If planning a tour of the Tuscan Maremma, a place that deserves a visit is Monte Argentario. 35 kilometres south of Grosseto, Monte Argentario is a peninsula which allows easy access to the islands of the Tuscan Archipelago – Giglio, Giannutri and Montecristo.
Monte Argentario is connected to the coast of the Maremma by three strips of land, forming the Laguna di Ponente and the Laguna di Levante. The promontory was once an island, with its highest peak being the Punta Telegrafo (635 m).
The two main towns in Monte Argentario are Porto Santo Stefano, which faces the north, and Porto Ercole, facing south. As well as its 17th-century fortress, Porto Santo Stefano features two Spanish lookout towers: the Lividonia and the Argentiera. The town also has two harbours: Porto Vecchio and Porto del Valle. Porto Ercole is instead the final resting place of the painter Michelangelo Merisi, known as Caravaggio, who was exiled by the Pope and died here of a fever in 1610.
Main attractions in Monte Argentario:
- The Convent of the Presentazione al Tempio at Punta Telegrafo was built in the XVIII century. It has a neoclassical façade and several prestigious paintings preserved within.
- Rocca Spagnola, in Porto Santo Stefano, is a military fortress built by the Spanish between the end of the 16th and the beginning of the 17th century. It overlooks the town’s historical centre and was restored in its entirety in the second half of the 20th century. Today it hosts the Museum of ‘Axe Masters’ and other displays, including local archaeological artefacts.
- Forte Filippo and Forte Stella, located in Porto Ercole. Forte Filippo is an imposing fortified complex built on a quadrangular plan, while Forte Stella is characterized by an external and internal fort, which date back to the second half of the 16th century.
- The Church of Sant’ Erasmo is located in the historical centre of Porto Ercole, not far from Porta Pisana. A Baroque building with a simple façade in the Tuscan style, it has a gateway topped by a triangular pediment and a small rose window.
- The via Panoramica, which runs along the coast, gives drivers and cyclists a fantastic view of the Tuscan Archipelago.
Events in Monte Argentario:
- During summertime, visitors won’t want to miss the ‘Palio Marinaro,’ the celebrated maritime race held around mid-August in Porto Santo Stefano.
- CIMA festival (‘Concerti in Monte Argentario’) is an Italian international classical music festival, which takes place here every year. It was established in 2002 by the English couple Carolyn and Christopher Poll, along with French pianist Marie-Françoise Bucquet and the Portuguese opera baritone Jorge Chaminé. More info here.
How to get to Monte Argentario:
- By car: On the Aurelia road, exit at Orbetello Scalo. Once passed Orbetello, 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 Rome and Pisa.
Porto Santo Stefano has regular ferry services to Giglio Island.