Tuscan Maremma


Things to do on Argentario and surroundings

The promontory of the Argentario in Tuscany

The Argentario is a magnificent promontory, located in southern Tuscany, which extends into the Tyrrhenian Sea towards the two southernmost islands of the Tuscan Archipelago: Giglio and Giannutri.
Originally, the Argentario was itself an island but, over the centuries, a constant action of accumulation, gave birth to the Tombolo della Gianella and that of the Feniglia which today, together with the artificial isthmus of the Orbetello dam, connect Monte Argentario on the Maremma coast.

The origin of the name is uncertain. According to some scholars, it is called Argentario because particularly bright crystals were found here; others tend to attribute the name to the activity of argentarii (bankers) carried out here by the gens Domitia, in Roman times. The only sure thing is that this promontory has been called Argentario at least since the 5th century AD.

The Argentario promontory, as well as the whole surrounding area, has been inhabited since the Etruscan era. In Roman times the area was very popular while during the early Middle Ages, also due to the reduction of traffic on the Via Aurelia, the area was partially abandoned. The Argentario was a possession of the Aldobrandeschi, the Orsini, the king of Naples and Siena.

In the sixteenth century the Spanish occupied the area; durring their kingdom they built a series of coastal fortifications that still characterize the landscape today. In the eighteenth century the Spaniards gave way to the Bourbons of Naples who remained in power until the advent of Napoleon. After the Napoleonic experience, the Argentario passed first to the Grand Duchy of Tuscany and then to the Kingdom of Italy.

Today, from an administrative point of view, Monte Argentario is a municipality which has its main centers in Porto Santo Stefano and Porto Ercole, while Orbetello is a municipality in its own right.

Things to see and things to do on the Argentario and its surroundings

Monte Argentario is one of the most beautiful places in the whole region: here you can indulge in a crystal clear sea, many opportunities to get in touch with nature and various places to visit. Picturesque sea ports, historic villages and imposing fortresses contribute to making the fantastic landscape of this corner of Tuscany unique. Holidays on the Argentario are dedicated to relaxation and fun but also to culture and adventure. Along the coasts of the Argentario there is no shortage of things to do: between boat or raft trips, diving and snorkeling, windsurfing and kite surfing, fun is guaranteed! In the hinterland, on the other hand, you can make many excursions along the trekking routes, both on foot, by bike and even on horseback…

Let’s not waste any more time and immediately go to the classic list with the main points of interest:

Orbetello

Orbetello with its lagoon is one of the main tourist destinations in southern Tuscany. Developed along a strip of land right in the middle of the lagoon, Orbetello has its most famous monument in the Spanish Mill: take a ride on Instagram and you’ll find hundreds of photos that portray it in all its glory! If you are passionate about archeology, you should not miss the Archaeological Museum of Orbetello or the Permanent Exhibition of the Fronton of Talamone where the famous pediment from the Etruscan temple of Talamonaccio is exhibited.

The spanish mill in Orbetello
The spanish mill in Orbetello

Porto Ercole

We begin the tour of Monte Argentario starting from the south-eastern coast where we find Porto Ercole, a pretty maritime village rich in history and interesting spots. In addition to the port, I recommend that you also visit the ancient village and stop in Piazza Santa Barbara, a beautiful terrace overlooking the sea. In Porto Ercole and its surroundings we also find some of the most famous fortresses of all the Argentario: the Rocca Spagnola, Forte San Filippo, Forte Santa Caterina and Forte Stella.

The bay of Porto Ercole
Porto Ercole

Porto Santo Stefano

Exactly on the opposite side from Porto Ercole, we find the capital of the municipality of Monte Argentario, Porto Santo Stefano. From here ferries leave for the island of Giglio and that of Giannutri. The most important monument is the Spanish Fortress, built between the end of the 16th and the beginning of the 17th when Porto Santo Stefano became part of the State of the Presidi. For lovers of the genre, I also point out the existence of the acquario mediterraneo della Costa d’Argento (an aquarium).

