Visiting Monte Argentario if you are on holiday in Tuscan Maremma.
This is a town with a strong seafaring tradition, located at the southern end of the region and part of the Costa d’Argento.
The municipality is made up of the small towns of Porto Ercole and Santo Stefano and takes its name from the mountain on which they are situated.
The promontory was most probably already inhabited by the Etruscans, who were especially prominent in the surrounding Maremma. But Monte Argentario’s history is best known from the time when the Romans came to power and the entire area became the personal property of the Domitii Ahenobarbi family, to whom was granted as compensation for loans to the Roman Republic during the Second Punic War.
Over time, the town was owned by numerous noblemen, including the Aldobrandeschi, Orsini and kings of Naples.
What to see in Monte Argentario
There are lots of monuments and places of historical, cultural and artistic interest.
Let’s take a look at the most important religious sites in Monte Argentario:
- Monastery of the Presentation in the Temple: the monastery of the Passionists dates back to the 18th century. It is the motherhouse of the Congregation of the Passionists and consists of a monastery and church;
- St Joseph’s Church and Novitiate: also built during the 18th century as a retreat for novices. It consists of a monastery and church;
- Church of St. Erasmus: is one of the oldest Catholic places of worship in Porto Ercole. Caravaggio was most probably hospitalised here, and later found dying on Feniglia beach;
- Church of San Rocco: built at the foot of the hill on which Forte Filippo stands, and on Domitii Ahenobarbi he site of an ancient hermitage, it was restored in the 18th century;
- Church of St Paul of the Cross: it is in the new area of Porto Ercole. It was formed in 1986 from the union of the parishes of St Erasmus and St Paul;
- Church of Saint Stephen: it was originally built by the Spanish during the 17th century, rebuilt after World War II and consecrated in 1950;
- Church of the Immaculate Conception: built between 1973 and 1979, it is a futuristic-looking church building;
- Church of the Holy Trinity: is a modern church building constructed between 1999 and 2022 and located in Pozzarello.
The most important municipal sites in Monte Argentario:
- Palace of the Governors: the residence of the Spanish rulers; it was built in the first half of the 16th century;
- Terrarossa Farm: a 17th century rural complex built by the Spanish;
- Villa La Giocondiana: dating back to 1920, built by the architect, Giovanni Maria Viti. It is one of the few period houses that survived the bombing in 1944;
- Villa La Cacciarella: also known as Villa Feltrinelli, commissioned by the publisher, Carlo Feltrinelli, in 1940. In a dominant position, overlooking the sea;
- Modern houses: Villa L’Elefante Felice; Villa Valdroni; Villa Ricci; Villa Rebecchini.
The most important military sites in Monte Argentario:
- Spanish Fortress: it was built between the end of the 16th century and the beginning of the 17th century. It overlooks the town of Porto Santo Stefano and houses a museum;
- Rocca Aldobrandesca: it was one of the territory’s defensive strongholds. Today, it is partly municipal and partly private property;
- Forte Filippo: the fort was built by the architect, Camerini, in the 16th century; it is now home to residential buildings;
- Forte Stella: the fort stands on a promontory to the west of the town. It is now a venue for exhibitions and cultural events;
- Forte Santa Caterina: this fort was built to control the bay where the port of Cala Galera lies; in the late 19th century it became an infirmary for the prisoners held at Fort Filippo;
- City walls of Porto Ercole: they were the defensive system of Porto Ercole together with Porta Senese;
- Armoury of Monte Argentario: built in the late 18th century, it was used as an ammunition depot;
- Lighthouse of Porto Ercole: dating back to 1862;
- Forte del Pozzarello: the fort was built in the second half of the 19th century and turned into an arms and ammunition depot from the post-war period onwards. It was decommissioned in 1975;
- Lighthouse of Lividonia: built in 1883 to illuminate the north-west tip of the promontory. It was renovated in 1926.
The most important archaeological sites in Monte Argentario:
- Karst caves: scattered all over the promontory with stalactites, stalagmites, underground lakes, shafts and tunnels;
- Giant cave of Argentarola: an underground cave on the island of Argentarola;
- Saint’s Cave: on the south-east coast where numerous artefacts have been found dating back to the Middle Palaeolithic age and traces testifying to occupation by Neanderthal man between 50,000 and 40,000 years ago;
- “Punta degli Stretti” Cave: located on the provincial road 161. There are lakes and numerous halls and tunnels inside. Remains of bones and tools from the Neolithic age were found there.
Monte Argentario, the most beautiful beaches
Monte Argentario boasts numerous fascinating naturalistic locations, perfect places for coastline lovers, families with children, and fans of nature.
Let’s take a look at the most beautiful beaches in Monte Argentario:
- La Feniglia: a long and scenic beach, it is one of the best known and most popular beaches in Monte Argentario. A 6 km-long stretch of sand, called a “tombolo”, joins the hill of Ansedonia with Monte Argentario and forms a nature reserve with several access routes to the sea. There are numerous nature trails and bird-watching hides. The seabed is shallow and suitable for families on holiday with young children;
- Spiaggia Lunga: soft white sand and small pebbles forming a white crescent that is always clean. The sea is emerald green and the seabed slopes gently;
- L’Acqua Dolce: one of the most popular beaches in the area. It is a crescent of sand and pebbles lapped by a crystal-clear sea with colours ranging from cobalt blue to emerald green. Ideal for diving enthusiasts;
- Le Cannelle: located within the Maremma Natural Park, access to this pebbly beach, lapped by emerald green water, is free;
- La Cacciarella: one of the most beautiful beaches in Monte Argentario. It is wedged between two high cliffs which shelter it from the wind. The water is turquoise blue and the seabed is just waiting to be explored;
- La Bionda: this beach is protected from the open sea by a rocky reef. This makes it the perfect beach for safe, relaxing swimming. The beach is a mixture of sand and pebbles;
- Bagni di Domiziano: the perfect place for children in Monte Argentario. The beach is sandy and the seabed is shallow;
- La Giannella: a 6-km-long beach which connects the mainland to the promontory. It is covered by a dense pine forest, formed by golden sand and features numerous beach resorts, hotels and campsites.
The coves of Monte Argentario
Accessible by boat or along footpaths, Monte Argentario’s coves are popular with both adults and children alike with their unspoilt natural surroundings and crystal-clear water.
Let’s take a look at the most beautiful ones:
- Cala del Gesso: a heavenly location. An wild cove, one of the most beautiful in the area. But also one of the most difficult to get to. It can be accessed along an 800-metre path with a difference in altitude of 130 metres. Clear water with shades of emerald green;
- Cala Grande: a long, wide beach on the western side of Monte Argentario. It is notable for the expanses of Neptune grass on the highly colourful seabed. Ideal for scuba diving. It is accessible both by sea and land;
- Cala Mar Morto: featuring a line of rocks that prevents waves from directly reaching the shore, creating natural pools with permanently calm water where you can swim in total relaxation;
- Cala del Bove: one kilometre beyond Cala del Gesso lies this charming cove with no beach, just really smooth rocks. It is perfect for snorkelling or a swim in the crystal-clear sea.
Holidaying in Monte Argentario, what to do
A holiday in Monte Argentario offers the chance to do lots of activities. Above all, there are visits to some locations of particular historical, artistic and landscape interest:
- Porto Ercole Vecchia in Porto Ercole;
- Orbetello lagoon in Orbetello;
- Rocca di Talamone in Talamone;
- Roman city of Cosa in Ansedonia;
- Tarot Garden in Capalbio;
- Spanish Fortress in Porto Santo Stefano;
- Abbey of San Rabano in the Maremma Natural Park;
- Cala del Gesso in Porto Santo Stefano;
- Cannelle Beach on the Island of Giglio.