Guide to Porto Ercole and Porto Santo Stefano
For Luca’s 30th birthday I surprised him and took him to Porto Ercole in Tuscany’s Monte Argentario. Just a 1 hour and 50-minute drive from Rome, Argentario is an amazing seaside retreat (especially frequented by Romans). Located in Southern Tuscany in the Maremma area bordering the Lazio region, Monte Argentario is a promontory connected to the inland by two strips of sand: the Giannella and the Feniglia, which form a lagoon in the middle known as the Laguna di Orbetello. From Porto Santo Stefano and Porto Ercole to Cala Piccola and Orbetello, there are various places where you can stay. But what are the best things to do in Argentario? From renting a boat for the day to explore the beautiful beach coves and nearby Giglio and Giannutri islands, to dining in yummy restaurants and relaxing in cool beach clubs, here’s my guide to Porto Ercole, Porto Santo Stefano and Monte Argentario in general.
Where to stay
There are various places where you can stay in Monte Argentario. When I surprised Luca for his birthday we stayed in Porto Ercole, my best friend Federica gave me the keys to her beautiful house. But here’s all the options:
I think this is the cutest place to stay in Monte Argentario. The harbour is characteristic, there’s a Spanish fortress on one side, and the fact that you can walk pretty much everywhere and forget about your car is really a plus! The port area is filled with restaurants, bars and boat rentals, there’s also some cute boutiques. If you want to explore the nearby beach coves you can rent a boat. If instead you want to head to some sandy beaches you need to hop on your car and head to Feniglia, Giannella or Ansedonia. In general, I’d say that if you want a mix of everything, as well as nightlife, this is a great place to stay in.
Porto Santo Stefano
This is the other famous harbour in Monte Argentario. The vibe here is more of a town rather than a seaside port, in fact it’s much bigger than Porto Ercole and it has two harbours. From Porto Santo Stefano you can also catch the ferries to the Giglio and Giannutri islands. There’s also plenty of boat rentals and beautiful beach coves are really close to Porto Santo Stefano. In terms of restaurants there are some good one but in terms of nightlife it’s not as buzzing as Porto Ercole.
If you’re searching for a secluded sanctuary, with access to the stunning Cala Piccola (one of the most beautiful beach coves of the Argentario, which cannot be accessed by boat), you should definitely stay in the Cala Piccola resort. There’s a hotel called Hotel Torre di Cala Piccola with a stunning view of the Giglio island and beautiful sun-loungers on terraced rocks. There’s also a complex of houses that you can rent if you’re planning on staying with more people. Luca’s parents always stay here and it’s really a charm. Romantic and relaxing.
This is the historic town that’s surrounded by the lagoon. If you’d like to immerse yourself in history and you’re more interested in heading to the sandy beaches of Feniglia, Giannella and Ansedonia this is a great place to stay. It’s also easy to explore the nearby Tuscan towns from here. Just make sure to get your accommodation in the historic center. One that my aunt recommended is the beautiful Relais San Biagio, great quality-price ratio. There are also yummy restaurants in Orbetello!
Where to go to the beach
There are plenty of stabilimenti where you can go to the beach. If you like golden sand, Feniglia, Giannella and Ansedonia are the best beach locations in the Argentario. Head to la Capannuccia or Tuscany Bay Beach for trendy beach clubs. If you prefer a rocky beach, the Riva del Marchese beach club in Le Viste area near Porto Ercole is great. This is where I took Luca to the beach on our third day in Argentario. Make sure to reserve in advance (especially for the weekend) or you’ll never find a spot. They offer beach beds and umbrellas either on the beach or on the grass, make sure to specify where you prefer. They also have a nice beach bar that serves delicious salads! You pay everything at the end. The price is €30 for two beach beds and an umbrella.
Where to eat
“All’Argentario non si mangia bene” or “you don’t eat well at the Argentario” is a phrase you’ll hear a lot. While it’s true that finding a good restaurant in Monte Argentario isn’t easy, there are exceptions. If you’re in Porto Ercole definitely go to Alicina Hostaria for a gourmet meal (beautiful outdoor area, top quality wine selection and great food) or La Pinta for traditional Italian dishes. For restaurants in Porto Santo Stefano opt for I Due Pini (great setting). But these are just a few! There are plenty of restaurants in Ansedonia, Giannella and Orbetello too! For more restaurant recommendations, check out my list of best restaurants in Monte Argentario.
Renting a boat in Porto Ercole
Hiring a boat is a must during your stay in Argentario. If you’re in Porto Ercole you can hire a boat at Trillocco. They have boats that require a boat license as well as others that don’t require it. While I was there I rented a 5.6m dinghy with a 40 e-tec engine for €160 (this was the price in July, in August it will surely be more expensive) gas costs not included. Please keep in mind that this is one of the cheapest prices you’ll find, hiring a boat like this can easily cost €250 for the day.
On our boat day we went from Porto Ercole to L’Isola Rossa and back and spent €11 on gas. Make sure to call in advance, especially if you’re coming in high season and on weekends to rent your boat! While it’s more expensive, it’s a completely different experience to explore Monte Argentario by boat. The peninsula is characterized by stunning beach coves, from l’Isola Rossa and Punta Ciana, to Cala Grande and Cala del Gesso. If you hire a nice boat you could even head to the famous Giannutri (it’s a natural reserve) or Giglio islands! Make sure to ask the boat rental which area of the promontory is best to explore according to the winds!
If you want to grab lunch to take on your boat day, absolutely stop by Sandwich Club in Porto Ercole. From the line outside you’ll know it’s good. They have a menu with panini, salads and tramezzini that are perfect to take on your boat. If you’re a large group you can also order the day before and pick them up before heading to the boat rental.