When we hear of Tuscany, we immediately think about the artistic heritage of the Italian Renaissance: Botticelli, Michelangelo and da Vinci. Most of us also think of good wine, artisanal cheeses and exquisite cuisine. Therefore, we can all agree it is a refined and cultured destination that combines unparalleled scenery, history, modernity and comfort.
We found, on the coast of Tuscany, at one side of Monte Argentario, the quaint little town of Porto Ercole, a charming walled city with several entrances; one of them is the imposing Torre dell’Orologio, or clock tower. Several historic fortresses such as Filippo di Santa Caterina Batteria and Forte Stella, are among the most popular tourist attractions in town. Visitors can also stroll the narrow streets and witness the marked Spanish influence that dominates the region.
One of the most stunning views of Porto Ercole can be seen from the Argentario hills. The town’s beautiful marina, famous among the most discerning watersport aficionados, hosts some of the world’s most elegant yachts during the Mediterranean summers. With so much activity and action, Porto Ercole is a favorite destination that promises, above all, fun and good times.
During the Night of the Pirate festival, held in early May, the entire town becomes a refuge for buccaneers and pirates. Fireworks and creative pyrotechnic battles emerge from the vessels anchored at bay. The vibrant spectacle seems out of a Hollywood production.
Those who rather spend the day playing golf than on the water, can tee off at the relaxed and elegant Argentario 18-hole Golf Club, ranked as one of Italy’s best. And for the more adventurous, scuba diving is a popular activity since the seabed is teeming with a vast variety of flora and fauna. But if you prefer to just relax and do nothing, a dip on the sky blue waters or a stroll around the spectacular beaches of Riva Marchese, Bagno Le Viste or Feniglia, will be a delightful option just before supper.
Visitors will be privy to ocean front restaurant serving exquisite dishes with distinguished service. Osteria dei Nobili Santi, which received a certificate of excellence in 2013, offers a variety of local recipes accompanied by wonderful views of the harbor. At La Sirena, you’ll find fresh seafood and first class service; we recommend its risotto ai frutti di mare. But the most comprehensive option is the two Michelin star Il Pelicano, offering international gourmet cuisine and led by the celebrated chef Antonio Guiada. Its breathtaking view of the Tyrrhenian coast should be taken under candlelight and with a good bottle of Tuscan wine, a perfect a romantic evening.
The restaurant is located in the exclusive hotel of the same name. With Relais & Chateaux five-stars, the mansion known as Il Pelicano was built in the 1960s in a way that it seems to be suspended between the sky and the sea.
The owners, Michael and Patricia Graham, originally conceived it for their private use. Since the beginning, the spectacular villa served as a club for friends and relatives, but after such favorable reception, praises and accolades, it opened its doors as a hotel for a select clientele. Warm and cozy with a nostalgic, retro vibe, it makes you feel at home in a glamorous and discreet environment. In the spacious rooms with splendid windows and terraces, guests will feel steeped in the Tuscan countryside, but with ocean views. The blue sky and sea, lush green vegetation and terracotta walls of the villa are the colors that prevail in its 34 double rooms, five junior suites and five deluxe suites.
The warm atmosphere of a typical house in Italian countryside is recreated by the exquisite decor and furnishings, chosen by designer Marie Louise Scio. The bathrooms, all different, have hand painted Italian tiles and are fully equipped with the most modern and exclusive amenities.
For complete relaxation, nothing beats the luxurious Peliclub spa for its personalized massage services and beauty treatments, performed by expert hands, using apothecary products from Florence’s Santa Maria Novella, manufacturers of natural cosmetics and fragrances since the 17th century. On the hotel’s exclusive boutique, guests can also purchase the exclusive products created by perfumer Maria Candida Gentile, a graduate from France’s School of Grasse.
If you visit Porto Ercole, you can’t leave without discovering the beautiful surrounding marine ecosystems in comfortable boat tours to nearby islands with a romantic picnic prepared by the hotel’s chef. Guests can also indulge in a strenuous tennis match on the private courts or talk business while playing golf. Il Pelicano has a private beach club, where guests can get a perfect tan, swim in the warm waters of the Mediterranean or just relax under large umbrellas, large sunbeds and a soothing heated pool.
If you are lucky, you’ll be invited to a masterful demonstration by Federico, the legendary hotel barman, who teaches guests how to prepare the perfect cocktail, but if you want to surprise your partner with a special gourmet dish prepared by your own hands, the master chef will help you organize and cook an amazing feast it if necessary.
Majestic stairs through lush Mediterranean gardens surrounded by aromatic cypress and olive trees complete the Tuscan environment. These are the privileges of a walk through the center of Porto Ercole, a mandatory stop if you love the beauty of nature, good taste and glamor. ■