The events related to the settlement of Torre San Giovanni, also known as the Marina of Ugento, tell of a very ancient history… This is demonstrated by the traces of the archaeological remains of the Messapian walls, dating back to 500 BC. The location of the San Giovanni tower was in fact an important maritime landing place, but also an important strategic defense of this specific stretch of coast.
The city was registered with the Messapian name of Ozan and then was renamed Uxentum by the Romans, hence the final name, as we know it today of Ugento. The locality of Torre San Giovanni is so named for the tower of the same name which marks the presence of the maritime settlement within the development of the coastline. It is precisely in the area facing the tower that it is also possible to trace the signs of a Roman settlement. The Ugento Marina is home to two historically significant places: the port and the tower which later became a lighthouse, that outline the territorial and landscape profiles of the area.
It was built in 1565 thanks to Charles V who wanted it as a defense site against the Saracens (so much so that the tower is also known as Torre Carlo V) but most likely it was the Viceroy and Duke of Alcalà D. Pietro Afan de Ribera (1559 – 71 ), after the death of the King, to order the building.
The Tower, which is the only octagonal coastal tower in Puglia, at the base houses an octagonal cistern with a string course and an octagonal first floor with a balustrade and protruding ledges. Inside there is a fresco of San Giovanni from which the place takes its name.
The superfetation of the ancient building, necessary to house a fixed-optic lantern, dates back to the early 1900s and its characteristic checkered painting responds to the need to also be a daytime as well as night signaling to alert about the dangerous shoals located right in proximity of the port.
On 28 March 1932, the tower was transformed into a lighthouse of the Regia Marina in order to complete the luminous signaling of the shallows of Ugento and to specify the position of the San Giovanni bay to small fishing boats. The original signaling consisted of an oil lamp, placed in a window on the raised floor. In 1942, by ministerial order, the oil lamp was replaced with an acetylene one mounted on a truss placed on a new structure.