Monte Argentario Map and Travel Guide
Take your vacation on a mountain that rises majestically from the sea
Monte Argentario, whose occcupation began with the Etruscans, was once a mountain slicing out of the sea foam off the coast of southern Tuscany near the border with Lazio. Then the the sea currents from the Albegna river shifted enough sand around that the mountain was joined to the the mainland through two tomboli. These you'll see on the map along with the Orbetello penninsula, joined by man-made bridge to Monte Argentario.
The major towns in Monte Artentario are Porto Santo Stefano, Porto Ercole and Orbetello. The ports have large forts you can visit. Since Monte Argentario is a resort area, there are plenty of fine restaurants everywhere.
Orbetello Scalo has the train station you'll need if you're coming to the area on public transportation. You can get a bus to Porto San Stefano or you can take a taxi straight to your lodging. A car is recommended for many of the attractions, including a winding drive up to the convent shown on the map, then a continuation to the top of Monte Argentario at the evocatively named Punta Telegrafo.
Having belonged to the kingdoms of Spain and Naple, Monte Argentario has a slightly different vibe, one it shares with southern Italy perhaps. Its coastline is stunning; the Spanish left forts and towers to focus the views, as you can see in the picture below. Notice the walking and biking trails. They're everywhere.
Porto Santo Stefano
The major city on the north coast of Monte Argentario and a ferry port to the island of Giglio is Porto Santo Stefano. For a good overview of the town and port area, head over to the Spanish Fortress, built by the Spaniards between the end of the sixteenth and the beginning of the seventeenth century, which served as the Governor's Palace and now has been made into an interesting local museum.
It is now home to the permanent exhibitions of Submerged Memories, with archaeological relics found in its seabed, and Masters of the Axe, dedicated to the old manufacturers of ships and boats for fishermen. -- Monte Argentario | Visit Tuscany
Fortezza Spagnola, Porto Santo Stefano's Spanish Fort
Getting to Isola del Giglio from Porto Santo Stefano
The island of Giglio is easily seen from the western side of Monte Argentario. From Porto Santo Stefano you can take a ferry to Giglio Porto that arrives in an hour and during the off season when we were there will cost aroung 12 euro. Bringing your car will cost a little extra. See the current prices and route.
In the port you can visit beaches or hire a boat to take you around the island to explore the hidden coves and beaches only reachable by boat. Diving enthusiasts will enjoy the uncontaminated sea. Or you can pick out a cafe table and drink a glass of one of the wines from grapes you see on the terraces above the port town. Ask for a Ansonica DOC, it's great with seafood.
I took the following picture of Giglio island from the western side of Monte Argentario during a storm, when the island was visible on the horizon surrounded by a silvery shimmer.
You can get to Orbetello easily on public transportation via buses from the train station in Orbetello Scallo.
Orbetello, a walled city with Etruscan roots, is perhaps our favorite of the three cities. On its north side of the peninsula there's a strip of parkland that you can walk to see the birds and wildlife of the lagoon, which attracts many rare birds. It includes a blind for serious birdwatchers. There are long beaches Orbetello is famous for. You can get to Monte Argentario on the Diga Leopoldina, a road built in 1941 along an artificial embankment dividing the lagoons into two sections bounded by the Tombolo della Feniglia and Tombolo della Giannella.
Once you reach Monte Argentario from Orbetello, you can take the biking and walking trail which traces the coast of the lagoon and leads all the way to the Giannella Tombola. Along the way you'll see the evocative Mulino spagnolo (Spanish mill) in the water just off the coast.
You'll also want to see the Archaological museum and the Cathedral, the 13th century Duomo of Orbetello. Then take a walk to the edge of town to see the Etruscan walls, much modified and repaired over the years. Or just walk around the Duomo, where you'll see some interesting carvings like you see below.
Porto Ercole is considered the most picturesque town on the island. Forte Filippo, a large military fort, sits on a hill above the town. It looks a lot like this:
But that's not all. As I took this picture, the town's historic center was built above the hill behind me. The winding lanes will entrance you, the changing elevations will take your breath away.
Bad boy painter Caravaggio hid out here, finally coming to his end via malaria in 1610. Don't worry, I'm told Putin has property here. 400 years makes a difference when you're talking about who's a celebrity worthy of name-dropping.
There are great natural ports here, and the nighlife, as you might imagine with all those yachts, makes the nights hum with life during the season.
Just south of the town is Forte Stella, a fort built in the shape of a star, built around the second the half of the 1500s by the Spanish, who emplored Cosimo I de' Medici to manage the construction. It wasn't finished until well into the 1600s. It was mostly a watch tower and southern coast tower to tower communication center, so you can visit and get those views for your tourist self these days. You can see a drone video of it on YouTube.
Yeah, Coast. But What About That Mountain?
If you look at the map you'll see the convent you can be seen from the northeast side of the island. It has a long name: The Convent of the Presentazione al Tempio. The church has some interesting paintings, but you come for the view, to see how the island is connected through the tomboli to the mainland. We went between storms. Here's a fraction of the views:
Notes on Places to Stay in Monte Argentario
If you're seeking out a vacation home, apartment or hotel, be aware that there are hundreds available in the season. Nearly 90 percent of them are unavailable durring the cold months, as Monte Argentario is mainly known as a summer beach resort. So leave your planning until spring and you'll be fine.
Where to go from Monte Argentario
There are a couple of destinations that are near enough to Monte Argentario that you could see them as day trips from your base on the mountain. We visited the town of Talamone, billed as a fortified fishing village which sits on the southern edge of the Parco Regionale della Maremma, which offers some great nature trails. The 10km drive took less than 30 minutes, following the coastline of mainland Italy north and then following signs. It's a pleasant town with a castle, the Rocca Alborandesca, and lots of history, including being razed to the ground by Sulla, which obscured its Etruscan roots. The bay of Talamone is also famous for sailing sports like windsurfing, kite-surfing, and sailing. There are great views from the castle grounds and even better views from the walkway inside the castle.
Enjoy your exploration of Monte Argentario and vicinity.
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