GETTING THERE: Porto Ercole is one of two towns on the Argentario promontory, off Italy's Tuscan coast. It's just over 100 miles from Rome on the A12 highway and about 115 miles from Florence. There is no train station at Porto Ercole, but trains run regularly from Rome and Florence to nearby Orbetello Scalo. The train from Rome takes about 90 minutes and starts at about $13 one way. The train from Florence is longer -- about two hours -- because of a switch and costs from about $18 one way.
From Orbetello Scalo, you can take a public bus for the 15-minute ride to Porto Ercole, which costs $1.25. Cabs wait outside the station and cost about $13.
WHERE TO STAY: Hotel Marina (Lungomare Andrea Doria, on the port, 011-39-0564-833123, www.hotelmarina.it/l'albergo.htm) has rooms with ceiling fans (no air-conditioning) for $125 a night double, including continental breakfast. Hotel Don Pedro (Via Panoramica 7, 011-39-0564-833914, www.hoteldonpedro.it), overlooking the town, has doubles for $135 (June to September) and $122 (April, May and October), including continental breakfast. For a splurge, Il Pellicano (Cala dei Santi, 011-39-0564-858-111, www.pellicanohotel.com), around the coast from Porto Ercole on the sea, has rooms from $455 and sea-view doubles from $525.
WHERE TO EAT: Pizzeria Il Pirata, on the waterfront, has pizzas and first courses for dinner for about $20 per person, including wine. Il Don Carlo (one parallel street back from the waterfront) has dinner from about $30 a person, with wine. For fish specialties, Il Gambero Rosso, also on the waterfront, serves dinners from about $45 per person, including wine. For a picnic lunch on board, go to the forno (bakery) for bread, just off the town's main drag. There are also several small grocery stores in town for drinks, cold cuts, cheese and fruit.
BOAT RENTALS: Several boat rental places (barche a noleggio) operate in the port. Prices vary depending on the type of boat and the operator. In July, we were quoted $122 a day, plus gas (which came to about $30), for an inflatable speedboat (gommone) seating five. In August, prices may be higher and boats often need to be reserved in advance. Be sure the boat has an awning, a swimming ladder and an anchor before you leave. Try to get one with an icebox, too.
INFORMATION: Italian Government Tourist Board, 212-586-9249, www.italiantourism.com.
-- Daniela Deane