Porto Ercole, an ancient hamlet on the sea surrounded by fortresses
Today we talk about another town from the list of the most beautiful hamlets in Italy: Porto Ercole.
Porto Ercole is part of the municipality Monte Argentario in province of Grosseto. Located on the eastern side of Argentario, in front of Ansedonia, Porto Ercole is an important tourist destination with a lot of history.
Thanks to the archaeological findings we know that here was an Etruscan village and then a Roman one. Because of its strategic relevance, for many centuries Porto Ercole was contended by many rulers, both local than international. During the Middle Ages Pope Leone III gave the hamlet to the Abbazia delle Tre Fontane of Rome, thanks to a false document attributed to Charlemagne; later it became a possession of the Aldobrandeschi and then of Orsini, at that time was created the first part of the Fortress of Porto Ercole. In 15th century the harbour was bought by the Repubblica di Siena, that built the walls and some coastal towers; this was a period of strong development, which continued even during the subsequent Spanish domination.
A century later, Porto Ercole was involved in an international war in which France and Siena fought against Spain and Florence. After a famous battle, represented in a Vasari’s fresco “La presa di Porto Ercole“, the harbour became part of the spanish State of the Presidi. The spanish expanded the frotress of Porto Ercole and built three new fort: Forte Santa Caterina, Forte Filippo and Forte Stella.
An incident worth mentioning is the one regarding the great Caravaggio that, apparently, would have died in Porto Ercole on 18 July 1610. The most common argument in fact says that Caravaggio arrived in critical condition at this port of Argentario where he died despite the hospitalization in Santa Maria Ausiliatrice.
After the Congress of Vienna in 1815, Porto Ercole became part of the Granducato di Toscana, until the Italy’s unification.
What to see and what to do in Porto Ercole
Visit the city centre of Porto Ercole
The lower part of the town, along the bay, is the mordern part; here there are shops, restaurants, shipyards and also some diving centers. You can rent a boat or a dinghy to explore the coasts of the Argentario.
The historic centre of Porto Ercole is in the southern side of the bay, near the Rocca Spagnola. You can get into the hamlet crossing a gothic city gate located under a bell tower from where we can reach the main monuments as the chiesa di Sant’Erasmo and the palazzo dei governanti in piazza Santa Barbara, a beautiful terrace overlooking the bay.
The spanish forts around Porto Ercole
From the hamlet you can quickly get to the Rocca Spagnola. Born duirng the domination of the Aldobrandeschi, this fortress was expanded many times till it became a true citadel with buildings, streets and gardens. The current plant dates back to the 16th century when the fortress was equipped with battlements and ramparts. The defensive structures are imposing, in some points there are many curtain walls and ditches.
May- September: 10.00-12.00 and 17.00-19.00
October – April: 10.00-12.00 and 15.00-17.00
Tickets: free entrance on reservation
For informations call the Ufficio Cultura of Porto Santo Stefano: tel. 0564/81192573; mail: email@example.com
Taking the Strada Panoramica to west you can get to the second fort on the southern side: the Forte Stella. It’s a beautiful structure with a six-pointed star shape, built starting from the second half of the 16th century as a sighting point.
Tickets: regular 2 euro; reduced 1 euro; free for kids till 6 years and for disabled.
Easter – 15 June: saturday, sunday and holidays 10.30-12.30 and 16.00-18.00
16-30 June: every day 10.30-12.30 and 18.00-20.00
July – August: every day 17.00-21.00
September: saturday and sunday 16.00-20.00
On the headland opposite, to the North of the Bay, there are other spanish fortifications: the moghty Forte Filippo built in 16th century (not open) and the smaller Forte Santa Caterina; In addition to these forts there is also the Torre del Mulinaccio, a tower located near Forte Filippo.
The beaches of Porto Ercole
Around Porto Ercole there are numerous beaches both free and paid, among these we mention some: to the north there is the sandy spiaggia della Feniglia that links Argentario to the mainland and Cala Galera, both these beaches are partially free and partially paid; south of the village instead we find Le Viste, Spiaggia Lunga, L’Acqua Dolce these beaches are open access with the possibility to rent beach umbrellas and sun loungers.
How to get to Porto Ercole
By train: the nearest station is Orbetello Monte Argentario, from Orbetello you can take a bus.
By bus: from Orbetello line o2 byi Tiemme Grosseto
from Grosseto linea 39O by Tiemme Grosseto
By car: Via Aurelia till Orbetello, cross the city and follow signs for Porto Ercole.