Santa Cesarea Terme: what to see and do, sea, thermal baths, restaurants and surroundings

Santa Cesarea Terme is a popular tourist destination on the Adriatic coast of Salento, famous for its thermal waters and noble villas built at the end of the 19th century. The birth of the town dates back to the early 20th century, after the merger of the towns of Vitigliano and Cerfignano, now hamlets of Santa Cesarea Terme.

The name derives from Santa Cesarea, who, according to tradition, was a young girl from Otranto who, in order to defend herself from her father’s violence, fled while he was trying to kill her. The young woman took refuge in a cave, and when the man found her, he was engulfed in flames and lost in the sea. Since then, a spring of sulphurous water has gushed forth uninterruptedly in that same spot.

As a matter of fact, Santa Cesarea Terme, is a hydrothermal resort, and its thermal baths are among the best known and most popular in Apulia. The thermal baths and mud baths have important curative properties and are particularly indicated for arthro-rheumatic and dermatological pathologies, respiratory tract disorders, trauma after-effects, as well as for aesthetic and anti-stress treatments.

Santa Cesarea Terme: what to see and do

Do you want to know what to see and do in Santa Cesarea Terme during your holiday in Salento? Here are some unmissable gems:

The noble villas of Santa Cesarea Terme

Besides its thermal waters, the town of Santa Cesarea Terme is known for the presence of noble villas dating back more than a hundred years, when the present town still had to be built.

Among these, the most important is Villa Sticchi, one of the symbols of the town, perched on a cliff overlooking the Canale d’Otranto. Villa Sticchi is easily recognisable because of its Moorish style, of which it is one of the main representatives throughout the Apulia region (and beyond). The engineer Pasquale Ruggieri designed the building in the late 19th century. Unfortunately, Villa Sticchi is private property, so it cannot be visited, but you can appreciate its majesty even from outside.

Another noble villa in Santa Cesarea Terme, of immeasurable beauty, is Villa Raffaella. Its name derives from Baroness Raffaella, a member of the Lubelli family, who commissioned the construction of what was to be her summer residence. This marvellous architectural work, however, was realised by the engineer Emilio Corti.

The villas of Santa Cesarea Terme are located in the central part of the town. There is, however, a third level, the highest part, where one enters among the Aleppo pines. Not far away is the belvedere of Santa Cesarea Terme, from which you can admire the southern coast of Salento, reaching as far as Santa Maria di Leuca.

Another noteworthy architectural structure is Palazzo Tamborino, also known as Palazzo Miramare, built in the early 20th century by Senator Vincenzo Tambrino. It is located high above the cliff and has private access to the sea. It is fascinating to know that at one time, this palace was used as a casino.

Mother Church of the Sacred Heart

Speaking of religious architecture, mention must be made of the Mother Church of the Sacred Heart, built in the 14th century on the site where, according to tradition, the Virgin Cesaria died, and rebuilt in the 20th century. It is characterised by a sober façade with a central portal and rose window, while the interior, with a nave and two aisles, ends in the presbytery where the main altar is located, surmounted by the statue of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Here we also find the papier-mâché statue of the Virgin Saint Cesarea, of important artistic importance.

The natural caves of Santa Cesarea Terme

The thermal waters of Santa Cesarea Terme come from the four natural grottoes of sulphurous-salty-bromine-iodine waters, which gush out at 30°, located along the cliffs overlooking the sea.

The names of the four caves are Gattulla, Fetida, Solfatara and Solfurea. Among them, the most famous is the Grotta Fetida, inside which, according to tradition, the death of Cisaria’s father, who was suddenly enveloped in flames, miraculously saved the girl. It is called Grotta Fetida because the thermal waters are characterised by the presence of sulphur, which gives the water a smell similar to that of eggs when they become rotten.

The karstic phenomenon does not only affect Santa Cesarea Terme, but also the rest of the coastal stretch as far as Castro Marina. About halfway along, for example, is the famous Grotta Zinzulusa (Zinzulusa Cave), one of the most beautiful in Salento, which every summer welcomes crowds of tourists who can admire its natural beauty.ù

Castro Marina - Grotta Zinzulusa

How to access the thermal baths of Santa Cesarea?

