Jutting off the Tuscan Coast lies one of Italy’s most undiscovered destinations: the Monte Argentario. An easy two hour drive from Rome’s Fiumicino Airport, the Monte Argentario offers the best of summer by the sea and the Italian lifestyle rolled into one gorgeous package.
Here is our primer for those fortunate enough to be looking forward to visiting the Argentario.
Porto Santo Stefano
Porto Santo Stefano is the largest of the two main towns in the Monte Argentario municipality. Bustling ports, a sweeping bay, and an active marina provide plenty of action for visitors. Porto Santo Stefano is known for its spectacular seafood, so don’t miss a visit to the ‘pescheria’ (fish market) in the harbor to see all the unusual sea creatures available.
Porto Santo Stefano has historically run a ‘palio’ – a test of strength and endurance most famously run in Siena on horseback around the Campo. Townships across Italy hold many palios and they come in a wide range of forms and formats. In Porto Santo Stefano, the Palio Marinaro dell’Argentario is a rowing race for four boats named after the Mediterranean winds. If you are in town in August, it is a great deal of fun to watch the race alongside the locals.
Giglio & Giannutri
Giglio and Giannutri are the best known of the Tuscan Archipelago islands that include Montecristo and Pianose. Ferries to Giglio and Giannutri leave from Porto Santo Stefano and take about 50 minutes each way. Look for Maregiglio. Advance reservations are strongly recommended.
Known as a haven for nature lovers, Giglio is a small island off the coast of the Argentario. There are four primary beaches on Giglio: Campese, Cannelle, Arenella and Caldane. With colourful coral reefs, olive groves and sandy beaches you will find plenty to keep you busy. Tourist information can be found here.
Giannutri is the southernmost island of the Tuscan Archipelago. Giannutri is small with a rugged coastline and limited access from May 26th to October 12th. A restriction recently adopted means that only 300 visitors are permitted per season. This law is intended to help preserve the unspoiled, natural beauty and uniqueness of the island. Visits to the island are guided and scheduled. The Isle Park homepage allows you to view, in real time, the schedules of trips planned for Giannutri. It also provides information about the guide and the agency that is the organiser on a given day.
Those who do not want to take a guide are only allowed to pass along the “corridor” (the main connecting road between Cala Maestra and Cala Spalmatoio) for free. Should you wish to visit the archaeological site of Villa Domitia, you must follow the precise provisions of the Ministry for the Environment, Land and Sea. Any offenders will be fined. Information on these rules and norms of behavior is available on the park office official website.
Porto Ercole is a picturesque seaside village nestled around the north shore facing the mainland. Known as one of the most charming towns in Tuscany, Porto Ercole has an attractive harbour with restaurants and shops dotting its shore. Be sure to include a visit to one of the area’s three historic fortresses: Forte Filippo, the Torre del Mulinaccio and the eighteenth-century Forte Santa Caterina.
We recommend dining at Alicina Hosteria, this boutique restaurant offers fresh seafood in a beautiful presentation but as it's small, be sure to book a table in advance.
You will miss the delightful centre of Orbetello if you don’t park and walk around. Orbetello is a local town, larger and more ‘every day’ than the seaside villages on the Argentario itself. Orbetello is a favourite of ours and is a great place for an interesting passeggiata. It's a haven for wildlife and the Orbetello Lagoon is one of this region's most uncontaminated natural areas. Birds flock to the Orbetello Nature Reserve. If you're in town the first weekend of the month then be sure to look out for a classic Italian bargain at the antiques market.
Offering a break from the traditional menu in Tuscany, Baraka serves international fusion food in a creative, cosy atmosphere. It’s a perfect spot for aperitivo as the restaurant offers a spread of snacks included in the price of the drinks.
Finally, make sure you join the locals in a lovely tradition they call ‘la passeggiata, or ‘the promenade.’ It is an early evening affair from about 5 to 8pm, typically occurring on Saturdays and Sundays at dusk (although it can be a nightly tradition in summertime). The point is to get out with the whole family and stroll arm in arm, gossiping, greeting and socialising along the main drag of town. Local residents stop for a glass of wine, gelato for the kids, or buy peanuts from the vendors letting the shells fall at their feet as they walk. It's a real opportunity to enjoy the laid back, local vibe that this part of Tuscany really embraces.
For more information about visiting the Monte Argentario and to plan your luxury villa holiday in Tuscany, get in touch with our villa specialists on +44 (0) 1242 787 800.