Argentario and surroundings: 10 places not to be missed

If you have planned to spend your holidays or a weekend in the marvellous coastal zone of Argentario and surroundings,  in Southern Tuscany, in the Maremma area, this post will be very useful for your trips; in case you are still making your plans, it may contribute to determine your choice!

I have been passing some days in this fascinating coastline since my childhood, when together with my parents I went to Ansedonia, and even though I consider the Tuscan sea and beaches generally beautiful, I still choose the wild rocky bays of the Argentario and their clear and transparent water for my days on the beach. Here are 10 places that we consider a “must-see” in the area.

1) BEACHES– Yes, the Argentario is mainly chosen for its beaches. Once an island, but today connected to the mainland by three large sandbars that host within them the Orbetello lagoon, it’s renowned for its clear waters. The two sandy beaches named Giannella and Feniglia, that delimit the lagoon respectively on its northern and southern side and separate it from the sea, are comfortable and equipped with bathing establishments. But if you don’t fear a walk into the wild, through the perfumed Mediterranean scrub, bring some fresh water with you, pack your lunch and reach one of the rocky bays of the Mount: you’ll find fantastic water, an enchanting nature and not too many people: note that some of these bays are dead zones for your mobile phones (as for me, this is an ideal condition for a real break from my daily life)!

How to reach these small pieces of paradise? When you are in the port town Porto Santo Stefano, follow the indications for the “Strada Panoramica” (panoramic road) and while you’re driving, you’ll easily see the beautiful bays opening up: we recommend Cala Grande, that is well recognizable for the several anchored yachts and boats: park the car in the spaces along the road and follow an easy and shady track (running along a couple of charming villas) for around 500 mt. The bay has three small rocky beaches: choose yours and enjoy a relaxing bath. Still on the Panoramic Road, you can go to Cala Piccola, another nice rocky beach, smaller than the previous one as testified by its name: you can easily get there following the indication for the hotel of the same name. More difficult is the track to get Cala del Gesso, at the km 5,9 of the Panoramic road. The path is quite long (around 700 mt) and pretty steep, especially on the way back, but the place is enchanting. If you drive to the other port town of the Argentario – Porto Ercole – pass it and continue on the Panoramic Road till the Spiaggia Lunga (long beach): to get there just follow the indication for the Fort Stella and, before taking the road to the fort, park your car on the spaces along the road, take the small woody stairs through the Mediterranean scrub and follow the quite steep path for around 200 mt; if you continue on the panoramic road and park the car immediately before the Hotel Pellicano and walk for around 200 mt., you can enjoy some nice time on the Acqua Dolce (freshwater) beach so called for the aquifers flowing directly into the sea.

2) THE OLD PORTO ERCOLE – On the southern side of the Mount Argentario, Porto Ercole is a charming port hamlet where in 1610, one of my favourite painters, Michelangelo Merisi better known as Caravaggio, passed away. The new part of the town has a nice sea promenade with a port, many bars and restaurants, but I largely prefer the old town that sits on the slope of the hill under the Spanish Fortress called “Rocca”.  Stroll through the little streets, the small squares overlooking the sea and the stairs going up and down this picturesque historic centre, where cars do not have access and you will feel the atmosphere of an old village of fishermen.

3) PORTO SANTO STEFANO – The other ancient hamlet of the Mount Argentario, on its northern side, is Porto Santo Stefano that connects the mainland to the islands of Giglio and Giannutri, both part of the Tuscan archipelago. It deserves a visit for a walk along the sea promenade, an aperitivo at sunset and the Mediterranean Aquarium (now also with a tank devoted to the tropical environment): open daily, all the year round: Fridays  3-7 p.m.; Saturdays and Sundays 10:30 a.m -12:30 noon, and  3-7 p.m.,  ticket € 5,00, reduced € 2,00 for people over 65 years, residents, children aged between 5 and 12 years, disabled people, for free for children under 5’s). Here’s the website.

4) ORBETELLO: THE LAGOON – This wetland is a natural reserve of international interest for its unique biodiversity, also given to the fact that is situated along an important migratory route. The reserve has, especially in winter, a concentration of numerous species of birds such as flamingos, herons, mallards, ospreys and many others. It’s well worth a visit especially if you have children. Closed in June, in July and August the visit is allowed on reservation only on Tuesday and Saturday at 5 p.m (for reservations: oasiorbetello@wwf.it ) From September 1st, the lagoon is open on Saturday and Sunday from 9:30 to 13:30.

5) TALAMONE – Before the Mount Argentario if you drive from Grosseto or after it if you proceed from Rome, the picturesque village of Talamone dominates the promontory where it sits and the sea in front of it. It’s surrounded by imposing medieval walls and is a very nice place for a walk. It also offers small equipped beaches, and a small cosy port.

6) ANSEDONIA – Ansedonia is a pleasant destination where I spent some days on the beach during my childhood: its beaches, mostly equipped, characterize the low part of this place, whereas the upper part is famous for the ruins of the Ancient Roman port town called “Cosa”.  The Museum is open daily,  from 10:15 a.m. to 18:30 p.m. from April 1st to October 24th; from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 pm.m the rest of the year;  ticket € 2,00, reduced € 1,00.

