Introducing Monte Argentario
Once an island, this rugged promontory came to be linked to the mainland by an accumulation of sand that is now the isthmus of Orbetello. Further sandy bulwarks form the Tombolo della Giannella and Tombolo di Feniglia to the north and south. They enclose a lagoon that is now a protected nature reserve. Sadly, overdevelopment has spoiled the northern side of the promontory, particularly around the crowded harbour of Porto Santo Stefano, a favourite weekend getaway for Romans in the summer. Ambitious hotel and restaurant prices make it poor value in the high season, and parking is cutthroat; we suggest visiting on a day trip and then hightailing it inland for accommodation options.
If you're driving, follow signs for the narrow and sometimes dangerously overcrowded Via Panoramica, a circular route offering great coastal views over the water to the hazy whaleback of the Isola de Giglio.
There are several good beaches, mainly of the pebbly variety, just to the east and west of Porto Santo Stefano.
On the less-crowded southern side of the promontory is Porto Ercole, a smaller and more attractive harbour nestled between three Spanish forts. Here you can wander the hillside centro storico past the sandwiched Chiesa di Sant'Erasmo and up towards the largest of the fortresses. Down by the water, the beach is relatively clean but is cluttered with deck chairs and umbrellas.