The history of Porto Ercole already started in the Etruscan Age, as testified by the numerous archaeological finds discovered in the neighboring areas. Hereafter, the small Etruscan centre was conquered by the Romans and transformed into a port (a pillar of the time was found in the port). It is assumed that the bastion of Santa Barbara had been a Byzantine lighthouse. In the XV century the port was bought by the powerful Republic of Siena, which strengthened the existing medieval building, lifted up the walls that still today surround the village (an important trace is the Gothic portal under the bell tower) and built some of the coastal towers which still endure on the argentarina coast. With the defeat of Siena and France, the Port was annexed to the new State of the Presidi of Spain, established by the Peace of Cateau-Cambrésis. Spain took care of the port fortification, expanding the Rocca Senese and building three other forts: Forte Filippo, Forte Stella and Forte Santa Caterina. With the good Spanish government, Porto Ercole reached its greatness and became a port at European level. According to the official theory the famous painter Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio passed away here, on 18th July in 1610. The patron saint of Porto Ercole is Sant'Erasmo (also known as Sant'Elmo), a bishop who accomplished the famous miracle in this village, calming the storm while the local fishermen went for the usual hold. The feast is celebrated on 2nd June. A very characteristic thing is the sea procession that takes place every year with a different fishing vessel that carries the statue with the relics of the saint.
The village of Porto Ercole
Municipality of Monte Argentario
Province of Grosseto
Altitude centre: 5 m a.s.l.
The Municipality is part of:
I Borghi più belli d'Italia
Strada del Vino e dei Sapori Colli di Maremma
"How ancient the land of Hercules is, everyone can understand this by its very same name", says an ancient document. "We rely on the port that has the name of Hercules", Rutilius Namatianus wrote in 416 A.D., and we almost forgot, in the sweet summer confusion, that from the sea came life but also fear and sometimes death, that had the appearance of Barbarossa and the Barbary pirates. The watchtowers along the coast and the Spanish fortresses on the hills seem to be the crown of a village reflected in the silver sea, where Caravaggio passed away on 18th July in 1610. What still survive here are the beaches that lap the promenade on the port, hosting the small boats that arrive for the winter. From here our look turns to the village, which is small under the imposing fortress from which the walls descend towards the sea. In the peaceful cove where sirocco beats, you can feel the smell of cliffs, distracted only by a seagull's turn. The American poet Robert Penn Warren wrote on Porto Ercole: "We conduced you to a place of stone, and sea coasts. / Rocca: fortress, hawk claw, paw of lion resting on a hill. / not even a hill but a sea cliff, perched stone watchtowers that dominate the beaches, / easy line of the most clever and sophisticated mathematician". Piazza Santa Barbara, which rises above the fifteenth-century bastion of the artificers' patron saint, offers a panoramic view on the port. The inside cavity served as a munition warehouse and allowed ships to load and unload by accessing directly from the sea. The Palazzo del Governatore overlooks the square, designed in Renaissance style by Baldassarre Peruzzi, and that later became the residence of the Spanish Government.
Discover the other villages on the guide Tuscany - Unique Villages to Love