I was once asked "is Tropea worth visiting?" What a question! Honestly, there are few places in all of Italy more "worth visiting."
Tropea, located on the Coast of the Gods, is about as close to heaven as you can get on God's earth.
It was only a few years back that Tropea was voted the fairest of them all: the most beautiful of all the many beautiful small towns in Italy... a worthy winner indeed.
Tropea offers so much to see, so much to enjoy. Some of the most treasured memories of my life were made in Tropea and I always feel I've left a part of me behind whenever I leave.
B&B Sunset Tropea offers fabulous views and is located right in the old town with the most beautiful beach in Tropea on your doorstep. If Sunset Tropea is fully booked - it often is - then another good B&B is the Costa degli Dei.
When it comes to hotels I recommend Hotel Colomba D'Oro, situated right on the edge of the old town, not far from the beach and spotlessly clean - book a Deluxe Room if you can - absolutely worth the little bit extra. I loved breakfasts at Colomba D'Oro, Valentina is an absolute star, she serves a great cappuccino and bakes the delicious pastries too.
Tropea is food heaven, these are the go to foodie spots...
Incipit: The absolute best for local favorites and a wonderful atmosphere too. Ancient stone walls, a barrel ceiling and lots of great Calabrian dishes - for a taste of local cuisine try something with Nduja, Fileja pasta, swordfish, chilli peppers, tuna or red onions.
Pane, Amore e Fantasia: A great way to taste local treats without breaking the budget. Ask them to freshly prepare pasta for lunch or dinner and you can come past at the agreed time and eat in or take home. They make all the local pasta dishes - best is to ask them to recommend something.
Gelato: Mimmo's is tops - their strawberry gelato is the best I've ever tasted.
Koes: superb for street food.
Vecchio Forno: great pizza in a pizzeria that takes one back centuries. Service can be a pit patchy but the pizzas are superb.
It is not often that we feature a vegetable when we write about towns in Italy but you simply cannot write about Tropea without talking about red onions. The Amalfi Coast may have their dolce lemons, they can keep them... Tropea locals will stick with their dolce red onions - the sweetest onions in the world.
How do you eat Tropea onions? Well, every single restaurant has them on the menu - they are on pizzas, served in pasta, on bruschetta, in rolls and I've even found red onion gelato on sale - it was delicious by the way ;-).
Where can I buy Tropea onions? Don't buy them in the supermarkets, rather support the local farmers who grow them on a small scale and sell them at stalls in the markets. Like the fellow below...
Tropea has one of the best beaches you are likely to see in your lifetime and, unlike most good beaches in Italy, this one is free. The water is crystal clear, the sand soft and white and the view, as you float on the azure seas, is of the Sanctuary of Santa Maria and the old town rising from the cliffs. Absolutely jaw-dropping.
To get to the main beach in Tropea you head to the stairway at the corner of via Libertà and Via Umberto 1 and walk down 100 stairs. The view, as you walk down the winding stairway, is spectacular.
The free beach is a short walk to the right as you reach the bottom of the stairs, the ones in front of you and too the left are the pay beaches and they are not nearly as nice.
The other beach that is definitely worth a visit is the Spiaggia della Contura. You'll find it a little to the north of the yacht marina and it's completely different to the other beaches, okay, the soft white sands and clear water is the same, but behind the beach are rolling green hills and forests. It feels as if you are miles from town - not still in Tropea.
Apart from the incredible beaches, the old town is the highlight of Tropea; it is a maze of narrow cobbled streets, where narrow lanes suddenly open out onto tiny piazze - each one more impossibly quaint and picturesque than the last.
Admire the impressive palaces, dating back to the 18th century, and browse the many fascinating little stores or simply sip a cappuccino or an aperitivo while people watching. Make sure you choose the right time to have that cappuccino though - you don't want to make one of the grave mistakes tourists often make (see that list of things you should never do in Italy here).
The wider avenues running through the old town are thankfully car free and they all lead to breathtaking viewpoints of either the beaches or the yacht marina far below. You quickly realize why, a few years ago, Tropea was voted the most beautiful of all of Italy's small towns. With so many worthy competitors you can understand how fabulous Tropea had to be to win.
The symbol of Tropea and absolutely beautiful. The church dates back to the 11th century although much of it was rebuilt after earthquakes in 1783 and 1905. To get to the church there is a panoramic staircase that winds up the hill offering great views of Tropea and the beaches below. For a small fee, you can visit the pretty little garden at the top.
Dedicated to the protector of Tropea and dating from the 12th century, the sight of the Cathedral takes your breath away the moment you first glimpse it.
One legend, told to me by a wizened old man who looked like a wizard and who told me he was a hundred years old, was the story of how the bombs dropped on the cathedral in the Second World War all failed to explode. Proof, if any was needed, of the protective powers of Maria Santissima of Romania.
Located on a hill behind Tropea and known as Michelizia by locals, this church and the order that built it and worshipped here are shrouded in mystery. It was originally believed to have been built in the 16th century, but recent excavations have discovered a 13th century crypt and some evidence points to it being even older than that. Nowadays the church is used for concerts and other events.
Take a boat trip out to the Aeolian Islands.
Also take trips to:
The Capo Vaticano beaches: For the beaches in Capo Vaticano there is quite a walk after you get off the train so a boat trip from Tropea may be an easier option.
Pizzo: from the station in Pizzo it is a short walk to the beach areaand then a climb of a few hundred stairs up to the old town.
There's a great market that is held every Saturday where you can purchase everything from shoes to red onions. You'll find it just behind the Contè Supermercato and it is shown on our map at the bottom of the page as the Mercato Settimanale.
For the latest fashion shopping, souvenirs, ceramics, art and traditional gourmet foods head to the old town - wander about and you are sure to find something you'll love.
Three days is the absolute minimum to really enjoy Tropea; that gives you time to enjoy the beaches and explore the old town.
However, if Tropea is your base for Southern Calabria then extend the three days to seven, that'll give you time to visit nearby sight and towns like Scilla & Chianalea, Pizzo and Capo Vaticano as well as take a boat trip out to the Aeolian Islands.
Tropea is on the main rail line so it is easy to get too by train from most main cities in Italy.
If you'd prefer to fly, then Lamezia Terme is the nearest airport, the train station is 2 kms (1.2 miles) from the airport and buses run backwards and forwards from the airport to the station, alternatively you can take a taxi. If you' are renting a car on arrival my advice is to book it well in advance to get the best rates - try Discover Cars for some great deals.