Orbetello, between sea and … sea
Overlooking the homonymous lagoon, Orbetello is one of the main tourist resorts of the Argentario and Maremma. The city stands on a long strip of land right in the center of the lagoon that extends between the mainland and Mount Argentario to which Orbetello is connected through an artificial dam. The town is located in the south of Tuscany, in the province of Grosseto, an area rich in seaside resorts. The sea is in fact the great protagonist, and in this part of Tuscany there are many of the most beautiful beaches in the region and a crystal clear sea. We will also talk about the sea and the beaches but, as we will see, Orbetello also has more to offer and together with the other places in the area it is also a popular destination for those looking for a more cultural holiday.
A bit of history
Orbetello is the protagonist of a long series of historical events. Its territory was inhabited since the time of the Etruscans, then supplanted by the Romans who founded the city of Cosa near Ansedonia. During the Middle Ages it was part of the properties of the Abbey of the Tre Fontane, then of the Aldobrandeschi, of the Orsini and finally of the Republic of Siena. After the end of the Sienese state (XVI century), Orbetello became part of the spanish State of the Presidi. In 1707 its territory came under the control of the Austrians, but in 1736 it became part of the Kingdom of Naples. In the nineteenth century Orbetello was incorporated into the Kingdom of Etruria first, then into the Grand Duchy of Tuscany, and finally into the Kingdom of Italy.
Today Orbetello is a renowned seaside resort able to associate some natural areas, archaeological sites and various monuments to its numerous beaches.
Guide to visit Orbetello, best places to visit
The historic center of Orbetello preserves several interesting things to see that allow us to retrace the various eras and the history of the city.
The Mulino spagnolo (Spanish mill) is perhaps the best known monument in Orbetello. Located in the middle of the water a short distance from the coast, it is the only surviving among the 9 water mills that were built by the Sienese and later restored by the Spaniards. The mills were arranged in line and thanks to the force of the wind, they grind the flour that the inhabitants of the city needed. To admire this graceful mill you have to reach the western end of Orbetello where the dam that leads to the Argentario begins. If you are looking for a nice photo, the Spanish mill is definitely the one for you!
Archaeological Museum of Orbetello
The Archaeological Museum of Orbetello is located inside the Polveriera Guzman, an interesting rectangular building reinforced by some side towers which was built at the end of the 17th century. The museum exhibits a large collection of archaeological finds, ranging from the Neolithic to the Roman age, mostly coming from Orbetello and Talamone. Most of these artifacts were found during the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Walking through the rooms of the museum you can admire funerary objects from the Etruscan necropolis in the area, votive cabinets, weapons and agricultural tools.
The museum also offers a series of educational activities aimed at creating a dialogue between the school and the museum itself, with the aim of deepening the history and culture of the place through workshops and guided tours.
Address: via Mura di Levante 7
For all information on museum opening times, I recommend you visit the official website of the Musei di Maremma.
If you are fond of archeology, I suggest you to go around the city in search of the ancient walls of Orbetello, which were built in Etruscan times and then reinforced several times over the centuries.
Frontone di Talamone
The Polveriera Guzman also houses the Mostra Permanente del Frontone di Talamone, dedicated to the prestigious finds from the Etruscan temple of Talamonaccio. Dating back to 150 BC the pediment of Talamone offers the most important representation of the history of the “Seven against Thebes” that has come down to us.
The Duomo of Orbetello, or Concattedrale di Santa Maria Assunta, was built starting from the 13th century and, according to tradition, it would rise above a former pagan temple. On the façade you can admire a remarkable late Gothic portal and a bust of Jesus placed above the rose window. The interior, with three naves, is enriched by the chapel of San Biagio, a Baroque monument of considerable interest. Among the most interesting things to see are a wooden statue depicting Maria Assunta, the frontal of the main altar and a couple of eighteenth-century paintings, Circumcision and Mysteries of the Rosary.
Chiesa della Madonna delle Grazie
Finally, in Orbetello there is the Madonna delle Grazie church. Founded, it seems, in the thirteenth century, the church has been completely rebuilt over time. Inside we find a painting of the 18th century Madonna and Child in glory between angels attributed to Sebastiano Conca and two interesting fifteenth-century frescoes of the Sienese school: Madonna di Costantinopoli and Madonna delle Grazie.
The beaches of Orbetello
Orbetello has two beaches that run parallel along the two ends of the lagoon: the Feniglia beach (south side) and the Giannella beach (north side). Both the Feniglia beach, of which we have also spoken in the article about Porto Ercole, and the Giannella beach are two long strips of sand (7 and 8 km respectively) that connect the Argentario to the mainland. Both beaches are characterized by shallow waters and by the alternation of bathing establishments with free beaches. Ideal for a holiday with children!
Places to visit near Orbetello
Some very interesting centers such as Ansedonia and Talamone are part of the municipality of Orbetello; two locations able to perfectly combine sea and culture, a feature that unites them to all the various centers of the Argentario and the Maremma coast. In Ansedonia there is an important archaeological area relating to the ancient Roman city of Cosa where there is also the important National Archaeological Museum of Cosa and some ancient engineering works such as the Tagliata Etrusca. Talamone is a very popular destination for lovers of sailing sports and has a beautiful medieval fortress overlooking the sea. Not far from the center of Orbetello there is also the Forte delle Saline, a military construction that dates back to the era of the Sienese domination and which takes its name from the numerous salt marshes (the “saline”) in the area.
Nature lovers are spoiled for choice; in fact, in the area there are several protected natural areas, including the Riserva naturale Duna Feniglia, the Parco della Maremma and the Oasi WWF Laguna di Orbetello. In particular, the Orbetello lagoon is an important wintering area for many species of birds including the cormorant, the heron, the flamingo, the osprey and the black-winged stilt.
How to get to Orbetello
Orbetello is located about 40 km from Grosseto, 180 km from Florence and 140 from Rome. The city can be easily reached both by car and by public transport.
By car: Strada Statale 1 Aurelia from both north and south with exit at Orbetello.
By train: Orbetello has a railway station located in the Orbetello Scalo area which is located a few kilometers from the historic center. The station can be reached by regional trains both from Rome (about 2 hours) and from Grosseto (20 minutes). From there some buses of the company TIEMME leave for the city.