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This is the old quarter of Porto Ercole build on the slope of the hill of the fortress La Roca.
The entrance is by a gate of the 16th c. called Porta dell'Orologio leading to a small square called Piazza Santa Barbara and heart of this Borgo Antico with the Palace of the Governor.
From here about eighty stairs lead to the church of Sant Erasmo of which the tower - campanile is one of the landmarks of Porto Ercole. It is a rather simple church from what was in the past a fisherman quarter.
From the square in front of the church one has a good view over the roofs on the harbour of Porto Ercole and on Forte Filippo.
We had been invited to assist a wedding in this church. All assistants young and old, fit or not, bride and groom, had to climb the 80 steps of the stair which seems the only way to reach the church entrance.
According to a document found in 2001 it appears that in this church of Sant Erasmo was buried the painter Caravaggio who died in Porto Ercole in 1610 on a journey from Naples to Rome but the tomb of Il Caravaggio has not been found.
Written Nov 20, 2007
Walking along the seaside on the Lungomare of Porto Ercole supposes that the visitor has found a parking place. When arriving by the main road from Orbetello turn left in the centre at the Piazza Roma, there is a rather small parking (1 €/hour) at the square formed by the Via San Sebastiano.
From there you can walk within a short distance to the Lungomare Andrea Doria where the restaurants and bars of Porto Ercole are.
Like mentioned in my intro page this picturesque and authentic port, a quarter century ago, has now been invaded by a marina leaving not much room for the water. From the Lungomare one sees mainly a huge parking for all types of boats.
I presume that all these boats mooring in the harbour and their owners bring more money to the Porto Ercole authorities and the local business than occasional tourists.
At the end of the Lungomare Andrea Doria the sea promenade turns left to the fish harbour. This is the Lungomare Marinai d'Italia starting with an ugly ruin of a shipyard and further fishing and boat equipments stored in the open along the pier. Authentic fishing harbour but rather messy. There are some parking possibilities here.
The promenade ends at the 300 m long Molo Santa Barbara which protects the harbour.
It is possible to walk on this wall with great views on the open sea, the coast of Ansedonia and the harbour and hills of Porto Ercole.
Written Nov 18, 2007
The fortress called "Stella" is located outside Porto Ercole; she faces the small island called Isolotto and is reached by the Strada Panoramica.
The construction started in 1557. The elegant fortress has the form of a star (stella in Italian) with six points located inside a quadrangular construction surrounded by a ditch and has only one entry.
After restoration Forte Stella became a museum in 1999 for temporary exhibitions on 200 m2.
What is most impressive is the panoramic view.
Open from mid June to mid September every day in the evening from 18 - 24 h. In other periods only on week ends 11 - 17 h.
Better to check TEL. 0564 811925.
Price 2 €.
Updated Nov 7, 2007
The Spanish fortress Filippo dominates the hill on the left of the Porto Ercole harbour. It was build in 1558 under the Spanish rule, from there its name after the King of Spain. The military architect was Giovanni Camerini. The fortress has a quadrangular form lengthened with imposing bastions to the angles and is surrounded by a deep ditch. The only point of access is a drawbridge.
The artillery power of the fortress is completed by the battery of Santa Caterina located somewhat lower on the hill slope. The canons of this battery could fire at low angle.
The fortress Filippo is a private property and can not be visited.
Updated Nov 7, 2007
The Spanish fortress called La Rocca is located at the top of the hill on the right side of the harbour.
From this hill the fortress guards as well the harbour as the open sea. The construction started in the 14th. c and was developed, modified, completed during the 15th and 16th centuries. It is the largest fortress of the Argentario.
The form is an irregular star adapted to the relief of the promontory with a series of bastions preceded by a ditch with a draw bridge conducting to the door topped by a coat of arms.
A wall goes down to the sea and connects La Rocca with the remains of a polygonal bastion which was the battery of Santa Barbara covering the harbour in conjunction with the battery of Santa Caterina, part of the Forte Filippo on the other side of the port of Ercole.
Do I need to say that the views from the Rocca are overwhelming.
Visits from 10 to 13 h and from 16 till dusk. Free entry.
Updated Nov 4, 2007
The history of Porto Ercole is similar to that of Porto Santo Stefano on the other side of the Argentario peninsula. After belonging to the republic of Sienna, Porto Ercole was annexed to the Grand Duchy of Tuscany by Cosimo I of Medici.
In 1557 the cities of Porto Ercole, Orbetello, Porto Santo Stefano, Talamone, Ansedonia and Porto Longone (on the Island of Elba), were assembled by King Philip II of Spain under the name of Stato dei Presidi (The State of the Garrisons) governed directly by Spain, as part of the Kingdom of Naples. It followed the history of the latter and was never a souverreign state.
In 1800, Napoleon disbanded the Stato dei Presidi and annexed the region to the newly-formed Kingdom of Etruria. Later the Congress of Vienna (1815) gave these territories to Tuscany, to which they belonged until the Unification of Italy.
The Spanish fortifications at Porto Ercole are much more important that those of Porto Santo Stefano. There are 3 fortresses on the hills above the bay of Porto Ercole. Two can be visited.
Updated Nov 4, 2007
Porto Ercole is famous for its marinas. In the bay at the feet of the Monte Filippo, about 1,5 km from the centre of the town, has been constructed in the 1980s an important modern marina called Cala Galera for about 700 boats ranging from 5 to 50 m length. The entrance is possible with strong wind.
Cala Galera keeps normally 80 moorings for boats on transit.
All nautical services are provided: fuel, water, electricity. There are numerous ship-chandlers and at night the bars of Porto Ercole are full of yachtsmen.
The harbour of Porto Ercole itself is crowded by boats of all types. There are a dozen fishing boats moored at the Lungomare Marinai D'Italia
There are several jetties of which the longest "molo Santa Barbara" exceeds 300 m, and 3 smaller ones inside the harbour plus many pontoons. In summer it is quite difficult to find here a free mooring ring.
Sailing in this area is nice with the islands of Giglio and Giannutri as goal.
Updated Nov 18, 2007