The monumental lighthouse of San Cataldo in Bari, 66 meters high, was designed by the engineer Pietro Palermo in the 1869. It stands on the promontory of the same name also recognized as the northernmost tip of the Bari coast, and is bordered to the west by the Gran Porto Basin and to the east by the promontory of Borgo Antico. Its main function is to signal the presence of land or potentially dangerous elements for navigation and for the approach to the coast to the north, or towards the potentially more adverse conditions of the Adriatic Sea.
The need for a lighthouse arose in the early nineteenth century, when the city of Bari became a very important urban center, second only to the historic capitals of South Italy, Naples and Palermo. The growing concentration in Bari of commercial traffic with foreign countries and with the rest of the province, allows the goods to be exported and transferred quickly and at low cost.
In 1961, under the Lieutenancy of Prince Eugene of Savoy, the Department of Public Works with the resolution of 28 February 1861 ordered the construction of new lighthouses in the Neapolitan Provinces and for the Province of Terra di Bari indicated eight new constructions, two of which in Bari.
Until 1987, the tower’s lamp was powered by gas, and at least once a year an acetylene cylinder weighing 60 kilos had to be brought to the top. Today these operations are all automated and centralized by the port authorities on a national level, however the figure of the lighthouse keeper remains mythical and of enormous emotional and cultural importance.
The San Cataldo lighthouse is not only a place of high architectural and constructive value but was the protagonist of one of the most important historical events of contemporary society thanks to the inventor Guglielmo Giovanni Maria Marconi. On 26 July 1904, the San Cataldo pier was the site of the ceremony that was held at the foot of the lighthouse to celebrate an unprecedented historical event, which led to a real revolution for the citizens of Bari: the first radiotelegraphic connection was inaugurated via ether, or the first connection under state control for commercial purposes, with the city of Antivari in Montenegro, on the opposite Adriatic coast, by Guglielmo Marconi himself. The radiotelegraphic station then entered regular service on 1 September 1904, managed by the homonymous Company “Marconi” and less than ten years after the discovery of G. Marconi, the city of Bari has equipped itself with this “new” system for commercial purposes.