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

Beaches and sea

Sea lovers who decide to spend their holidays on the Argentario are spoiled for choice. Here we find both the sand and the rock; very long stretches of coast where free beaches alternate with equipped establishments, but also small sheltered coves sometimes reachable only by boat or by means of inaccessible paths. Along the coasts of the Argentario there are many famous beaches, let’s see together which are the most beautiful starting from the tomboli di Orbetello.

To the south of Orbetello is the Feniglia beach while to the north is the Gianella. These are two very long sandy beaches where there are both bathing establishments and free access sections. Easy to reach, they are also ideal for a holiday with children.

In Porto Ercole we find the small beach of Cala Galera which is located right next to the port of the same name. At the foot of Forte Stella there are the La Piletta beach and the Spiaggia Lunga, easily reachable from the panoramic road; continuing south you will find the Grotta Azzurra.

The main beaches in the Porto Santo Stefano area are the Baia d’Argento, La Cantoniera which can also be reached on foot from the city, and Cala Grande which is appreciated for its magnificent panorama.

Continuing along the west coast there is one of the most beautiful beaches in all of the Argentario, namely Cala del Gesso, as well as Cala Moresca and Cala Piccola (privately owned).

We close the tour with Le Cannelle and with the cove called Mar Morto, a beach with rocks protected from the sea by a natural barrier, ideal for a swim in total relaxation.

Spiaggia della Feniglia near Porto Ercole
Feniglia beach (Photo by Raimond Spekking / CC BY)

Talamone

Now that we have seen the main towns of the Argentario and its coasts, it is time to see what is around. The first place I want to talk about is Talamone, a pleasant seaside village much appreciated by sailing lovers. Thanks to its constant winds, the bay of Talamone is the ideal place for windsurfing and kitesurfing. Talamone is not just the sea: the village has a beautiful medieval fortress from which you can enjoy a beautiful panoramic view and is located on the offshoots of the Parco Naturale della Maremma.

The Fortress of Talamone
The Fortress of Talamone (Photo by trolvag / CC BY)

Ansedonia

Ansedonia is a renowned holiday resort located on the coast just in front of the Argentario. The main attractions of Ansedonia are its large sandy beaches and the remains of the ancient Roman city of Cosa with its Archaeological Museum that I recommend you visit. In Ansedonia there are also some coastal towers and a couple of interesting Roman engineering works: the Tagliata Etrusca and the Spacco della Regina.

Ansedonia
Ansedonia (Photo by trolvagCC BY)

Capalbio

Let’s move now to the Maremma inland to reach the characteristic village of Capalbio. Capalbio is a typical Tuscan hillside village, made up of ancient buildings all leaned against each other along narrow and winding streets. The main monument is the Rocca degli Aldobrandeschi which with its tower stands on the roofs of the houses of this delightful village. Also worth visiting is the Church of San Nicola and the nearby WWF Oasis of Lago di Burano.

The tower of the fortress in Capalbio
Capalbio (Photo by Luca Aless / CC BY)

Giardino dei Tarocchi

The Tarot Garden is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the area. Born from the imagination of the French artist Niki de Saint Phalle, the garden hosts a series of sculptural works, inspired by the art of Gaudì, which represent the major arcana of the tarot. A fantastic place, a place of peace and serenity full of symbols and meanings.

The Garden of the Tarot cards near Capalbio
The Garden of the Tarot cards (Photo by Simone Ramella / CC BY)

How to get to the Argentario

From Florence (200 km) by car it takes just under 3 hours. Motorway junction to Siena, then SS223 to Grosseto and turn onto Via Aurelia E80; from there continue towards the Argentario.

From Rome (150 km) by car it takes about two hours. A12 motorway towards Civitavecchia and then the SS1 state road towards Grosseto up to destination.

By train you can get to Orbetello station which is served by regional trains from Pisa and Rome. Buses run by Tiemme leave from Orbello in the direction of Porto Ercole and Porto Santo Stefano.

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