To access the thermal baths of Santa Cesarea it is compulsory to present a doctor’s prescription: you can book online, by going in person from 8.30 a.m. to 1 p.m. every working day to the Booking Office located in via Roma 40, or by calling +39 0836 944314.

You can find all the information on the official Santa Cesarea Spa website.

Sea and beaches in Santa Cesarea Terme

Santa Cesarea has a wonderful crystal-clear sea, which can be admired in all its lustrous beauty from the town’s high coastline. The sea beds offer magical colours and are among the most beautiful in Salento. Due to the height of the coastline and the depth of the seabed, bathing is not suitable for children. In fact, there are no sandy beaches in Santa Cesarea Terme, but there is nothing to fear: the beach clubs in Santa Cesarea Terme are almost all equipped with a swimming pool, guaranteeing the best relaxation even for families with children.

Not far from the town is the Bay of Porto Miggiano, a magical inlet, enclosed by imposing golden rocks, with a small sandy beach and a dreamlike sea. With its caves that have been inhabited since prehistoric times, it is undoubtedly one of the must-visit destinations on a Salento holiday. And it is not only about the sea with magnificent colours, but also about facilities suitable for the whole family, such as the beautiful 19 Summer Club, a luxurious bathing establishment that, with its swimming pools overlooking the sea, offers a guaranteed haven of relaxation surrounded by a sensational panorama.

Just 5 km away is the seaside resort of Porto Badisco, which offers sandy beaches and cliffs, suitable for the whole family, with breathtaking views and beautiful coves nestled in the wilderness along the coast.

If we then go a little further east, 15 km away is one of the most beautiful villages in Apulia, Otranto, with its imposing architectural structures and an amazing sea, all to be experienced. Here the choice is vast, between beaches in the village and those on the coastline you can discover one of the most evocative stretches of the Salento coast.

How to access Porto Miggiano beach

The bay of Porto Miggiano, also known as Spiaggia dei 100 gradini (Beach of 100 Steps), is one of the most beautiful places in Salento. A wonderful canyon welcomes the small sand and pebble beach kissed by Caribbean waters. Unfortunately, however, a bathing prohibition has been posted because of the cliff at risk of collapse, so it would not be possible to go down the steps and stand on the beach. The safest way to swim in this paradise on earth is to access it by sea: simply go down to the small harbour of Porto Miggiano, located to the right of the resort, and take a pedalo to admire the entire coastline and its caves.

Baia di Porto Miggiano - Vacanza in Salento
What to do in Santa Cesarea Terme at night

Santa Cesarea Terme offers plenty of opportunities for nightlife lovers or for those who, during their holiday in Salento, want to discover wonderful places by night. In fact, in Santa Cesarea Terme there are many beach bars, cocktail bars and beach clubs where you can have an aperitif, or take part in events with live music and DJ sets. So, if you are looking for something simple and quiet to do in the evening, we recommend a walk in the centre or along the seafront of Santa Cesarea, or you can move to nearby Castro or perhaps Otranto.

  • If, on the other hand, you are a nightlife lover, here are the best clubs in Santa Cesarea Terme:
  • The Riviera, an exclusive location by the sea;
  • Baraonda 2.0, an open-air club immersed in the pine forest;
  • 19 Summer Club, a location with a sensational view, which organises events and evenings with live music and DJ sets
  • Lido il Caicco, ideal for aperitifs by the sea;

Moreover, some of the most renowned discos in Salento are located in Santa Cesarea Terme. Here are some of them:

  • Disco Malè Costa del Sud, with three dance floors and different music (Caribbean, commercial and house);
  • Guendalina Club, with techno and house music;
  • Blubay in Castro, with different types of music.

Where to eat in Santa Cesarea Terme

There are many restaurants in Santa Cesarea Terme, almost all located in exclusive locations and renowned for their excellent quality. If you want to eat fish in Salento here you will certainly have a wide choice, but if you don’t like it, you will still find the right restaurant:

  • Il Villino
  • La Rosa dei Venti
  • Bagno Marino Archi
  • Augustus Resort

In the surroundings

We have seen that Santa Cesarea Terme is one of the most beautiful locations in Salento with a truly vast tourist offer. From the dreamlike sea to high-level restaurants and nightclubs. But not only that, staying in Santa Cesarea Terme is ideal for visiting Salento and discovering its wonders. Here is what to see around Santa Cesarea Terme:

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