7) THE TAROT GARDEN– Near the hamlet Capalbio, the Garden of Tarot is a sculpture garden, fruit of the intense vision, hard work and deep devotion of the French-American artist Niki de Saint Phalle, who passed away in 2002. In the 50s the 25 years old Niki was on holidays in Barcelona and was impressed by the Parc Guell of Antoni Gaudì. For the rest of her life, inspired by the great Spanish artist but following her own personal artistic vein, she pursued the desire and objective to create a garden of peace and joy for herself and all visitors who would admire it,  a “meeting place between man and nature”, to use Niki’s words. Immersed in a Mediterranean spontaneous garden of  laurel oaks perfumed myrtles, rosemary and oaks, the sculptures representing the tarot cards like the Empress, that the artist used as her own house, the Magician, the Pope, the Chariot, Justice with Injustice imprisoned within her, will take you in a dream atmosphere in a dialogue between nature and the sculptures, and permit to disconnect from the daily life and its – sometimes hard – reality.  Open  1 April – 15 October, 14:30 19:30; ticket € 10,50, reduced € 6,00 (for students, over 65, groups), free for disabled people and children under 7’s. From November to March,  the first Saturday of every the month, from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., all visitors are granted a free entry. If this Saturday falls on a public holiday, the Giardino will open the following Saturday. The revenues go to the Foundation created for and devoted to the preservation and care of the Garden and to support the complex works of maintenance of the delicate sculptures. For reservations and group visits, here’s the website

8) THE SPANISH FORTS – The Argentario was part of the State of Presidi (State of Garrisons) a client state created by the Spanish crown in 1557 and still preserves the forts built by the Spaniards for protection and defence against the Turks, and that therefore offer tremendous sea views. In Porto Ercole we recommend the Spanish Rocca, located at the top of the hill above the old town: its construction started in the Middle Ages and then was reinforced by the Spaniards; the visit is free but in order to be admitted it is necessary to previously contact the Culture Office of the Municipality with a call to the +39 0564 811970 or an email to cultura@comune.monteargentario.gr.it (yes, some Italian bureaucracy here, but the visit is definitely worthwhile since it’s the occasion to stroll around a XVI century Spanish bastion); Forte Stella, is another fort that is easily reachable following the panoramic road and the easy signs to the construction. The structure is impressive and takes the name from its shape, a star, perfect for an impressive 360 degree view. Open from March 26th to June 30th on Saturdays, Sundays and Public Holidays, 10:30 a.m. – 12:30 noon and 4:00-6:00 p.m.;  July and August everyday from 10:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. and 6:00 – 9:00 p.m.; September on Saturdays and Sundays from 10:30 a.m. – 12:30 noon, and 6:00 – 8:00 p.m.. Tickets € 2,00, reduced € 1,00 for children aged between 6 and 12 years, groups over 15 people, teachers and students, free for children under 6’s and accompanied disabled people.   In Porto Santo Stefano, the majestic Spanish Fortress dominates the centre of the town: Open from Easter Sunday to June 12th  on Saturdays, Sundays and Public Holidays 10:30 a.m. – 1:00 p.m. and 4:00 – 6:30 p.m.;  July and August everyday, 6:30 – 11:30 p.m.; from September 1st to 15th on Saturdays, Sundays and Public Holidays 10:30 a.m. – 12:30 noon, and 5:00 – 8:oo p.m.;  from September 16th to Easter weekend, on Saturdays, Sundays and Public Holidays  10:30 a.m. – 1:00 p.m. and 3:00 t0 5:30 p.m. Ticket prices the same as Forte Stella ones.

9) THE MAREMMA REGIONAL PARK – In the territories of Grosseto, Talamone and Magliano in Toscana, the Park  embraces  an enchanting natural area dominated by aromatic Mediterranean scrub, medieval ruins, an uncontaminated coastline and a turquoise-blue splendid sea. Entrances to the Park are sold at the park offices of Alberese and Talamone. From Alberese, a shuttle bus service take visitors to the starting point of many walking routes that lead to the medieval Abbey of San Rabano, the ancient anti-piracy towers,  the beach and the marvellous bay Cala di Forno. al The park is open every day, al the year round. Tickets € 10 (5€ for children, people over 60 and groups of at least 20 people), shuttle bus service included. The park office is open daily from 8:30 to 16:00.
Here our experience, insights and pictures taken during our walk: http://www.frammentiditoscana.it/mediterranean-scrub-and-turquoise-blue-sea-the-maremma-park/

10)A TRIP TO THE MARVELLOUS COUNTRYSIDE – Take the opportunity to leave the cost and exit the highway Strada Statale n.1 Aurelia between Talamone and Capalbio to explore the inland: it offers an enchanting landscape of rolling hills, dotted with hilltop hamlets, picturesque farmhouses and the Morellino di Scansano vineyards. We recommend the splendid hamlet of Magliano in Toscana, surrounded by perfectly preserved medieval walls, with a lovely historic centre and famous all over the province for its restaurants. Other beautiful hamlets to visit are the medieval village of Pereta, Scansano, the town of the Morellino wines with many cellars for tasting and buying this renowned product, and – a little more distant – the tuff cities of Pitigliano, Sorano and Sovana.

 

HAVE A GREAT TIME!

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