Maremma: Monte Argentario

This is an excerpt from the book “Florence and Tuscany

Image credit: adrenalinapura / 123RF Stock Photo
Image credit: adrenalinapura / 123RF Stock Photo

Monte Argentario is among the most famous spots in the Maremma and all of Tuscany. Its natural beauty and the facilities provided have made it a major tourist attraction.

The Promontory’s coast has rocky cliffs covered by Mediterranean scrub alternating with olive groves and vineyards which produce excellent wine such as Ansonico and Riminese.

It was originally an island called Insula Matidiae because it belonged to Trajan’s niece, Matidia.

As a result of sand drift, it eventually became connected to the Tyrrenian coast by two sand bars, the Tombolo della Feniglia to the south and the Tombolo della Giannella to the north.

It was called Promontorio Cosano for the Roman colony of 273 B.C., Cosa. The name Argentario was first mentioned with the name in a poem “De reditu” by Rutilio Namaziano (5th century A.D.). The name may derive from the luster of the micaceous rock or from the position as bankers held by the Roman family of the Domizi Enobardi who owned the promontory.

After a long period of abandon, both the Pisans and the Sienese fortified it to defend the coast from Saracen raids. Later Spain incorporated both Porto Ercole and Porto Santo Stefano into its fortification plan, creating the Stato dei Presidi (Garrison State).

A villa in Porto Santo Stefano – Photo © mafe
A villa in Porto Santo Stefano – Photo © mafe

Porto Santo Stefano

Porto Santo Stefano is the main town on the Argentario. The town slopes down from the hillside to a picturesque bay on the northern coast. It has become a popular resort thanks to the splendid sea and the beauty of the surrounding countryside.

Villas and antique watch towers populate the hills to the sides of the gulf, while the jagged, steep coastline is broken by terraced vineyards and the green Mediterranean scrub.

Both the ferry line to the islands of Giannutri and Giglio and yachting based tourism have been made possible by the two ports, Porto Nuovo and Porto Vecchio. The shipyards and traditional boat builders have also contributed to the prosperity of the town.

Historical evidence indicates that fishermen from Liguria and Elba settled Santo Stefano between the 15th and 16th centuries to practice both fishing and agriculture. An increase in population occurred at the beginning of the 17th century when the governor of the Stato dei Presidi, Nuno Orejon, made it the base for a sizeable sailing fleet.

On August 15th every year the “Palio marinaro”(sea race) is held in memory of a fishing boat saved from the Saracen attack and of Santo Stefano’s seafaring tradition. The race is preceded by a spectacular procession in Spanish costumes.

Porto Ercole – Photo © sisde
Porto Ercole – Photo © sisde

Porto Ercole

Porto Ercole The colorful fishing village is on a bay protected by a small promontory on the eastern coast of the Argentario.

The Romans named it Portus Herculus in honor of the mythical Hercules, but it dates back to the Etruscans or the Phoenicians. It was dominated by the Romans for many centuries and in the Middle Ages fell under the abbot of the Tre Fontane.

It passed from the Aldobrandeschi family to the Orsini to the Sienese and in 1555, it became part of the Stato dei Presidi. The Spanish fortified it further with two fortresses: Forte Stella and Forte Filippo. These two mighty fortresses dominate the landscape, making it even more fascinating.

Today Porto Ercole is one of the most prestigious spots on the Tuscan coast, a cosmopolitan center frequented by tourists and vacationers alike. Fashionable shops, clubs and night spots face the small port.

Nearby is Cala Galera, a charming, natural small bay where the new port has been built. Here, every summer, innumerable yachts stop, attracted by efficiency of the structure and the extensive facilities offered by this exclusive landing.

End of the excerpt from the book “Florence and Tuscany“. Get the entire content of the book free from advertising.

Where to stay in Porto Santo Stefano

There are numerous high quality hotels, villas, apartments and agriturismi (Farm stays) available, check them out and make a reservation here.

Where to stay in Porto Ercole

There are numerous high quality hotels, villas, apartments and agriturismi (Farm stays) available, check them out and make a reservation here.