Porto Ercole, One Of Tuscany’s Best Hidden Gems
Porto Ercole is one of the two major towns that form the township on Mont Argentario, the other is Porto Santo Stefano to the north of the island, which is a little more difficult to reach and has become quite popular with tourists in recent years so is usually avoided by the Italians who holiday on Mont Argentario.
Porto Ercole’s first recorded mention was in 1296, In the oldest part of the town, stands the “Torre di Terra” which was built on the orders of the countess of Savona, and put Porto Ercole on the map so to speak
Caravaggio, famous for his Baroque paintings , was exiled by the Pope of the times and died in Porto Ercole on his way back to Rome, his remains are buried in the church.
Towards the turn of the 20th century, the Dutch Royal family spent their summers here from the latter half of the twentieth century until the death of the last King in one of its private locations where the steps to the villa actually led down directly to the ocean, needless to say the locals see no sense in having a villa in such a position as to risk flooding and salt damage, especially in the winter months when it was left unoccupied.
|Photo credit: Ansedonia su Argentario|
Porto Ercole is still a favourite holiday destination for the rich, super-rich and famous because of its unique beauty and guaranteed privacy, in fact the (pregnant) princess of Monaco was recently spotted off the coast with her Italian boyfriend on her luxury sailing boat and chose to drop anchor at night by L’Islotto ,a baby island behind the port.
On Arrival in Mont Argentario itself you will find it unusual that there is so much untouched land and natural beauty. The landscape is fantastic from the calm of the lagoon to the encompassing mountains and hills it is hard to believe that you have actually arrived at one of the Romans most sought after resorts. Sure there is what you would normally expect to find in a sunny tourist resort such as shops, supermarkets, restaurants, hotels, campsites, nice houses, apartments & villas, but they are all quietly situated and mostly obscured by pine trees and woodland, and even the oldest of houses seem to blend in with the landscape, those that do stand out, do so with a status of grandeur, and in terms of places to stay even though at a first glance accommodation seems limited you really are spoiled for choice- if you book well in advance during June, July & August. You still have the option of some very nice hotels in Porto Ercole, the only 2 luxury hotels are Don Pedro and the Golf resort and spa if you want something with a pool or sea view, or you can opt for the short-term rental of a house, apartment or Villa as most italian families do. Then of course as anywhere else in the world you will find the usual B&B’s and also some very nice overnight campervan parking facilities and campsites for those who may prefer to take their accommodation along with them.
During your stay you will find lots of things to do and places to go, though you must be pre warned that because of the nature of the place, Porto Ercole really is an actual, real life, sleepy village. By that I mean that the shops, supermarkets, attractions, and even most of the restaurants in the town close for siesta between 1-4pm, and when I say 1-4, I really mean 1-4 ! as the locals are so set in their own traditions that they are not overly enthusiastic on bending over backwards to please the tourists, even though you may expect that in high summer they would make an exception due to the fact that it is undoubtedly the most profitable time of year for them. This is not the case here, so it is best to plan ahead and get to the shops or chosen destination for the day early to avoid disappointment and make the most of your time here.
Some of the key local attractions have to be the wonderful beaches! What could be better than spending some time relaxing in the sun & bathing in the refreshing waters of the silver coast? there are a few to choose from here, some free beaches where you can just rock up with your towels and picnics and what have you, and the others where you will find sunbeds and umbrellas ready and waiting and for hire by the day, week, month and season. Expect to pay around €30 for a day (€15 for half day) which gets you access to parasol and 2 chairs. You will always find a bar or restaurant on the beach known as a stabilimente, selling cold drinks and snacks, (italian) newspapers & cigarettes if you did not make it to the shops before siesta. By far one of the nicest beaches in the area is Feniglia beach which spans across 6km of unspoiled beachfront in a national park, with a view of the port and the spanish rock (spanish fortress) and Orbetello in the distance. It is well serviced, and very well-kept by the lifeguards that serve the shore. It is accessible by walk or by bike from a car park which costs €10 per day, or you can take a little bus or car from the nearby campervan car park for €6. At the end of the day you have access to the hot showers for 50c or €1 if you want to use the private shower & use your shampoo.