redeemed by the superior craftsmanship. I thought wistfully back to last season's discreet Alta Sartoria, where fine embroidery and streamlined sports clothes had been easier to digest.
My two days in Naples were a fascinating insight into a society that is no longer cohesive as it once a was, but just plastered together by money. And judging by the crush at the Dolce & Gabbana pop up store on the yacht front and the female clients already wearing some of the most dashing new pieces, Stefano and Domenico have hit on the secret of success to attire the global society of the super rich. Make it fun to pay a fortune.