Can’t decide whether to take your holidays in Tuscany or Spain? You can have it both ways in this corner of Tuscany that was once a little bit of Spain.
Porto San to Stefano, Porto Ercole and Orbetello are three towns on the Monte Argentario peninsula which conserve reminders of their 150 years (1557-1707) as a Spanish enclave or presidios.
Epigraphs and funerary monuments in the churches record governors and soldiers who died here far from their homeland, Spanish family names abound and local speech includes dozens of archaic Spanish words.
More visible testimonies are the majestic doorway and city walls of Orbetello and fortress-castles constructed by military architects. Surrounding the yacht harbors of Porto Ercole and Cala Galera are Forte Filippo, named for the warrior king, Forte Stella with its star design and la Rocca overlooking the beach where Caravaggio died. The Fortezza of Porto Santo Stefano and the Polveriera Guzman in Orbetello have both recently been adapted from their former military uses to become local history museums.
Several 17th century palaces built by the military rulers have been restored and one lone windmill, the last of a long line, still stands forlornly in the lagoon, similar to those of Don Quixote’s la Mancha.