We’ve just come back from summer in Europe and this place – Monte Argentario, was one of the last stops of our trip. It’s everything you dream of about an Italian summer.
Italy was the last stop on our honeymoon and the way we ended up in Monte Argentario was by recommendation from one of Antonio’s friends in Rome. Rather then spending all 5 days in Rome before we flew back to Sydney, we thought we’d split the week up by driving up to this place, just an hour and 40 minutes from Rome.
A peninsula that belongs to the region of Tuscany and that used be an Island, Monte Argentario is something that looks like the Amalfi but before heavy tourism development. The landscape is green, luscious, mountainous and quite rocky. The beaches are pebble stone beaches and they are scattered all around the island, hidden and reached by long windy sea view roads that take you all around the mediterranean coast of Argentario.
There are two main villages in Argentario, Porto Santo Stefano and Porto Ercole. Both are gorgeous but we decided to take a chance with Porto Santo Stefano.. and I’m so happy we did. The sunrise there was something like i’ve never seen before.
Driving up to Argentario we booked an apartment through bookings.com and there wasn’t much accommodation left, so we were quite lucky to find a simple apartment with a balcony looking over the water with the boats coming in and out of the port of the village.
After settling into our last minute apartment, we took the stairs down to the water, where we then followed the path to the centre of the village. It was exactly what we wanted to see and exactly where we wanted to be. It was around 6 in the evening already so we took a quick swim in the warm dark emerald water with the last bit of golden sun shining on our faces. We then made our way to one of many bars on the waters edge for some aperitivo.
Taking in the first sip of Aperol spritz, and tasting some simple Tuscan nibbles in the surrounding that we were in, we instantly knew this little village was already our favourite place so far on our honeymoon. We loved the atmosphere in this village. It just felt warm, special, and a place that we would have loved to be in for a good week. I think so often we travel the world searching for special places and moments, sometimes it’s the simplest of things that make you feel present and really just happy.
After our first extremely enjoyable Aperol spritz we asked the bar man for a recommendation for a local deli. Following his directions we walked to the other side of the port (10 minutes walk) and found Macelleria Bausani Fiorenzo. Half local butchery and half deli products the owner was very kind and clearly passionate about the products he had inside. He was happy to chat with us and offered to try anything we wanted. We tried it all. What stood out to us was the fennel and pork salami and the mortadella, both free of chemical preservatives, and so preserved naturally. Apparently fennel is a natural preservative. After taking home a bottle of wine we returned the next day to pick up more delicious products for lunch. Again, we tried some cheeses and chose our lunch for the day, very content and happy with this little find.
Both nights we ate at the same restaraunt Da Zirio, at which you do need to wait in line 45 minutes at peak time, but I see that as a good sign and always prefer to wait a bit longer for good food. It’s one of the most popular places with the locals. Located right next to the dark mediterranean silky still water and serving pizza and seafood pasta, it was all we wanted, along with some locally produced white wine. I also completely forgot to take a photo on both nights. Wishing I did, I will just keep the pesto, cherry tomato spaghetti with clams in my memory box of delicious italian pastas.
One of the days that we were there we decided to hire a small boat..more like a blow up boat, not sure what they are called though (again a big recommendation from Antonio’s friend). It was the best thing we did, i’m so happy we did it! So along with some fresh bread and mini pizzetas from the bakery, some products from the deli and fresh fruit from a small fruit shop we took off around the south of the Monte Argentario peninsula. We loved two locations in particular Cala dei Santi and then Cala Grande in the afternoon. Pulling up wherever we wanted was a great feeling, although a little tiny bit envious of the luxury yachts next to us, we were still very content with our mini blow up boat. Jumping into the water every 15 minutes or so was nice, it was very very nice.
Apart from enjoying the water whether it’s by land or the sea, there are also other things to do on the island. I would recommend exploring the two mains villages and boutique shops of Porto Ercole and if you’re into sight seeing then check out the Spanish fort Rocca Spagnola. Apparently the Spanish settled on this peninsula in the 16th century and so today there still remains a fort built by the Spanish. I also noticed a small aperitivo dish that was served at one of the restaurants, bread soaked in tomato – did this influence come from the Spanish salmorejo soup?
I don’t think I can ever get enough of Italy. It always surprises me, such a small country but with so much character, warmth and energy. There is always something new to explore in every region and regions within a region that are so distinct and captivating. As always, I left Italy with a sad heart. This time even more.