Tuscan Maremma


Guide to visit Porto Santo Stefano

Porto Santo Stefano: the most beautiful beaches of the Argentario and other things to see

Porto Santo Stefano is part of Monte Argentario, the beautiful promontory that juts out into the sea from the coasts of the Maremma, and is certainly one of the most famous and appreciated tourist destinations in the area thanks to its beautiful location on the sea, the numerous dream beaches and places of interest that characterize it.

The sea here is the undisputed protagonist of the scene. It is a spectacular, clear sea, with a wonderful coastline where sheer coasts alternate with low sandy beaches where you can lie down to sunbathe and enjoy the view. The undeniable natural beauty of these places and the value of these beaches is testified every year by the Bandiera Blu of Legambiente.

Porto Santo Stefano is exactly what we can define as “a seaside village” and in fact here there are not one but two ports, the old one and the one called Porto del Valle. The second in particular is the one assigned to the landing of larger boats and to guarantee connections with the other islands of the Tuscan Archipelago such as the Isola del Giglio and the Isola di Giannutri. Every year many tourists come to the city to spend their summer holidays and relax on the beaches and in the wonderful sea of ​​the Argentario.

Porto Santo Stefano
Porto Santo Stefano (Photo by Markus Bernet / CC BY)

History

Thanks to its strategic position, the area in which Porto Santo Stefano is located has been frequented since ancient times by the various peoples who sailed in the Mediterranean. Among the numerous traces left by the Romans, there are the remains of the baths of Domitian and from their geographical maps we learn that several settlements already existed here such as Portus Traianus and Portus ad Cetarias. Taking a long leap forward we reach the late Middle Ages, when the area was subject to the domination of the Sienese and above all to the raids of pirates. It is no coincidence that some coastal towers and the Torre dell’Argentiera were built around the middle of the 15th century.

The city began to develop around 1550 during the rule of the Spanish Núñez Orejón de Ávila, and continued even after the creation of the State of the Presidi and the construction of the Spanish fortress. Here the story gets complicated, because Porto Santo Stefano begins to be disputed by everyone. In 1646 it was conquered by the French but almost immediately returned under the control of the Spaniards, in 1707 the Austrians took control of the center but in 1737 the Bourbons imposed themselves. In 1801, Porto Santo Stefano became part of the Kingdom of Etruria and after the Congress of Vienna it passed under the Grand Duchy of Tuscany, until 1860 when the entire region became part of the Kingdom of Italy. In that same year, Porto Santo Stefano hosted Garibaldi during the journey from Quarto to Marsala.

The Second World War marked an extremely difficult period. The city was in fact used by the Germans as a logistical base and for this reason it suffered a series of very hard bombings that caused many victims and devastation.

The most beautiful beaches of Porto Santo Stefano and Argentario

Lovers of the sea are spoiled for choice; in Porto Santo Stefano and in the surrounding area there are many very beautiful and picturesque beaches. The first of these beaches is that of Cala del Gesso, considered by many to be the most beautiful in the Argentario, from which you can admire a breathtaking view. Not far from this beach is the isolotto dell’Argentarola while looking to its right there are the remains of a 15th-century Spanish watchtower. The beach is free, private and very sunny.

A little further south is the beach of Cala Piccola instead where the bathing establishment attached to a hotel is located. Not far from this cove there is a shoal that is suitable for diving and snorkeling. Continuing further you will find the spiaggia del Mar Morto, where there are some small natural pools that have formed between the rocks. Among the beaches closest to the town are La Cantoniera, ideal for a dip from the rocks, and La Bionda, which is appreciated for the tranquility of its waters.

As I said, there are many options to choose from also because the beaches listed represent only a part of all those found in the area. The choice is between beaches equipped with establishments where you can rent umbrellas and deck chairs, bars and restaurants and free beaches where you can enjoy nature in absolute freedom. Obviously there is no shortage of opportunities to indulge in sea sports such as surfing, wind surfing, kiting, diving, snorkeling and weighing.

What to see in Porto Santo Stefano: the fortress, the aquarium and other interesting places

Lots of sea but also several interesting things to see and places to visit. Let’s see what are the main attractions of Porto Santo Stefano:

  • Spanish fortress
  • Aquarium

Spanish fortress

The Spanish Fortress of Porto Santo Stefano was built between the 16th and 17th centuries, in a dominant position in the city center. The fortress occupies the position of a Sienese tower and for several centuries it carried out important defensive functions against attacks from the sea.

Today the fortress hosts two permanent exhibitions that are part of the Maremma Museums circuit: Memorie sommerse and Maestri d’ascia. The Memorie Sommerse exhibition is dedicated to underwater archeology and to the various discoveries that took place in the sea around the Argentario and along the coasts of the Maremma. The exhibits document the history of maritime trade in the Mediterranean Sea since ancient times and the role played by Porto Santo Stefano in this important traffic. Maestri d’Ascia, on the other hand, documents the art of building boats; an activity that has been going on on the Argentario for over a thousand years.

Spanish Fortress of Porto Santo Stefano
Spanish Fortress (Photo by Ceppicone / CC BY)

Aquarium

The aquarium of Porto Santo Stefano (the full name of the Acquario mediterraneo della Costa d’Argento) is located on the Lungomare dei Navigatori and was inaugurated in 2001. The path of the aquarium is spread over two floors for a total of nine rooms in which there are 17 tanks, 7 of which are panoramic, which host numerous marine species including sponges, crustaceans, molluscs and various fish.

Other places to visit around Porto Santo Stefano

Porto Santo Stefano is perfect for taking long walks by the sea, starting with the Lungomare dei Navigatori which was designed by the great designer Giorgetto Giugiaro who wanted to highlight the whole seascape with the benches facing the water. Staying on the subject of landscapes and panoramas, I would like to point out the Via Panoramica that goes around the Argentario and connects Porto Santo Stefano and Porto Ercole. Along the way there are some defensive towers and the Forte Stella. Finally, among the other localities in the area, I would like to point out Orbetello, Ansedonia, Talamone and Capalbio.

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