It just occurred to me that we gave Porto Ercole rather short shrift in the last blog posting. There were good reasons for that: our stop there was brief, and we really didn't explore it properly.
In addition to the fact that sailing into a 20 knot headwind and short choppy waves was getting less appealing by the minute, Rick's motivation for stopping in Porto Ercole had been an old Globe and Mail article
about an exclusive resort called Il Pellicano. The main building at Il Pellicano had originally been built as a retreat by a California heiress and her lover, a brave British airman who survived after jumping out of a plane without a parachute (yes). The article spoke of the "ruggedly beautiful" Tyrrhenian coastline, a "rocky, pine-covered peninsula" and ruins of Roman villas nearby. It spoke of forts built by the Medici and Spaniards. But mainly, it described Il Pellicano, a shockingly expensive resort where the patrons arrive in shockingly expensive cars and sleep in shockingly expensive rooms in private cottages. They can take an elevator to the sun deck and bathing platform on the cliff face, or admire the view from the heated saltwater swimming pool. At night, they can eat at the Michelin-starred restaurant. The amenities at Il Pellicano were not the least bit relevant to us, because a quick check of Trip Advisor showed prices that ranged from 670 to 2500 euros for a single night. If you hear that we've booked in there, please rush us to the nearest emergency room to have our heads examined. As it was, we balked at the 90 euro fee for one night at the marina, and stayed at anchor instead. As Rick put it "I guess if someone offered me 90 euros to put a dinghy in the water, I'd probably do it." Besides, being at anchor is nicer.
On the other hand, really nice hotels tend to be located in really beautiful places, which was Rick's logic for sailing into Porto Ercole. And indeed it was a gorgeous place, with a star-shaped fort (Forte Stella) looming over the water on one side and the Spanish Forte la Rocca on the other. In fact there seem to be four forts in the vicinity. All of this, combined with a backdrop of mountains, forests and an incredibly blue Tyrrhenian sea, make the views from land and water quite stunning. On the way in, Rick scanned the hills with his binoculars. "I think I see Il Pellicano!" he said. Maybe. In any case, after a long passage, nothing beats gazing at such a beautiful view while enjoying a delicious seafood lunch with a cold beer. Peroni Riserva, no less. If you happen to be in the area, we highly recommend Il Gambero Rosso.
Aside from the fact that Porto Ercole is located near the island of Giglio, where the ill-fated Costa Concordia went aground, there was one other important piece of history that we forgot to mention. Porto Ercole is generally accepted to be the place where Michelangelo Merisi, the painter known as Caravaggio, died in 1610. The circumstances of his death are still disputed, but it is believed that he died there of a fever while rushing to Rome, where he was hoping to receive a pardon for killing a man in a brawl four years previously. A tragic end to a sad life. In any case, even though we hadn't thought about it at the time, a stop in Porto Ercole was very fitting for two diehard Caravaggio fans. We didn't see his tomb though. Maybe we'll have to go back. There's gotta be at least one nice hotel in Porto Ercole, right?