Monte Argentario

August 29, 2009

monte argentario vineyards

Some friends are currently visiting from DC. Yesterday we rented a little yellow car — unfortunately called a Fiat Panda — and drove a couple hours up the coast into the southern part of Tuscany. The Roman heat has been unrelenting in these last days of August, so we decided to dip ourselves in the refreshing waters of the Tyrrhenian Sea.

Once an island, Monte Argentario is now a promontory connected to the mainland by two long sandbars. The landscape is rugged and arid, yet covered with vineyards and olive groves and dark forests stretching down to dramatic coastal cliffs. Here’s a scrap of its history, from Wikipedia: “The promontory, probably already inhabited by the Etruscans, was a personal property of the Domitii Aenobarbi family, who obtained it in return for the money they lent to the Roman Republic in the Punic Wars. The current name stems probably from this origin, since Arganterii was the name of money lenders in ancient Rome. Later an imperial possession, it was ceded to the church by Constantine the Great in the 4th century AD.” Spain owned it for a while in the 16th century, then it came back into Italian hands in the 1800s.

We first stopped in the town of Porto San Stefano for a lunch of frutti di mare (mmm, sea fruits) and local white wine, then drove the Via Panoramica until we spotted a steep, half-paved road descending into the trees. After some admirable maneuvers by the Panda, we found a pull-off just large enough for the car. A few wooden steps led to a rocky trail that followed a dry stream-bed. We hiked and slid downhill until we reached a pebbly cove. There were groups of Italians lounging and swimming, and many more anchored just offshore.

monte argentario beach

You can imagine that it’s hard to feel cool when you’re driving a car called a Panda, but I started gaining confidence after we saw this boat named “Chocolate Dream.”
chocolate dream

The water was exactly what you’d expect in the sparser stretches of the Mediterranean coast — cool, blue, and shockingly clear. It made for a nice afternoon of floating around.

monte argentario cove

We returned to Rome after dark, just in time to grab a late dinner at one of my favorite trattorias.

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