I was lucky that not only did I make friends while traveling, I had one of my very best friends come visit me on Santo Stefano. Taylor got a room in an AirBnb right on the hilltop facing downtown which made going out and exploring that much easier. I stayed with her on the visit since public transit was so wonky and I was a few miles from the port itself. The host was incredibly gracious about adding me last minute. It was a true bed and breakfast, with a large terrace where they served an amazing spread for breakfast each morning. The host’s mother made homemade jams and she made pastries and other baked goods for breakfast, made whatever espresso drink you were craving, along with your standard cereal, fruit, and juices. We befriended their tiny rescue kitten who couldn’t have weighed more than 2 lbs, along with their large golden retriever. We weren’t the only people staying there, the guest family, the host, and her boyfriend were all so kind. We felt completely comfortable and welcome.
When I said the house was on the hilltop, I meant it. We had to zigzag down hills and old streets to get to the bottom where the port was. We got all dolled up and made our way out for aperitivo. Aperitivo is this beautiful concept of ordering one beverage and having access to a buffet of delicious Italian foods. These aren’t just small appetizers, I’m talking pasta dishes, rice dishes, a full roast pig, other meats, huge assortment of roasted veggies, fried mozzarella, and best of all, it’s bottomless! You may pay up to €10 for your drink, but eating your fill is encouraged and we took advantage of that! We even ran into our AirBnb host and her boyfriend, so we picked a good, local place. After dinner, we met up with another au pair I met living on the island, stopped by a gelato bar, and then met up with some of her friends to have a few more drinks at another bar along the port. With a full day ahead, we didn’t shut down the bars, but did stay out fairly late before making the hike back home.
We decided to spend a day on Porto Santo Stefano’s next door neighbor, Giglio. We picked up some cappuccinos from a bartender not interested in serving us, bought tickets for the ferry a few hours later, then laid out on a rocky public beach while we waited for our ferry time. The roundtrip cost was about €32 for the both of us. We bought beers on the ride over and relaxed for the hour ride. Once there, we ran into some other transportation issues. The dreaded Italian bus system. We bought the cheap tickets only to find out they had absolutely no idea when the next bus would be coming. We debated getting a taxi to the top of the island, but were relieved when the bus showed up about 20 min later. The winding drive was so worth it, especially when we reached the castle at the top. We picked up a couple of caprese sandwiches and then made our way inside the walls of Giglio Castello, where people still live! Though it’s considered a castle, it is more of a walled in maze of a village. We climbed the steps to the tops of the walls where we could and generally just wandered around. We got our fill of Instagram pics and felt we had explored all the four corners, we bought bus tickets back… only to get on the wrong bus! (My bad…) Which put us on the opposite side of the island. We did get to see some incredible views and briefly check out the beaches. Once back on the correct side of the island, we stopped by the port side bar for a couple of mixed drinks from a very cute bartender. I’m glad we did because the ride back proved to be extra choppy!
It was Taylor’s last night, so we went out for a giant cheese platter, then picked up some beers and wandered the streets before just enjoying the incredible view from our AirBnB. She had to catch the bus to Orbetello and then a train to Florence, and with how unreliable the bus system was, she picked one in the early afternoon. We walked the streets some more before befriending a bartender and having a few frozen coffees. It was bittersweet catching the bus back home, but our weekend spent exploring a Mediterranean Island is something we have yet to stop talking about.