HISTORY

 

MONTE ARGENTARIO                                                               Versione italiana

Monte Argentario was probably an island in origin, that was connected afterward to the Tyrrenian coast by the thin Feniglia and Giannella's tombolos, two narrow strips of sand formed by debris from the sea, accumulated by the currents. The promontory was first inhabited in pre-historical ages, as we can see from the archeological remains founded in the Grotta degli Stretti and in Grotta di Cala dei Santi. At least 10 caves were inhabited, the largest was 10 kilometres in length, with a little lake 50 metres from the entrance, called Grotta del Granduca in honor of Leopoldo di Lorena, who promoted the excavations.

Thanks to its position, at the centre of the Tyrrenian Sea, Monte Argentario was a safe port for the first navigators. Because of its strategic position, watch towers were built to help prevent raids by the sea, like the one from the pirate Khair ad Din, called the Redbeard, that in 1544 plundered and ransacked the village of Porto Ercole. The first defensive constructions were built during the Bronze Age, but in the XV century ,under the Republic of Siena, a proper defensive system was organized on the coast of all the Promontory, but it is thanks to the Spanish rule  that the promontory became the most important strong hold in all Tuscany. The State of the Royal Presides was born, formed by the villages of Orbetello, Porto Ercole, Porto Santo Stefano and Talamone, and in 1602, the village of Porto Longone on Elba Island joined the Royal Presides.

The promontory, completely mountuous ( 635 metres high ), is characterized by high and rocky coastlines, where one can admire the famous dwarf palm which grows spontaneously, and is also covered in Mediterranean woods, olives trees, vineyards, and orchards. In the vineyards, planted  on terraces escavated in the side of the mountain , the rare Ansonico and Riminese grapes are cultivated. The promontory economy, once based on the fishing, is today stricktly connected with the tourism.

Strabone ( 24 D.C. ) in his writing "De Geographia", gives the first information about this area when he writes about the "Portus cosanus", place who is recalled again in the "Intera Provinciarum " (152 D.C.) where it is clear its connections to the etruscan town of Cosa. After the roman conquest, this land became part of the district. Later, Monte Argentario is acquired by the Enobarbi Domizi family, who were " argentarii ", that means "who lends money", and as they lended money to the Republic of Siena during the Punic wars, got the promontory as payment for the debts. For this reason, the promontory was calles Argentariorum Mons, Argentarii 's mountain. Probably, the Enobarbi Domizi were the owners of Villa Domizia, the roman villa at Santa Liberata. The villa was included to the dote di nozze di Longina, Lamia Emiliano 's wife, who was kidnapped by the Imperor Domiziano to be his spose, in the I Century D.C. In the II Century D.C. Traiano gave the villa to his niece, Vibia Matidia, as part of the dote, and from this come the name of Insula Matidiae. In the IV Century, the Imperor Costantino gave it ot the Basilica dei Santissimi Marcellino and Pietro. Mons Argentariorum is found again in the writing " De Feditu suo" by Rutilio Nomaziano in the V Century D.C. During the barbaric invasions, between the VI and IX Century AD,due to the abandon of the Aurelia road and to the turning into a swamp of the coast, Monte Argentario lived isolated even though it was part of the Abbazia delle Tre Fontane in Rome, after the donation from Carlo Magno to the pope Leone III. It became possession of the Aldobrandeschi family first and the Orsini di Sovana family then; afterward, it passed to Ladislao, King of Naples, and from the 1410 it became part of the Republic of Siena. During this last period, the promontory became a real fortress. In 1557, after the treaty written by Filippo II of Spain , Monte Argentario became part of the State of the Royal Presides, who consisted of Orbetello, Talamone, Porto Santo Stefano and Porto Ercole. The State of the Royal Presides was then a precious port between Spain and the Reign of Naples, and important to control the Stato Della Chiesa and the Ducato di Toscana. For these reasons, Filippo II fortified the promontory with fortresses and buildings, Spanish soldiers families started to settle in the area, along with sailors from Naples and Ligury, forming the first villages. In 1815, Monte Argentario was connected to the Granducato di Toscana, and then to the Regno d'Italia.

PORTO SANTO STEFANO

Well-knowen touristic resort, Porto Santo Stefano is the main village and seat of the council. The port is divided into old and new port, and it is the heart of  the touristic and fishing boat activities, and from here the ferries connect  the promontory  to the islands of Giglio and Giannutri. The activity of shipyards and carpenters is also rather important.

The village was born during the State of the Royal Presides, and it developed under Gilles Nunez Orejon, when the first village was built by the Rocca, the spanish fortress. From the XVIII Century families from Naples and Ligury came to live in the area.

PORTO ERCOLE

A beautiful fishing village on the west coast of Monte Argentario, and an important touristic port, Porto Ercole is situated on a bay surrounded by Spanish fortresses. Next to it is Cala Galera, another touristic port where lots of boats come in summer, attracted by the efficient services provided.

There is not certain information about Porto Ercole' s history. We think the Etruscans gave this name to the village, as an etruscan necropolis was recently found near Cala Galera, situated in the 13th sector of the Zodiac, the Ercole Constellation. In the Middle Age, the village was part of the Abbazia delle Tre Fontane, then in XIII century, it passed to the Aldobrandeschi,'s family and then to the Orsini's, and in 1415 to the Republic of Siena. Near Porto Ercole, Michelangelo Merisi, famous painter called "Il Caravaggio" died ,  believed because of the malaria.

 

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