Santa Caterina

Santa Caterina is a fraction of the municipality of Nardò, located on the Ionian coast of Salento; it consists of a hilly part where the “Cenate” are located and a part close to the sea, the promenade. The territory is divided into small hills, while the coast is rather low, mainly rocky, but with some sandy stretches.
Rocky coast with some sandy stretches, towers, seafront

Santa Caterina is a splendid seaside resort on the Ionian coast of Salento, one of the marinas of the municipality of Nardò and can be considered the sister of Santa Maria al Bagno, which is about 2 km away; the coastal road that joins them is an excellent path for jogging or simply walking. It is characterised by a small beach area, a mainly rocky coast with low cliffs and clean and transparent blue waters. The destination has been repeatedly awarded with the 5 Legambiente sails, a prize awarded for the quality of bathing water, efficiency of services and enhancement of the landscape.

At the points of the highest cliffs, towards Torre dell’Alto, the depth of the sea allows you to dive safely. The caves that open into the cliff are also of great interest, some of which have a high historical value. Of particular importance is the Grotta di Capelvenere where numerous artefacts and remains of large mammals have been found, dating back to the Middle Palaeolithic period. With the north wind here the water becomes a mirror of turquoise sea that competes with the well-known Caribbean seas.

In the evening it is customary to stroll in the cozy pedestrian square where there are numerous bars and being a seaside village there is no shortage of fishmongers and restaurants with the best traditional fish dishes of Salento. Furthermore, for the most romantic, every evening a suggestive sunset over the sea awaits you, to be enjoyed with the evening breeze, relaxing from the cliff or from one of the wonderful beaches. Like all the Salento coast, this stretch of coast was fortified by watchtowers. Today Santa Caterina develops between 2 of the most beautiful coastal towers in the heel of Italy: the Torre dell’Alto and the Torre Santa Caterina. The first is located in the north near the Natural Park of Porto Selvaggio and the Palude del Capitano.

From here on days with clear skies you can see the island on which the historic Gallipoli stands, and also the coast of Ionian Calabria. The tower is easily accessible by following a simple path lasting a few minutes. The other towards the south is that of Torre Santa Caterina, also on a small promontory and immersed in a green pine forest (it houses a small archaeological museum); These can be reached by a small staircase near the beach. In past centuries Santa Caterina was the summer residence of nobles and bourgeois and preserves this historical memory thanks to its marvellous villas that have become the set of numerous films.

The largest and most majestic ones are located in the area called “Le Cenate”, called Ville delle Cenate, along the road that connects the marina to Nardò, where the bourgeoisie and the local nobility chose to place them between the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. It is possible to visit them both from the outside and from the inside to admire the Liberty, Moorish and Eclectic styles when they are open for the DĂ©co Festival.


The oldest story of Santa Caterina tells us many fascinating testimonies. During the Middle Bronze Age (about 1700 BC – 1200 BC) on the promontory now dominated by the Torre dell’Alto, there was a fortified settlement, a village of huts defended with a high stone wall, still visible today in the pine forests. Also on Punta dell’Aspide there was a settlement from the same period that perhaps served as the port and emporium of this fortified village.

During the Messapian age, the area of the beach and the entire plain of Santa Caterina was the landing place that served the Messapian city of NarĂ©ton (today’s Nardò), with piers, docks and storage warehouses. With the Roman conquest of Salento in the third century. B.C. these structures continued to be used as a port of the city as evidenced by the discovery, right in the waters of Santa Caterina, of a Roman transport ship, whose splendid artefacts can be seen in the Museum of the Ancient Sea in Nardò.



by car

Coming from north, drive up the motorway A14 to Bari , continuing southwards along the motorway Bari – Lecce. Once in Bari take the ss 101 that leads to Gallipoli.

by train

Salento is reached along the Adriatic (Milan – Bologna – Pescara – Foggia – Lecce) or through the Rome – Caserta – Foggia – Bari – Brindisi – Lecce. From here continue toward Nardò with the local FSE trains.

by plane

By plane you can reach Salento with a stopover in Brindisi where you can choose to wait for the terminal that connects the airport to the center of Lecce. From here continue toward Nardò with the local FSE trains.