Porto Santo Stefano
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The seat of public administration is here, in the main centre of Mount Argentario. Situated in a picturesque bay, Porto Santo Stefano is not only an important centre for fishing and an animated bathing resort in its own right, it also absorbs the conspicuous movement of holiday-makers who leave from here for the island of Giglio. It is certain that this bay, sheltered from the winds and sited midway along the Tyrrenian coast, was used by ships ploughing the Mediterranean even in ancient times but use of its present name attached to this specific locality is first to be found in the XIV century. Only when Elban and Ligurian fishermen began to settle here between the XV and XVI centuries did a real urban agglomerate begin to take shape.
Decisive moving force was given to urban development when, subsequent to the transfer of authority from the Republic of Siena to the Spanish controlled Stato dei Presidi in 1557, the Spaniards decided to make Porto Santo Stefano the base for their powerful mercantile fleet trading along the upper and central reaches of the Tyrrenian coast. As the Argentario was in such a strategic position, a series of coastal watch-towers were erected to defend it. One of these, the Fortress is, today, the town's most interesting architectural nucleus. This is a massive building with Aragonese stylistic elements.
Interesting excursions can be made throughout the Argentario from Porto Santo Stefano. To go on one of these, the trip round the promontory, is almost a bounden duty. The corniche road that winds its way up hill and down dale for 26 km of coastline offers the tourist a wealth of enchanting views. Another trip to be recommended is to the summit of Punta Telegrafo, where, if it is a clear day, one commands a vast panorama that embraces the Tuscan Archipelago, Corsica, the Tyrrenian coast and Mount Amiata.
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