Nestled in the southern part of Italy, in beautiful Calabria, is the small coastal town of Tropea, perched on a dramatic cliff that rises from the Tyrrhenian Sea.
Thanks to lacking any major attractions, other than that stunning beach, Tropea seems to have escaped the big tour groups that many other centres in the region attract. Perfect, if you ask me. Visit this part of the world in the summer months, though, and you encounter swarms of vacationing locals; especially along the coastline and islands.
It’s a busy place, I tells ya!
The town itself is compact and easy to navigate, despite the tangle of medieval laneways and passages in the old part of the village. The main street is peppered with cafés, restaurants, independent shops and gelato bars, but there’s one thing you keep seeing everywhere.
Introduced by the Phoenicians some 2000 years ago, these famous red onions are grown on fertile land that stretches either side of Tropea. Many visitors snap them up as edible souvenirs to take home, but if you pay attention to restaurant menus about town, you’ll notice them on bruschetta, made into a marmalade, even churned into a sweet onion gelato.
Café de Parìs – Via Roma
Grotta del Palombaro
Church of Santa Maria dell’Isola
Tropea seems untouched by the modern world as much, if not most, of its heritage is preserved. Grand old palaces and a couple of ancient churches dot the urban landscape; reminders of what went on during centuries gone past.
One of these is the church of Santa Maria dell’Isola, built between the 6th and 9th centuries on what was once an island; now joined to the mainland.
The warm weather brings beach-goers, and why would it not when the water looks as inviting as that. The temperature is absolute perfection, and it’s just a pity that with all of those people comes a little too much garbage. Food and drink containers litter what should be a beautiful grotto, and cigarette butts bob around the water like amber-coloured confetti.
Tony’s Pub – Largo Antonio Pandullo, 1
Food in Tropea is typically southern Italian – lamb, goat, fish, sausages, pizza, those sweet local red onions, and vegetables preserved in olive oil; just to name a few.
The restaurants and bars that can be found along the spine of the old town centre are most popular, which are lovely spots to sit alfresco and soak in the wonderful atmosphere.
The handful of piazzas tucked in the backstreets are also lovely, plus quieter, and sitting amongst lovely old buildings and cascading bougainvillea is an absolute delight.
Pizzeria Vecchio Forno – Via Caivano, 20
One of our picks for lounging with a cooling vino with nibbles is Tony’s Pub, where you can sit on Largo Antonio Pandullo at one of a few alfresco tables. Not that it’s a pub in the true sense of the word. Try their fiori di zucca (courgette flowers) or delicious nduja with bresaola & mozzarella. Fried food fans may like the sfizi di pesce (4), a medley of golden battered seafood and vegetables.
We stumbled upon the busiest place in town down a backstreet, which was perfect timing for an early dinner. Pizzeria Vecchio Forno packs them in, and the more people that turn up, the more tables and chairs the staff set up in the laneway.
The pizza is the main draw here – baked in wood-fired ovens that were once used to bake bread for the town in the 1800s when the building used to be a bakery.
There’s no direct train from Naples to Tropea, but three separate trains will get you there.
Naples – Lamezia Terme Centrale
Lamezia Terme Centrale – Rosarno
Rosarno – Tropea