If you’re dreaming of an authentic Mediterranean experience, look no further than Porto Santo Stefano. As the capital city of the Monte Argentario province, it offers a glimpse into a unique part of Tuscany.
Crystal-clear turquoise waters, quiet coves, and orange terracotta roofs can be found elsewhere in Italy, but Porto Santo Stefano is special. It provides more authentic (and less touristy) experiences to visitors. It has a deep history with the Romans, Austrians, and French, among others, adding to its cultural and architectural richness. You’ll find no shortage of sailboats, seafood, or gelato.
Interested in heading to Porto Santo Stefano during your next Italian vacation? Keep reading to plan the perfect trip.
Is Porto Santo Stefano Worth Visiting?
Yes! Porto Santo Stefano is a unique town that is certainly worth the visit. Not only will you get a taste of the town’s bubbly atmosphere, but you’ll also be able to explore Mediterranean shores.
Many tourists seek out the tropical-like waters of an Italian island like Sardinia or Sicily. Porto Santo Stefano is a cheaper and less crowded door to nearby coves with pristine waters and wonderful snorkeling.
How to Get to Porto Santo Stefano
Porto Santo Stefano is located in southern Tuscany, along the coast. It’s situated on the slope of Mount Argentario, which sits on a raised mass of land in the Mediterranean.
The town is fairly equidistant from Rome and Florence. So, it’s a convenient destination if you’re visiting either of these two famous Italian cities.
There are plenty of ways to get to Porto Santo Stefano.
If you’re coming from Florence, you have the choice between bus, train, and car. By public transportation (either by train or by bus), the journey will take between 3 and 4 hours. Driving will take about 2 to 3 hours.
From Rome, the trip is a bit quicker. There’s a direct train that takes just under 2 hours. If you drive, it should take from 1.5 to 2.5 hours.
So, although Porto Santo Stefano is approximately the same distance from Rome and Florence, it’s quicker to come from Rome.
4 Places to Visit in Porto Santo Stefano
Before we jump into the spectacular beaches and destinations around the peninsula, let’s talk about the best places to visit in the town itself.
1. Spanish Fortress
The Spanish constructed this coastal fortification between the 16th and 17th centuries. The defensive structure was built from the rubble of a destroyed stronghold that stood in the same place.
The French strengthened the fortress during the Napoleonic Period to protect themselves from the British.
Continuing to have importance after Italy’s unification, the Spanish fortress carried out military functions in both WW1 and WW2.
Currently, the fortress functions as a museum for the public. Visitors can check out archeological findings and shipwright documents.
2. Mediterranean Aquarium
The Acquario Mediterraneo dell’Argentario has been up and running since 2001.
This aquarium’s goal is to accurately reproduce the coastal ecosystems along the Argento coast.
Although it’s small, the charming aquarium features a total of 17 tanks packed with sea life. Here, you can observe vibrant fish, corals, anemones, and other fascinating creatures while learning about the area.
3. Old City
The historic center of Porto Santo Stefano consists of stone staircases and alleyways that weave among shops and shops.
At the heart of the old city, you’ll also come across the Spanish fortress, a massive structure that adds to the area’s history.
4. Passeggiata Porto Santo Stefano
If you want to simply enjoy the Mediterranean breeze and take in your surroundings, go for a stroll along the passeggiata.
This stone path borders the sea and offers breathtaking views of both the horizon and the town. There are plenty of palm trees and benches along Passeggiata Porto Santo Stefano.
You’ll even pass a small stone monument, the Monumento ai caduti, which honors fallen soldiers.
Experiences around Porto Santo Stefano
Best Hotels to Stay in Porto Santo Stefano
Below, you’ll find our curated selection of recommended hotels for your stay in Porto Santo Stefano.
Bike&Boat Argentario Hotel
This beautiful hotel offers organized tours and cycling opportunities for guests. All suites include balconies, and you can request one that overlooks the sea.
This is a sustainable 4-star hotel with vibrant apricot-colored rooms. It offers access to a private beach, complete with free beach towels, sun beds, and umbrellas. The hotel’s restaurant serves scrumptious Mediterranean cuisine for lunch and dinner during the summer months.
Villa la Terrazza
This villa for 6 features charming stone walls and extraordinary views. Watch the sunset over the Mediterranean from your terrace that overlooks the town’s terra cotta roof.
The Best 5 Beaches Near Porto Santo Stefano
Porto Santo Stefano is full of cale, or coves, which are generally more intimate and colorful than typical sandy beaches. Consisting of aquamarine seawater often surrounded by lush greenery, cale are wonderful beaches to spend a sunny day.
