There is only one traffic light and this already speaks volumes about the quality of life of this place. "Unhurried!" It is the first thing you will learn by coming here. A city on a human scale, where nature is part of everyday life itself.
It is located right in the middle between the Ponente and Levante lagoons.
A road built on an artificial embankment (the dam) connects it to Monte Argentario. A little Venice, with fishermen's boats instead of gondolas.
Walking along the Orbetello lagoon
Orbetello is first of all a lagoon ... and you can visit the lagoon on foot.
The pedestrian and cycle path runs right from the Orbetello Scalo station, which runs along the western lagoon, the one protected by the WWF, to the city center. It is an hour's walk, including stops.
Those who live here should be accustomed to pink flamingos that winter every year from autumn to spring, to white herons, flocks of coots in flight. But no! You never get used to these spectacles of nature, every time you are fascinated by them. So take your time and set off, camera around your neck! On the way there are several huts of reeds for the observation of birds, picturesque, but you will not need to "hide" to see them. They are there, at their house, do not disturb them and they will pose for being photographed.
The Orbetello hydroplane port
My historical itinerary begins shortly after the traffic lights and just before the doors. The first stage is "a tribute" rather than an exhibit (not much remains!)
As soon as you cross the canal that connects the two lagoons, on your left, there is a historical structure intimately linked to the Lagoon: it is the Orbetello hydroplane. At the beginning of the twentieth century the decision to build a seaplane ladder right on the shores of the Orbetello lagoon was made based on the optimal physical characteristics of this place for the take-off and landing of seaplanes. Today only a few ruins and some minor buildings remain of the base, the remains of one of the two Hangars are still visible in the square. The famous Atlantic flights departed from here. Just opposite, on the opposite side of the road, is the Mausoleum of the Atlantic Flyers (in memory of the valiant participants in the 1933 venture led by Italo Balbo), located in what is now the Cruise Park, overlooking the western lagoon
History. From Etruscan origins to Garibaldi
Continuing along the main street you will arrive at the gates and then to the second stage of my historical journey.
The Etruscan origins of the city remain in the city walls, strengthened during the Spanish domination (Orbetello was the capital of the State of the garrisons) which expanded them by building on the land side the imposing ramparts of which the two city gates and the fortress are still visible.
Go through the gates, following the ramparts on your left, you will reach the former Guzman powder keg, overlooking the Ponente lagoon, now home to the Archaeological Museum. It was built in 1692 by the Spaniards to fortify the city. It was here that in 1860 Giuseppe Garibaldi, after docking in Talamone, came to supply himself with weapons and ammunition for the Expedition of the Thousand. Inside the Polziera Guzman there is the municipal archaeological collection, full of jewels, buccheri and stone tools, Etruscan and Roman.
The historic center and the pediment of Talamone
Go into the narrow streets of the city. An ice cream in Corso Italia, crossing the historic center of Orbetello, and then heading towards the western lagoon.
My third stop is in Piazza della Repubblica. Just in front of the Cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta (worth a visit!) Is the former Umberto I barracks. Today, after having moved from a religious building to a military building, it is used as a civil building, and houses the Municipality's Pro Loco di Orbetello and the library. But above all it is the permanent seat of the Fronton of Talamone.
Pediment is known worldwide for the representation of the myth of the sects against Thebes. From the 1980s to today, it has been exhibited for long periods in Orbetello, but it has also been one of the most fascinating exhibits in important national and international exhibitions, from Venice to Madrid to Dallas.
The mill of Orbetello
Continue along the western lagoon. You will arrive at the most representative stage of the itinerary, the symbol par excellence of the city of Orbetello: the Spanish Mill. It is the only windmill that has survived from the series of nine built by the Sienese during the fifteenth century. Together with the others, it was used to grind the flour destined for the inhabitants of the city. They were arranged in line, and worked by exploiting the energy of the water which, flowing and flowing back into the pond every six hours, gave movement to the millstones. The wheat was transported with the "barchini", small boats characteristic of the area.
Then, in 1557, when the territory passed under Spanish domination, the mills were restored and consolidated, and, thanks to the new sailing blades, converted to the use of the mistral and sirocco wind. Undisputed symbol still presides over the western lagoon. The mill has a circular plan and emerges suggestively from the waters right at the beginning of the artificial dam.
The Orbetello dam
The Orbetello Dam Bridge was built in 1842 by Grand Duke Leopoldo II of Lorraine. Until 1944 a railway ran on the dam that connected it to Porto Santo Stefano.
Now, as well as by car, you can comfortably cross it with the cycle-pedestrian path connected to the ring of the Laguna di Levante (19 km with a "compulsory" stop for a swim on the Feniglia beach).
Discover the cycle path of Orbetello that surrounds the Levante lagoon passing through the Duna Feniglia Nature Reserve on the piste-ciclabili.com website
Orbetello is to the Lagoon as the Lagoon is to the Fishermen! An essential equality.
The fishermen's cooperative La Peschereccia, founded in 1946 thanks to the union of 13 members and the Orbetello Pesca Lagunare company dated 1989, are the flagship of the area. Eco-sustainable tourism, events, but above all fishing and all related activities.
It is the transformation and sale of fish: mullet roe, shaded eel, sauces and creams for croutons. And for those who do not want to cook there is a tasting center in a completely restored nineteenth-century stable, lapped by the western lagoon, where you can taste the tastiest dishes based on freshly caught fish: sea bass, sea bream, mullet .. .... within reach "out of your pocket"!
Lagoon fishing is, historically, aquaculture which is a practice that has its roots in ancient times. Already the Etruscans, but especially the Romans, practiced this activity. At the split of the queen the ancient hydraulic system for the fish tanks is still visible and in the museum of the city of Cosa you can see the model of the entire reconstruction.
For schedules and more detailed information, visit the ipescatoriorbetello.it website
The ship "Remus"
Since 2005, the fishermen of Orbetello and the pro loco also organize trips to the lagoon thanks to the "Remus", a boat capable of carrying up to thirty-eight passengers on guided tours during which they will illustrate the fishing activity inserted in the historical context and social.
For info, costs and times visit the site of the Pro loco of Orbetello and enjoy a boat ride on the lagoon of Orbetello. If you are lucky, you will also be able to see pink flamingos or some white herons.
The Knights of the lagoon
The life of the fishermen of the Orbetello Lagoon was the subject of a film, The Knights of the Lagoon, directed by Walter Bencini, which won the prize for best documentary at the Toronto Word International Film Festival 2015.
Knights because in this lake area the knight of Italy nests, a small black and white water bird that inspired, in 1964, the intervention of Fulco Pratesi and Hardy Reichelt to create one of the first WWF Oasis.
Find out more about the film and watch the trailer: The Knights of the Lagoon