Porto Santo Stefano is the largest town in the Monte Argentario Peninsula, featuring pastel colored houses along its picturesque harbors filled with fishing boats and yachts. The bay is dominated by the majestic Spanish Fortress from the 17th century.
If you are reaching Porto Santo Stefano from mainland Italy, you will drive along a winding road from where you can enjoy a panoramic view of the village perched on the sea. Once you enter it, you will see the larger, commercial port (Porto del Valle) where fishing boats dock and ferries depart for the islands of Giglio and Giannutri.
Next is the smaller, more characteristic and old Porto Vecchio, which you can reach by strolling along the promenade designed by Giorgetto Giugiaro and filled with seafront bars and restaurants. Take the small roads that climb up the village and you reach the Spanish Fort, one of the best examples of Spain’s military architecture. The sea and coast views from up here are simply stunning.
If you carry on after Porto Santo Stefano, the beautiful Via Panoramica will lead you to a number of beaches and bays with crystal-clear waters and a snorkeling-friendly seabed. Rock climbers can challenge themselves on the spectacular Falesia di Capo d’Uomo. The whole area is a steady winner of the Blue Flag environmental award.
Porto Santo Stefano has a very interesting and long history due to its strategic position. Roman ruins can still be found at the Bagni di Domiziano baths. The area started developing around 1550 under a Spanish governor and then as part of the State of Presidi. It was conquered and dominated by alternating states, such as Spain, France, Austria and the Grand Duchy of Tuscany, until it was united to the Reign of Italy in 1860.
Nowadays, the most famous local event is the historic Palio Marinaro, a 4000-meter regatta that takes place on the 15th of August of every year. Athletes from the village’s 4 historic ‘rioni’ (neighborhoods) compete on typical boats called ‘guzzi’. The cheering crowds watch from the harbor and jump in the water to greet the winners.
Another important event is the contemporary Argentario Dance Festival, an international contest that has been reuniting young Italian and international dancers since 2009.
The village has 2 museums. One is the Spanish Fortress, which hosts exhibitions dedicated to the artisans who build ships and fishing boats, as well as to the relics found in the waters around Monte Argentario. The other one is the Costa d’Argento Aquarium, with a marine biology teaching center.
Apart from Porto Santo Stefano, the other fishing village that is located on Monte Argentario is Porto Ercole (read our post Visiting Porto Ercole).
Source: Just in Toscana blog