Tropea is a seaside resort with impressive scenery in the region of Calabria, in the south of Italy. This stretch of coastline on the Tyrrhenian Sea is called the Costa degli Dei, the ‘Coast of the Gods’, and it is hugely admired by those in the know as one of Italy’s finest summer holiday destinations. The coastline curves outwards in a large hilly bulge, boasting dramatic cliffs, sunny beaches, and a string of little resorts and campsites. Tropea is the busiest and most attractive of these seaside towns; with a historic centre perched on cliffs above the sea.
Tropea’s principal social activity is a traditional one with a twist. Any time of the day or evening you’ll see holidaymakers and locals taking a passeggiata down Corso Vittorio Emanuele, strolling along and people-watching, before reaching the the street’s sudden end, where a set of metal railings offer a dramatic view over the beach and sea. The next stage in the ritual is to lean out, admire the view, chat a little, then wander back up the road to sit with a drink or to perform another circuit.
Tropea has that lovely timeless, faded feel that is a characteristic of sleepy southern Italian seaside towns. There aren’t many specific tourist attractions, but the town is a maze of pretty lanes and palazzi – some of which are crumbling away – and little hidden squares where you’ll usually find restaurant tables. The heart of town is up on the headland and if you explore the streets you’ll find traces of the old town wall and fortifications which defended the landward side. Nowadays the town spreads out further, and after you’ve wandered among the lanes and enjoyed refreshments in the shade of a cafe parasol, you will want to descend to the sea, both to enjoy the beach and to obtain the best views of Tropea’s citadel on its rock.
For some insight into Tropea’s history, and suggested itineraries for your rambles, you can buy a guidebook from a number of shops on the main street. There is a tourist information office in the central square, Piazza Ercole, and there are a few agencies which book boat trips and excursions and can provide further advice to tourists.
The most famous views of Tropea are of the large rock outcrop jutting into the sea opposite the centre of Tropea. This was once an island and the attractive monastery on the summit, Santa Maria dell’Isola, sits in gardens above the sea (closed for restoration at the time of writing). Tropea may be a simple small town dominated by tourism nowadays, but it has enjoyed significant prosperity throughout the centuries, evidenced by the many churches, grand palaces and majestic portals throughout the town centre.
Tropea’s Norman cathedral, the Duomo, is one of the most interesting buildings in town (though unfortunately closed during our visit). The patron saint of the town is the Madonna of Romania – celebrated as the town’s protectress through earthquakes and wars. An icon bearing an image of this venerated Madonna is carried through town in a procession during religious festivals. Tropea has a little museum, the Museo Diocesano, in the Bishop’s Palace, the Palazzo Vescovile, by the Duomo. It contains mostly religous art including painted wooden statues and silver reliquaries (open April – October; hours are limited).
It is Tropea’s position high on the cliffs which makes the town so dramatic. It does come with an obvious drawback, though: to walk from the town centre to the sea involves descending flights of steps or a zig-zag road. There are beaches on either side of the town where you can choose from fee-charging beach establishments with sunbeds and parasols, or stretches of free beach where you can spread your own towel. The water is invitingly clear, though the beach does shelve quite steeply into the water. There are plenty of other beaches along the coast and for a slightly different beach experience you can walk along past the town’s smart marina to another beach just beyond.
Eating, drinking & shopping
Tropea is full of small and affordable restaurants serving pizza and traditional local meals. You will find similar menus throughout town, generally offering the chance to try local seafood and the town’s big speciality: sweet red onions. Other local treats to try include of course ice cream – for wild and bizarre flavours, visit Tonino’s on the main street – and latte di mandorla, almond milk, a refreshing and cooling drink.
Tropea has its share of typical tourist shops selling beach goods and souvenirs. One souvenir shop that is definitely worth a visit is Il Faro Presepi on Via Stazione, which sells nativity scenes and features a display of little moving models illustrating traditional Calabrian lifestyles: good fun and interesting too (you can see some on their website, listed above right). As previously noted, in this country where food is all-important, Tropea is very famous for its red onions. You can buy strings of onions along with other local foods and wines in many places in town. Those who like pepper and hot, spicy food will appreciate the region’s fiery products.
Amenities in Tropea, Italy
Located in the hills overlooking the historic town of Tropea and the clear blue Tyrrhenian Sea, the “Portobello Village Tropea” is an exclusive development of 52 luxury villas. The groundworks, roads and drainage are currently under development and the first eight plots have been sold. This is an excellent opportunity to invest in a property in one of the classiest, most exclusive areas of Calabria.
- Under one hour from the Airport
- Famous turquoise beaches
- Plenty of food and drink establishments
- Minutes from the local train station