Porto Ercole Cheat Sheet

You asked: We just arrived with our family at Il Pellicano. Any tips for what to do around Porto Ercole?Indagare friends and annual visitors to the region suggest the following, as well as three must-dos on a visit to this part of the Maremma.

Where to Eat

For lunch, go to Ultimo Spiaggia (Stabilimento Balneare, between Chiarone and Capalbio; 39-564-890-295), which means the ultimate beach. It’s a beach club like those in St. Tropez with dark blue loungers and umbrellas set up on the beach and a simple terrace restaurant up on a deck. It’s owned by three surfers, whose moms prepare the most delicious home-cooked food. There are straw hats hung over the bar and outdoor showers for the kids to rinse off in before eating. Everyone sits around in their bathing suits and lingers over long lunches, and it’s a heavenly way to spend the day. Open all day from the end of May until the third week of September.

For dinner, I tend to favor restaurants in the town of Capalbio, a medieval hilltop village surrounded by 2,000 hectares of park forest. (It is just off the main highway heading south towards Rome from Porto Ercole.) The village has stone fortifications and a totally enchanting atmosphere, and kids will feel that it is right out of a storybook. You can walk almost all the way around the town on the battlements, and it seems that everyone who has a house up there turns their home into a restaurant by putting tables outside.

There are many restaurants and shops in the town. The one just by the town gates, Da Maria, is where most of the tourists come, and it’s not at all bad, but we have others that we prefer. Our favorite is Il Cantinone (39 0564 896181), which is at the highest point in the town. It specializes in grilled foods, particularly bistecca di Ciangiale (boar), which resembles something in between a pork chop and a bistecca. You must have the crostini with a truffle paste. Ask for a seat outside so you can view the countryside from over the crenellated walls.

An absolutely fabulous pasta restaurant is Tullio (39 33 0564 896196). It is just outside the city wall as you drive to the public parking garage on the East side. They have amazing sage butter ravioli and delicious dried meats. Try the bresaola with prosciutto and fig conserve. It has a terrace on a deck below the escarpments with great views of the purple hillsides as the sun goes down. All the other restaurants in town, many of which are outdoors on the ramparts of the fortified walls are great, but these two are best.

For seafood, try La Selva, meaning black sage. It is on the frontage road between Capalbio and Chiarone and runs parallel to the main road (via Aurelia) and to the west of it. The chef prepares exquisite fish dishes.

What to See & Do

Il Giardino dei Tarocchi

: Created by artist Nikki de St. Phalle and commissioned by the Agnelli family, Giardini de Tarocchi (or Tarot Card Garden) is a sculpture garden based on tarot card images. Truly one of the highlights of the region, this giant living sculpture garden will mesmerize both adults and kids. The sculptures are enormous, with water gushing through some and whirling around others. It was based on a pack of tarot cards and de St. Phalle used mirrors, mosaics, shards of porcelain and glass to create these fantastical figures. One is as large as a small house; and you can walk through them all. (Pescia Fiorentina, Capoalbio; 39 564 89 51 22). Take via Aurelia south and exit for Pescia Romana, turn left off the ramp, heading East, and it’s 1 or 2 kms on left.

Time on the Water: Charter a speedboat and captain to visit the islands of Gilio and Gianutri. Tie up in town and have lunch at La Fontanina, then visit secluded harbors to go swimming. You can scuba, snorkel or just swim in the coves. Be sure to stop and swim in the grottos near Il Pellicano.

Orbetello: Wander around the streets and soak up the charm of the town.

Polo: Drive out of Porto Ercole towards Orbetello, and just before go left towards Porto Santo Stefano. About 1km later in the middle of the straightaway is the entrance to Argentario Polo Club on the left. You’ll see posters and signs as well.

Indagare Tip: Be prepared. If you are St. Tropez types, it’s not chi-chi in that way. Simple and serene is the key.

Published onJune 1, 2015

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