Monte Argentario: Tuscany By The Sea
The Peninsula Surrounded by the Mediterranean
A Tuscany island connected to the mainland by two long sandy beaches and a road: the extraordinary geography of Monte Argentario will bewitch you at first glance. This is a perfect destination for nature enthusiasts and lovers of the sea. The coast of the peninsula is very diverse: long sandy beaches, small pebble coves, picturesque headlands overlooking the sea. Not to mention the beautiful islands of Giglio and Giannutri, not far from the peninsula. From La Feniglia to Le Cannelle, everywhere lapis-lazuli waters pamper the lucky visitor.
If Argentario had a symbol, it would be that of an ancient watchtower. Medieval rocks and Renaissance fortresses: the long maritime history of Argentario has left its wonderful traces everywhere. A mix of natural beauty and culture that has attracted foreigners from all over the world. Monte Argentario is in fact a very popular destination among British, French, Dutch, Russians and Germans. The perfect climate, the scent of the maquis and the silence of starry nights make this Tuscan peninsula a unique place in the Mediterranean Sea.
From the luxurious golf by the sea Argentario Golf Club to the wildest beaches, from the 1 Michelin star restaurant Il Pellicano to the most simple fish taverns by the sea, from the majestic Spanish fortresses to the small fishing villages: Monte Argentario offers a truly diverse experience of Tuscany. Discover the fish markets, the craft shops, the ravishing coast and the inland restaurants, take a ferry to the islands or rent an exclusive sailing boat. In this magical place of sea, wind and sun, all your wishes may come true.
The ideal is to have a car, a motorcycle or a scooter and occasionally rent a boat. In high season there may be traffic and parking problems in the villages (where, however, there are long-term parking). Alternatively, a bus connects Orbetello, where the train stops, to Porto Ercole and Porto Santo Stefano, where ferries depart for the islands. There is a taxi service and no public connection to Isola Rossa area.
Geography & Climate
Argentario is a promontory that plunges into the Mediterranean facing the Tuscan Archipelago. It is an island connected to the mainland by three 6km-long accumulations of sand (Feniglia and Giannella beaches and Orbetello road), forming a lagoon. The highest point is Punta Telegrafo (635 mt). The coast is indented with sandy beaches and rocks. The climate is typically Mediterranean.
The highlight of Argentario is the coast. The long sandy dunes of Feniglia and Giannella, the spectacular rocky coast of Isola Rossa, the crystal clear sea, the beaches, small bays and the two beautiful islands of Giglio and Giannutri (the latter is protected marine area). But also the Orbetello lagoon filled with pink flamingos and the wonderful green hinterland, ideal for walks in the woods.
Presently there are 36 watch towers and fortresses, some of which are impressive, dotting the coasts of Monte Argentario. They were built between the Middle Ages and the Renaissance and today are the symbol of this peninsula rich in history. Do not miss the fishing village of Porto Ercole and the two beautiful hamlets of Giglio island, where there are also the ruins of an ancient Roman villa.
Top 5 Things To Do In Monte Argentario
This lovely fishing village is the most charming of Monte Argentario. The old town is built on a hill dominated by the imposing fortress of La Rocca, that is worth a visit. Around you will cross narrow streets and old churches, and enjoy a beautiful view on the bay. But the true town center is at the foot of the old village, along the promenade and the marina. Here you will find restaurants, shops, wineries and in summer a very vivid nightlife. Have a drink at sunset at Il Baretto, the place to be after a day at the beach, or a fish dinner at Il Gambero Rosso, the most traditional restaurant in town. A curiosity about Porto Ercole: the brilliant painter Caravaggio died right here in 1610.
The Saracen Towers
The coast of Argentario is dotted with ancient watchtowers. 36 Saracen towers that defended this land from the incursions of the Saracens and corsairs from the Middle Ages to the end of 1600. Built by the powerful family Aldobrandeschi and by the Spaniards, these towers were made so as to be visible to each other. When the guards caught sight of the enemy ships, they used to send smoke signals from one tower to the other to give the alarm. Today most of the towers are privately owned, but it is possible to visit some, such as the Fortress of Porto Santo Stefano, the Fortress of Porto Ercole and Forte Stella, from where you can enjoy a wonderful view of the sea.
Giglio Porto & Castello
Giglio island boasts two beautiful hamlets: Giglio Porto and Giglio Castello. Giglio Porto is a small and picturesque fishing village with colored houses overlooking a crystal clear sea, local craft shops and delicious seafood restaurants. Visit the Tower of Saraceno, built in the late 1500s, and the nearby cove, where are the remains of a Roman villa. Giglio Castello is located on top of the island, 405 m a.s.l., and is a gem. Built by the Pisani in the XII century, it is surrounded by imposing walls with towers. Take a walk through the narrow streets surmounted by arches, visit the huge Rocca Aldobrandesca fortress and have a glass of wine Ansonaco in one of the island’s wine cellars.
Porto Santo Stefano
Major center of Monte Argentario, Porto Santo Stefano is a lively village on the northwest coast. Under the old Spanish fort overlooking the bay, shipyards, markets, shops and seafood restaurants live together. Fishing boats returning to port and ferries to the islands. The old zone at the bottom of the port is the most pleasant. Take a stroll admiring the boats and get an ice cream on the terrace of the Bar Giulia, which offers a beautiful view of the village. Try the pizza of Alocci bakery and buy fresh fish at the market, counter Da Roberto. If you are here on August 15 do not miss the traditional boat race Palio dell’Argentario where the neighborhoods compete with each other.