Here are the 5 best cale near Porto Santo Stefano.
1. Cala del Mar Morto
Cala Mar Morto is a rather wild beach, composed of pebbles and rocks that line the sea. It’s a fantastic destination for any adventurous traveler.
There, you can rent beach chairs, umbrellas, and kayaks. The crystalline water offers outstanding snorkeling, so bring a snorkel if you want to observe the colorful marine life.
This beach isn’t located right in Porto Santo Stefano, but it’s only a 20-minute drive south. Many say that it’s easier to access than other beaches in the area.
2. Cala la Cacciarella
Cala la Cacciarella is another rocky beach in the area, but it’s closer to Porto Santo Stefano than Cala Mar Morto. This beautiful cove is just a 4-minute drive west of the town.
Check out the fish, sea sponges, anemones, and other creatures that live in the clear waters.
There is limited parking along the street. Beachgoers recommend against going here around lunchtime, when it’s busiest.
3. Cala del Gesso
Situated on the west coast of the Argentario peninsula, Cala del Gesso highlights the beauty of Italian cale.
The sharp contrast between the blue water and lush green trees above truly makes for a magical experience. Small boats often dot the sea and create a picturesque background.
Cala del Gesso is approximately a 15-minute drive away from Porto Santo Stefano. Keep in mind that to get there from the road, you’ll have to walk down a steep trail.
4. Cala Grande
Cala Grande sits in between Cala del Gesso and La Cacciarella, just 9 minutes away from Porto Santo Stefano.
The water is quite clean and optimal for a dip or snorkeling adventure.
Cala Grande is a very sunny beach, with little shade during the day.
From the road, you’ll have to walk about 15-20 minutes. It’s recommended to get there early in the day to ensure that you get a place on the beach.
5. Cala dell’Olio
This last cala is located just below the Torre Maddalena castle. As of now, the castle is permanently closed, but it still makes for a stunning and unique backdrop for the beach.
The excellent water quality of Cala dell’Olio makes it a great destination for swimming and snorkeling.
Cala dell’Olio is roughly 20 minutes south of Porto Santo Stefano.
The Best Restaurants in Porto Santo Stefano
No trip in Italy is complete without tasty eats. Let’s dive into 3 amazing restaurants in Porto Santo Stefano.
Trattoria Lo Sfizio 2.0
This lovely trattoria is located just along the seaside, offering extraordinary views alongside delicious dishes.
Watch the sunset over the Mediterranean horizon while you enjoy your seafood meal. Options include delectable seafood risotto and fried calamari.
Ristorante La Bussola
Ristorante La Bussola is another great option if you want an authentic taste of Argentario.
The restaurant specializes in seafood and pasta, creating dishes like spaghetti with sea urchins and salt-encrusted fish.
Choose between the luxurious dining room and the enclosed patio with a flowing golden ceiling.
Trattoria dei Frati
If you’re looking for a change from seafood, check out Trattoria dei Frati. This trattoria, which specializes in dishes from the land, sources fresh ingredients from local markets and farms.
Try the Florentine steak, tortelli with meat sauce, or delicate green tortellini.
What to Visit Around Porto Santo Stefano
There’s no shortage of things to see in Porto Santo Stefano and beaches to head to nearby. But what other fun destinations exist on and around the peninsula?
Monte Argentario is the name of the municipality and peninsula that contains Porto Santo Stefano.
It also contains the port town of Porto Ercole, as well as some small and inviting villages.
Check out the Panorama sull’Isola Del Giglio viewpoint, the Torre di Capo d’Uomo, and, if you’re up for an adventure, the Grotta di Punta degli Stretti caves.
This pearl of an island, one of the seven that make up the Arcipelago Toscano National Park, is located southwest of Argentario.
The mild climate, sandy beaches, and emerald waters make for a memorable trip.
To get there, take a ferry directly from Porto Santo Stefano.
The town of Orbetello is located on a small peninsula that almost touches the Argentario peninsula. It sits over a lagoon and is surrounded by city walls from the 5th century BC.
The main sights include Forte delle Saline, the ruins of the monastery of Sant’Angelo, and the cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta.
Orbetello is just a 15-minute drive away from Porto Santo Stefano.
Along with Porto Santo Stefano, Porto Ercole is one of the two major towns of Argentario’s township.
There are plenty of things to see, including religious buildings and military architecture. Of particular interest are Chiesa di Sant’Erasmo, Palazzo dei Governanti, and the walls of Porto Ercole.
If you want to explore another charming town on the Argentario peninsula, Porto Ercole is a wonderful option.