The Basilica San Nicola in Bari, Puglia, is rather famous. It houses a tomb which contains the remains of San Nicola (Saint Nicolas). This Saint is believed to have inspired the legend that is, Santa Claus. It is, the place, to visit Santa in Italy.

What is the tomb of Santa in Italy?

The story of how San Nicola came to be in Bari, is quite a tale. 60 plus sailors set out to Turkey and stole his remains. The enterprising Puglian’s realised that housing San Nicola in Bari would significantly enhance their position on the religious world stage. They stole Santa and have never looked back!

Visit Santa in Italy
San Nicola stands in this Bari Basilica

The tomb in this Basilica has significant religious importance as San Nicola is the connection between the Orthodox and Catholic communities. Pilgrims travel from all around the world to visit the church. San Nicola is known in part for providing a dowry of gold coins to poor women. He is thought to be the protector of children, women and sailors alike.

Nowadays, many European countries celebrate the day of Saint Nicolas on 6 December with gift giving to children. In Bari on the same day each year, there is a church service held in tbe Basilica dedicated to San Nicola. Women who wish to marry and find a husband should attend the serice and gather for a blessing!

Visit Santa in Italy
In recognition of the importance of San Nicola to Russian Orthodox, Vladimir Putin donated this statue to Bari in 2003. It still stands in 2022…..

How to visit Santa in Italy

Visiting Santa in Italy
Basilica San Nicola

The Basilica is in Bari Vecchia, the old town of Bari near to the Port. Once you’re in Bari Vecchia, the church is well sign posted. It is roughly a 15 minute walk from the central train station.

Exploring Bari in Italy
Bari Vecchia, the old town. The cobbled strets are a delight.

It is free to enter the Church and tomb and you do not need a ticket. You are of course welcome to make a donation. The Church is open from 0715 to 2030, but hours may vary due to services or events and at times you may not be able to access the tomb.

Its important to note that this is a religious building and not a commercial experience so don’t expect to see much about Santa Claus! Even if you don’t visit the tomb, the Church itself a Romanesque beauty with a wonderfully detailed Baroque style gold ceiling, well worth a visit.


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2 responses to “How to visit Santa in Italy”

  1. […] The tomb of Saint Nicolas (San Nicola) in the Basilica San Nicola in Bari Vecchia. Here you can find the (stolen) remains of San Nicola, the original Santa! More info can be found here. […]

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