To really see the town of Orbetello, one must look at it from the Convent of the Passionists, 273 meters above the sea level. Between the long sandy beaches that connect the mainland to the Argentario peninsula, is Orbetello, surrounded by the lagoon. An extraordinary geography with a long history. Admire the ancient circular mill, called the Spanish Mill, built in the lagoon, and the remains of the Etruscan walls. Take a walk on Corso Italia and reach Piazza del Plebiscito, the heart of Orbetello. Look around at the nice shops, have a coffe at one of the many bars and visit the Romanesque cathedral. Finally enjoy a fish dinner on the lagoon at the slow food restaurant I Pescatori (self service).
A typical day trip from Argentario is the one to the ravishing hamlets of Maremma, the southernmost countryside of Tuscany. Capalbio is the nearest one. Of medieval origin, it offers trendy restaurants like Il Frantoio and contemporary works of art in the open air, such as The Tarot Garden by Niki de Saint Phalle. Continuing in the Etruscan heart of Maremma, you will meet the so-called ‘tuff towns’, of which the most spectacular are Pitigliano, Sovana and Sorano. The latter in particular is worth a visit. Built on a sheer canyon in a verdant valley, with its maze of narrow streets, stairways and loggias, it is considered one of the most beautiful Italian medieval villages. More about Maremma…
First of all Feniglia and Giannella, the two long sandy beaches (7 km) that connect Argentario to the mainland. Both places have shallow waters, ideal for kids, and beach clubs, but also long stretches of free beach. The Feniglia free beach is especially beautiful, wild and lonely even in high season. If you prefer comfort, try the Giannella beach clubs Tuscany Bay and Florida Beach Club. Do not miss the pebble beach Cala del Gesso, considered among the most beautiful in Tuscany. Difficult to reach and for this well-preserved. Alternatively enjoy Cala Lunga, Cala Piccola, Bagni di Domitiano (where you can also see the remains of a Roman villa), Le Viste and the beautiful beach of Le Cannelle.
Characterized by a spectacular coastline, the Isola Rossa area boasts the most beautiful waters of Argentario. This is where the boats drop anchor to enjoy a day at sea. This ravishing coastline dotted with coves, cliffs and hidden beaches, can be reached from Porto Santo Stefano through the panoramic road. We are in the most remote and wild point of the peninsula, where nature is the protagonist. Stop at the Cannelle beach and enjoy an ice cream at the small bar by the sea, under the shade of the ancient Saracen tower. Then dive into the transparent water or rent a canoe and go to the small island Isola Rossa, so called because of its red rock. Taste a seafood dinner at the restaurant of the club Le Cannelle.
Giglio & Giannutri Islands
Giglio and Giannutri are the southernmost islands of the Tuscan Archipelago, connected by ferry to Porto Santo Stefano and easily reachable by small boats. Giglio is the largest island and has a rugged coastline with coves and beaches (including the beaches of Campese, Caldane and Arenella). The hinterland is covered with Mediterranean vegetation and crossed by dozens of panoramic nature trails ideal for hiking. A few kilometers from Giglio, is the small and splendid island of Giannutri, uninhabited. Here are just two docking points, Golfo Spalmatoi and Cala Maestra. Giannutri is part of the Tuscan Archipelago National Park and its waters are protected.
The Orbetello lagoon is home to one of the first and most important oasis of the WWF. Due to its location along the migratory routes, this saltwater lagoon boasts the concentration of thousands of birds, especially in winter. Pink flamingos, egrets, ospreys, cormorants and ducks nest or pass on these placid waters. Tiny islands of silt covered with marsh vegetation dot the water. On the ground you will see foxes, badgers and porcupines. The oasis of Orbetello lagoon covers 850 hectares and is also characterized by a huge variety of flora. There are 3 routes available to visitors. The first is dedicated to birdwatching, the second is a botanical path and the third will bring you to the enchanting butterfly garden.
Punta Telegrafo is the summit of Monte Argentario, to 645 meters above sea level. Ideal for trekking. The walk starts from Cala Galera and is divided into two parts, each of 1 hour and a half. The first part go through woods of Mediterranean scrub and cork woods, and arrives to the Convento dei Passionisti (Convent of the Passionist Fathers). Founded in the late 1700s, this monastery offers a beautiful view of Argentario and has annexed a rustic restaurant. The walk continues along tree-lined avenues, up to the trail leading to the summit. From Punta Telegrafo enjoy the breathtaking views over the lagoon of Orbetello, the craggy headlands of Punta Ciana and dell’Avvoltore and the beautiful islands.
Feniglia Nature Reserve
About 2 km before Porto Ercole is the Nature Reserve Duna Feniglia, ideal for a walk, to run, take a bike ride or a dip in the sea. This 7 km long dune covers an area of 474 hectares and is a strip of land that separates the sea from the east lagoon of Orbetello. The dune is traversed throughout its length by a bike path. Cool and breezy even in the hottest days, the pine forest is inhabited by deer, foxes, badgers and weasels, as well as many species of birds. Along the main route you will see small paths that enter into the Mediterranean maquis: they lead to the Feniglia sandy beach, perfect for a dip. At the park entrance you can rent bicycles. Remember to bring water because there are no bars in the park.