If you are planning a tour in the Maremma area of Tuscany, there is a place that deserves a visit: I'm speaking about Monte Argentario. It is a municipality of the province of Grosseto with a total area of 60 km2 and has an excellent geographic position at 35 kilometres south of Grosseto. Monte Argentario is a peninsula; this enables easy access to Giglio, Giannutri and Montecristo, all islands of the Tuscan Archipelago. Monte Argentario is connected to the coast of the Maremma by three strips of land, which form two lagoons, called Laguna di Ponente and the Laguna di Levante. The promontory was an island in the past and its highest peak if Monte Argentario is the Punta Telegrafo (635 m). The two main villages of Monte Argentario are the largest town in the area, Porto Santo Stefano, which faces the north and Porto Ercole, facing south. Porto Santo Stefano is located on the north-western promontory of Monte Argentario, 40 kilometres (25 miles) southeast of Grosseto, about 10 km (6.2 mi) southwest of Orbetello and about 12 km (7.5 mi) from Porto Ercole. Besides the fortress (see below), the territory still plays host to two Spanish lookout towers: the Lividonia and dell'Argentiera towers. The town has two port harbors: Porto Vecchio and Porto del Valle. The other main town is Porto Ercole (Port Hercules, in English), located 7 kilometres south of Orbetello. A curiosity about Porto Ercole: the painter Michelangelo Merisi, known as Caravaggio who was exiled by the Pope, died of a fever here in 1610. Main attractions in Monte Argentario:
- Convento della Presentazione al Tempio (Monastery of the Presentation) at Punta Telegrafo was built in the XVIII century and has a neoclassical façade. Inside you can find prestigious paints.
- Rocca Spagnola (Spanish Fortress), in Porto Santo Stefano, a military structure that was built by the Spanish between the end of the 16th and the start of the 17th century. It overlooks the historical centre of the town and was completely restored in the second half of the last century. Today it hosts the Museum of Ax Masters and other displays that include local archaeological artefacts.
- Forte Filippo and Forte Stella, in Porto Ercole. The Forte Filippo looks like an imposing fortified complex which develops on a quadrangular plan, the Forte Stella looks like a massive fortification, characterized by the presence of two forts, one external and one internal. Both date from the second half of the sixteenth century.
- The church of St. Erasmus, in the historical centre of Porto Ercole, not far from the Porta Pisana. It is a baroque building with a very simple façade in the Tuscan style, with a portal surmounted by a triangular pediment and a small rose window that opens.
- The Via panoramica (Panoramic Road) runs along the coast. Driving on this road, you will have fantastic views of the Tuscan Archipelago and the coast.
- During summer, visitors won’t want to miss the famous ‘Palio Marinaro,’ famed maritime race held around August 15 in Porto Santo Stefano.
- CIMA festival, or Concerti in Monte Argentario, is an Italian international classical music festival, which takes place every year in Monte Argentario. It was established in 2002 by the English couple Carolyn and Christopher Poll, together with French pianist Marie-Françoise Bucquet, and the Portuguese opera baritone Jorge Chaminé, who is also the festival’s artistic director. Info here.
- By car: On the Aurelia road, exit at Orbetello Scalo and follow the signs to Orbetello; pass it and continue to Argentario. For those coming from the north, at Bocca dell'Albegna, exit at Giannella and follow the signs to Argentario.
- By train: You can reach the Orbetello station on the railway line along the Tyrrhenian coast.
- By plane: The nearest airports are in Rome and Pisa.
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