Today I’m going to wrap up a trip report I started with you guys back in January, on a three week adventure through Tuscany with my boyfriend and parents. If you haven’t read Parts I and II, I recommend doing so before reading today’s post.
I took too long in general to write this trip report, as it’s now March and I took this trip in September. Life gets in the way sometimes. The silver lining is I thoroughly enjoyed the jaunt down memory lane and relishing in the nostalgia of a fantastic time spent with loved ones, and that experience would feel differently if I had written the report immediately after.
Oh, Bella Italia! I’ll never tire of you.
In Part I, I recounted Florence, Fiesole and the drive south towards Siena. Part II covered Pienza. Today you’ll learn about the promontory of Monte Argentario, which is where my family headed after Pienza, and hear a bit about eating pizza in Naples.
Porto Santo Stefano
While it is technically a peninsula, Monte Argentario is really more like an island connected to the mainland by three causeways.
There are two main towns, Porto Santo Stefano and Porto Ercole, nestled along the slopes of the mountain that covers most of the “island”. Just 95 miles northwest of Rome, Monte Argentario is a summer destination for Romans that is Italian touristy as opposed to internationally touristy. The tourism level doesn’t hold a candle to Cinque Terre or the Amalfi coast, which was a big reason why we chose Monte Argentario as we were traveling in high season (September).
We found a gorgeous and fairly priced Airbnb at the tail end of Porto Santo Stefano that sealed the deal for us as far as visiting Monte Argentario was concerned.
When I opened my Airbnb account to take a look at the property we rented, I laughed out loud upon reading my review, particularly the third sentence.
It’s obvious I was smitten, and for good reason. The pictures speak for themselves.
The house has two water accesses, a kayak, stand up paddle board, and two bikes.
All of the tall windows provide sweeping ocean views and breeze.
I loved the tiling featured in both bathrooms and the kitchen.
The area behind the house was terraced with various sitting areas. The one pictured above, closest to the house and kitchen, is where we ate almost all our meals.
Above are stairs leading down from the property to the swimming area. We spent the majority of our time in Monte Argentario relaxing at this stunning property, more than happy to stay put for six days after the prior two weeks of running around and maximizing time in Tuscany.
Book it yourself here. The Airbnb has two bedrooms, two bathrooms, a kitchen, a dining area, and a living area. It is one section of a larger house, which are rented as other Airbnbs. There was a nice german couple–Monte Argentario regulars–renting a different apartment of the house during our stay, and they tipped us off to how fun, cheap, and easy boat rentals were.
Rent a Boat and Pretend to be Italian
There are various boat rental companies in Porto Santo Stefano, but at the suggestion of our Airbnb host we rented from Zeurino. The price was right at $150 for the whole day. The boat was about 18 feet long with a 40 horsepower engine, comfortable for four people. That was the biggest and fastest boat available to rent without a boating license.
As the archipelago is hilly and mountainous, the view from the water is stunning with mountainside, cliffs, and caves, and is the only way to see various beaches. We stocked up at the market to bring a picnic on board, packed our cooler with the makings for Aperol Spritzes, and steered our boat into the bright blue.
We cruised the coastline…
enjoyed the views…
…and eventually anchored in a picturesque cove to swim, snorkel, and eat way too much pate.
Withers loves fishing and will try to wherever he travels, even without real gear. Here he is with a home-made fishing pole…
You should have time to drive the boat around the whole archipelago and arrive to the other town on Monte Argentario, Porto Ercole.
Porto Ercole is a small and sleepy fishing village that I found to be more charming than Porto Santo Stefano. If it hadn’t been for our Airbnb, I would have opted to stay on this side of the island.
We all agreed the best meal on Monte Argentario was in Porto Ercole at a pizza place called Grano. High quality, fresh, and cheap slices paired with outdoor seating next to the port and cold beers was a winning combination. It was so good we decided to take an extra meter of pizza home to eat later.
Driving the Circumference of the Archipelago
Another picturesque way to see Monte Argentario is to drive the main road that snakes its border, mostly along the mountainside that offers stunning panoramic views.
Time the drive right and you’re in for a real treat at sunset. Fair warning though, there are some hairy places along the road so I recommend an experienced driver take the wheel.
After a little less than a week in Monte Argentario, we got in our rental car and drove to Naples where all four of us would return to the United States from.
Thanks to some help from a couple bonuses on Ultimate Reward-earning cards, namely the Chase Ink Business Preferred Credit Card and the Chase Sapphire Preferred, my parents were flying Lufthansa Business Class back home which they booked with United miles.
We were only in Naples for a night and a couple days, which was enough to time to eat pizza for entirely too many meals in a row. That is, however, what one does when you have 48 hours in Naples. I have two recommendations: One that’s cheap, and one that always has a line in front full of tourists but is 100% worth the wait.
The Cheap One
We were pleasantly surprised when we realized a highly reviewed pizza joint, number three for Pizza in Naples, was just two blocks from our hotel.
The pizzas at 400 Gradi comes out fast, baked rapid fire, as the name of the restaurant suggests, in an insanely hot oven. Ingredients are simple and fresh. The staff is friendly and we never waited more than 10 minutes for a table on the street in the bustling alley.
The One To Wait an Hour For
Sorbillo was the best pizza I’ve had in Italy, no contest.
The wait was a little excessive, but there are bars that have sprung up on either side that seem to solely make money selling wine and aperitifs to those waiting to get into Sorbillo. There are no reservations, just a list to put your name on when you arrive. Have a glass of something and settle in, because this pizza is worth it. I waited in the rain for over an hour and it was still worth it.
After Brazil and Argentina, Italy is the country I have traveled the most. I feel a kinship with the people and culture as it’s similar in so many ways to the city I’ve called home for the last six and a half years: Buenos Aires. Italy felt comfortable and familiar to me from the get-go.
It seems obvious that a place that birthed the Renaissance would be beautiful in every sense of the word. But until you spend time there, it’s hard to fathom exactly how much Italians “get it”. If you’re a person that appreciates and values beauty, whether that be in the form of art, architecture, philosophy, food, fashion, people, or whatever, travel Italy already if you haven’t! Aesthetic is their name of the game.
If you want to be transported to Italy for a little while longer, read my trip reports from a solo road trip I did down the Adriatic coast of Italy in the summer of 2017: