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Monte Argentario drive, swim and lagoon feast

  • Further down the coast is Monte Argentario, a law unto itself. In fact, from 1556 until 1815, Argentario existed as a separate state from the Grand Duchy of Tuscany, under Spanish rule. The craggy peninsula of Monte Argentario is, by turns, stylish, wildly romantic, and cut adrift. Unlike in Forte dei Marmi further north, here you can `see and be seen’ one day, disappear the next.

    Once an island, Monte Argentario gradually became attached to the mainland by two long sandbanks, Tòmbolo della Giannella and Tòmbolo di Feniglia. Like two outstretched arms, the sandbanks hug a strange lagoon, a wintering spot for migrating birds. Both sandbanks have fine beaches, but Feniglia is best, backed by protected pine forest. It’s a 7km walk or bike ride to the mainland.

    On Monte Argentario, the beach scene is more about hidden coves than broad beaches – the terrain is too rocky for proper beaches. Lap up the yachtie hangouts of Porto Santo Stefano and Porto Ercole, including the secret coves that lie between them. Blue Flag beaches include those around Porto Santo Stefano beaches: Il Pozzarello, La Soda, Cala Piccola, La Caletta and Il Moletto.

    Orbetello, a fishing town set on the isthmus, was once a Spanish garrison town. It is now a backwater, with the sea lapping the bastion walls. Lovers of lagoon fish and smoked eel should still try I Pescatori, overlooking the moody lagoon, and run by a gruff fishermen’s cooperative.

    Porto Ercole, on the eastern shore of Monte Argentario, was once a sleepy fishing village but has morphed into a bustling sailing base and diving centre. Forte Stelle is the most compelling of the defensive fortifications ringing the port, and is the only 16th-century fort open to visitors.

    Its sister port, Porto Santo Stefano, is a stepping stone to the island of Giglio but also marks the start of `La Panoramica’, the panoramic drive along the Monte Argentario coast. From the shadow of the Spanish castle in the port, the scenic coastal road winds along the cliff-tops, with spectacular views of the Tuscan archipelago at every turn. At its best, Monte Argentario offers the Tuscan mainland’s only approximation of Sardinian-style marine paradise.

    Address: 0564 813635 &
    Porto Santo Stefano 35, Grosseto 58019

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