Italian Wine News


Argentario's Regatta
Staff Writer – July 25, 2007

Since 1937, each August 15, at Porto Santo Stefano, in the province of Grosseto, the historic Palio Marinaro dell'Argentario, or Argentario Regatta, take place. The event consists of four rowboats, representing the four town neighborhoods of Croce, Fortezza, Pilarella and Valle, facing each other off in a grueling 4000 meter competition.

The Mediterranean Sea, the colors of the headlands, the hard life of local fishermen and sailors, as well as the anxious wake and hopes of the loved ones who await them on shore, are at the heart of the celebration in which all inhabitants of the four neighborhoods take part. The intensity with which the locals participate in the regatta finds its roots in the longstanding tradition of seaside life and rowboat fishing.

Palio Marinaro dell'Argentario
Images of the 2006 regatta – Photographs by Marco Solari

The story celebrated by the regatta takes us back to when the Tuscan coast was part the Spanish presidios in Italy and often its coastal towns were attacked and ravaged by foreign pirates.

One day long ago, the story goes that nearby the Montecristo Island the fisherman on one rowboat were about to retrieve the last net-throw of the day when they saw a pirate vessel on the horizon. They immediately started rowing with all their strength, as they were in great fear of being captured and held in captivity. The fishermen knew that they could never have made back to Porto Santo Stefano, as the bigger ship was far too fast compared to their small rowboat. Their only hope was to reach a cave that they knew was hidden behind a cluster of rocks. In order to reach it though, they needed to cross the open bay as fast as they could. Rowing with all the energy that they could muster they finally made it and disappeared from view. The pirates stayed around looking for them until dark, but did not find them.

It was very late at night when they finally made it back to their island, where they found a large number of fellow townspeople on the pier, anxiously awaiting their return. They told the story and the next day the whole town celebrated, giving grace for the escaped danger. The town also decided to repeat the celebration yearly with a symbolic regatta.

Thus the Palio Marinaro dell'Argentario started and, after a period of oblivion, was brought back to life 70 years ago.  

Source: Claudio Merli – Tel. 0564 813635
Photographs: Marco Solari – Foto Studio Controluce
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