Famous for its fishing and even more famous for its seafood restaurants, Porto Santo Stefano is not that old. It began to take shape in the 15th century under the Republic of Siena, but was constantly under siege from pirates until the Spanish fortified it a century later.
Today Porto Santo Stefano wears this young (in comparison to the rest of the Maremma) but colourful history on its sleeve.
The countryside that surrounds the seaside town is dotted with fortresses and towers built by the Spanish to keep an eye on their many enemies. Beautifully conserved, these relics can be visited all year round.
Sure, Porto Santo Stefano doesn’t hold the same appeal as, say, Montemerano with its gorgeous medieval essence, but its locals are proud anyway, and far too busy admiring their incredible sea panorama and even better culinary reputation to care what others think.
But Porto Santo Stefano isn’t all good food and great views.
Look a little closer and it’s hard not to notice the crumbled walls and ravaged corners. These reminders of the heavy shelling the town suffered during WWII, wounds that are yet to be healed.
Luckily, the odd hole here and cracked facade there doesn’t take away from the overwhelming charm of Porto Santo Stefano.
The town is a working port and with that comes great restaurants, beautiful boats and blissful afternoons spent walking up and down the boardwalk admiring the kitsch knick knack stores and watching the fishermen bring in their afternoon catch.
As its name suggests, this fortress was shaped by the Spanish in the late 16th century. It is the symbol of Porto Santo Stefano’s proud military history.
Built and rebuilt, this battle-worn church is a little worse for wear, but is home to a beautiful statue of St Stephan himself.
Fourteen tanks filled with hundreds of different plant, fish and mollusk species including moray eels, sharks, sea horses and other fascinating creatures.
This small museum in the Fortezza Spagnola captures both the ancient Roman and Etruscan history of the area and the traditions of the local shipbuilders and fishermen.
It’s not hard to find a diving school in the port if that’s what you’re itching to do. And you should. The underwater wonders will leave you speechless.