This charming seaside village is located on the Argentario Promontory, with colorful buildings perched on different hills that surround the harbor, which is dominated by the Spanish Fortress (Rocca Spagnola).
Porto Ercole’s history dates as far back as the Etruscan times, but the town started to take shape in 1296, when the countess of Savona, Margherita Aldobrandeschi, ordered the construction of the tower called Torre di Terra. In the 15th century, the Republic of Siena overtook the harbor and developed the medieval city walls that still surround part of the town, including the gothic gate with the clock tower that you can still admire in the historic center. Next came the Kingdom of Spain under its client state called “”Stato dei Presidi”, which fortified the harbor and built the fortresses of Forte Filippo, Forte Stella and Forte Santa Caterina. In 1610, the Italian Baroque painter Caravaggio (Michelangelo Merisi), exiled by the Pope, died in mysterious conditions in Porto Ercole and was buried in a local church.
Today, Porto Ercole is a popular tourist destination in the summer time, thanks to the beautiful beaches and bays that can be found close by, and due to its lively seaside promenade with bars and restaurants.
Sightseeing attractions include the Giardino Corsini, a botanical garden that houses native and tropical plants; the Palazzo dei Governanti, which was the residence of the Spanish governors during the 16th century; the Church of Sant’Erasmo that hosts the tombs of the governors and possibly of Caravaggio; and all the forts, including the Forte Stella with its splendid hexagonal shape.
Local traditional festivals include the religious procession by the sea in honor of Patron Sant’Erasmo (June); the Night of the Pirates during which the locals dress up as pirates and search for a hidden treasure around the town (March or April); and the Palio, a regatta in which the town’s 4 historic neighborhoods compete against one another.