Let us tell you that if you are around Alicante, you should go to Santa Pola. And why? Well, you’ll see …
If you are wondering where the name comes from in the first place, we’re sorry: many scholars ask themselves the same question, and they have not reached a definitive conclusion either. It may be because of St. Paul, it may be because of the god Apollo himself, or it may be because of neither of the two …
But, place-names aside, there is no doubt that the key to the history of Santa Pola is the sea. Merchants with their merchandise and soldiers with their swords arrived by sea since remote times. As early as the fourth century BC, in here there was a walled Iberian village that did business with the Greeks, although the ones who would end up taking over the place were, as usual, the Romans.
The Portus Illicitanus was, from the first century, a primary enclave for the affairs of Rome in the region. From that era, there are remains of a necropolis, warehouses and a factory where the garum was made, a fish sauce which was supposed to have aphrodisiac properties and was much appreciated by the rich people of the time. Ones that could surely afford it were the owners of El Palmeral, a stately Roman villa whose remains Santa Pola also conserves, and in which, among mosaics and rooms, there is a place for the worship of the goddess Venus, protector of the sailors.
After the collapse of the empire, the port fell into disuse, and little is known about it until the end of the Middle Ages. By the sixteenth century, the concerns of the Habsburg about the vandalism of the Berber pirates were going to leave their memory in this coast: the Castle-Fortress is an impressive Renaissance military work built at that time, and next to the watchtowers defended the city until the damn pirates decided to change their trade.
The towers of Tamarit and Escalates maintained a constant communication in case enemy ships were seen, and the first of them, as you can see, is located in a spectacular spot: one of the lagoons of the Natural Park of Salinas of Santa Pola.
We also recommend a visit to the harbour, successor of that Portus Illicitanus. Although many of the tourists who frequent it, have never heard of the garum … But you know now that this valuable sauce was made here, and also the properties that it had.