Orbetello and Its Lagoon
Where is Orbetello located?
Orbetello is a charming town situated in the province of Grosseto, in the southern part of Tuscany. What sets it apart is its unique location on a thin stretch of land in the middle of the Orbetello Lagoon, nestled between the Tyrrhenian Sea and Monte Argentario.
This prime positioning offers a blend of maritime and natural landscapes, making Orbetello a must-visit destination. The calm brackish waters of the lagoon have enveloped this town for centuries. Orbetello stands as the vibrant heart of a body of water, bounded over the centuries by the Maremma coast, Monte Argentario, and the two sandbars, Giannella and Feniglia.
How did the Orbetello Lagoon form?
The Orbetello Lagoon’s formation dates back thousands of years.
During the last ice age, as glaciers retreated and sea levels rose, certain coastal depressions filled with water, spawning lagoons and marshes. Covering an area of about 26 km², the Orbetello Lagoon is one such result.
Over millennia, sedimentation processes, fueled by river and marine materials, have sculpted the lagoon’s shape and depth. Shifting marine currents and tides gave rise to natural barriers, such as dunes and sandy isthmuses, partially isolating the lagoon from the Tyrrhenian Sea.
This semi-isolation fostered a brackish environment, blending freshwater from surrounding rivers with salty sea water, providing a habitat for a myriad of species.
Orbetello thrives amidst unique and protected natural settings.
The lagoon’s western edge is a WWF oasis, home to egrets, Italian knights, and the exquisite pink flamingos, a delight for birdwatchers and tourists alike. To the east, the vast pine forest covering the Feniglia Tombolo constitutes the Feniglia Dune Natural Reserve, boasting both lagoon and terrestrial environments, inhabited by foxes, deer, badgers, weasels, green woodpeckers, jays, and cuckoos, to name a few.
The lagoon’s waters, consistently oxygenated by saltwater inflows, teem with eels, seabream, and mullet, supporting a regulated and sustainable fishing industry. This has led to acclaimed local delicacies like mullet roe and smoked eel.
Historical Highlights and Beauty of Orbetello
Orbetello’s history intertwines with the mysterious Etruscan people, who discovered and protected this strip of land with their massive cyclopean walls, still standing submerged in the lagoon’s waters.
The Sienese, who ruled these lands in the early 1400s, erected parts of the walls we can still see and walk along today. Within these walls lies the historic center, defined by gates and fortifications from the 16th century when Orbetello was declared the capital of the State of the Presidi, a Spanish enclave in Tuscany, encompassing Elba Island and Monte Argentario’s promontory.
Numerous remnants of this era remain, including the Governor’s Palace and the Guzman Powder House.
Constructed by the Spanish in 1692 as an explosives depot, it later served Garibaldi during his Expedition of the Thousand as a stopover in Talamone. Beyond the walls lies modern Orbetello, steeped in its own history. A short stroll away are the architectural enclosures of the Crociere Park from the 1920s.
Within, many structures of the military citadel connected to the seaplane base still stand, their hangars designed by architect Pier Luigi Nervi. It served as Italo Balbo’s launch pad for cruises and transatlantic flights between 1928 and 1933.
The remains of this esteemed Italian aviator, along with many of his fellow pilots, lie in the town’s cemetery.
Orbetello’s Alluring Seaside Getaway
Where to head for a seaside escape near Orbetello? Orbetello’s captivating lagoon and the vastness of the Tyrrhenian Sea combine to create a mesmerizing coastal vista. Whenever you think of Orbetello’s seaside, the Argentario Promontory inevitably springs to mind. This headland stretches across an area bordered by Capalbio, the Orbetello Lagoon, and the Tyrrhenian Sea.
Once submerged, slender land strips now connect the promontory to the mainland. These emergent features craft a natural pathway leading directly to the heart of Argentario, beckoning irresistibly to sea lovers keen to discover Argentario’s stunning beaches.
Not far from this area, the town of Porto Santo Stefano awaits, a prime spot for those eager to explore the gems of the Tuscan Archipelago. Embark on a journey with Maregiglio ferries to the Tuscan Archipelago!
Our ferry company, Maregiglio, operates from Porto Santo Stefano, ready to welcome you aboard. Whether you’re planning an extended holiday or a brisk day trip, our mini-cruises cater to every need.
For the best travel experience, we suggest:
- Checking the updated departure schedules and fare details relevant to your travel dates.
- Browsing our online booking pages for ferries and mini-cruises. Purchasing your tickets ahead of time ensures a spot, especially during peak tourist seasons.
- Deciding whether to take your car to Giglio. In August, a specific self-declaration is required, or you could conveniently park at Porto Santo Stefano, especially if you’re on a day-long mini-cruise.
- Arriving at the boarding point at least 30 minutes before departure with your ticket. Even if you’ve purchased a ticket, late arrivals might not be accommodated on the ferry.
Maregiglio invites you to savor the beautiful Tuscan waters and embark on fresh adventures, like our daily mini-cruises, which continually enhance our offerings.
From Porto Santo Stefano, we offer the following mini-cruises:
Embark on a daily tour exploring Giglio and Giannutri islands aboard the Motonave Revenge, departing from Porto Santo Stefano.
Starting from Porto Santo Stefano, this option lets you uncover the captivating Giannutri Island accompanied by one of the official guides from the Tuscan Archipelago National Park.
This adventure, departing from Porto Santo Stefano, will have you explore the main beaches and most hidden coves of Giglio Island, giving you the opportunity to swim among colorful fish and spectacular rock formations.
From Giglio Porto, we feature:
Departing from Giglio Porto, this mini-cruise will take you to discover the ancient ruins of the Roman Villa in Giannutri accompanied by an official guide from the Tuscan Archipelago National Park.
Departing from Giglio Porto, this tour will take you on an exciting excursion to discover the beautiful coves of Giannutri Island, habitat of a rich and varied marine life.